Kerbal Space Program Review Bombed Over Controversial Chinese Gender Translation

Kerbal Space Program Review Bombed Over Controversial Chinese Gender Translation

For the past few days, Kerbal Space Program has been bombarded by negative reviews on Steam, so much so that the big thumbs-down parade has triggered Valve’s new anti-review bomb countermeasures.

The reason? A small phrasing change in the game’s Chinese version.

Originally, a space shuttle on the game’s main menu had the phrase “不到mun非好汉” written on the side of it. In English, the phrase roughly translates to “One who fails to reach Mun is not a hero,” which referenced a famous Chinese saying, “不到长城非好汉,” or “One who fails to reach the Great Wall is not a hero.”

However, the game’s developer caught some flack for the particular wording of that phrase, with one Steam user going so far as to claim that the literal translation of “好汉,” “good man,” was sexist in that context.

The developers have since changed it to “不到mun不罢休,” which means “I will not stop until I reach Mun.” That’s where the controversy begins.

According to Splinter producer Isabelle Niu, who I consulted for aid on this story, the Chinese saying, “不到长城非好汉,” or “One who fails to reach the Great Wall is not a hero,” is attributed to Mao Zedong, founding father of modern China, and despite the phrasing, is not colloquially understood to be gendered.

“Although 好汉’s direct translation is a ‘good man,’ nobody actually thinks of it that way,” said Niu. “Its most accurate translation should be ‘hero’ or a ‘man of honour.’ …Little boys and little girls visit the Great Wall and then claim to be a 好汉.”

Steam users have not taken kindly to the change. “New Chinese translation ‘不到mun不罢休’ has lost the beautiful feeling of Chinese traditional proverb,” reads one of nearly 300 recent negative reviews, summing up a common sentiment.

Others simply print the original version of the phrase alongside a thumbs-down. Also, a not-insignificant number of others rant about “Feminazis” and “political correctness,” because of course they do.

I reached out to the game’s developers to ask if they plan to change the phrase back to its original form, but as of publishing, they had yet to respond.

For now, Niu told me she’s actually “vaguely” in support of the change “just like I think ‘firefighter’ is better than ‘firemen'” and because “language has unintended consequences.” But it’s also easy to understand why Chinese Kerbal players would favour a translation that more closely adheres to a famous cultural saying.


  • People find the dumbest things to be offended about, and downvoting an entire game on Steam due to something like this is just petty.

      • I would say the times it is justified constitutes maybe 5% of all the cases. Almost always, the reviews are coming in for something entirely unrelated to the gameplay itself.

        The PC gaming community remind me of trash Rick & Morty fans (I’m sure a venn diagram of the two groups would essentially just be a circle), they like to talk all day about how superior they are, yet are constantly doing / thinking / saying stuff that proves the exact opposite.

  • Does this mean I can nit-pick the hell out of crappy translations done by Chinese companies?

  • Reason for changing it might not have been because of gender but because ‘好汉’ literally means ‘Good Han’, as in Han Chinese, to the exclusion of other ethnicities. I agree though that colloquially it can refer to basically anybody, but there is a bit of exclusionism built into the phrase itself.

    • Also just wanted to note that it’s possible that a lot of the review bombers were actually government employees posting as part of their official duties. Messing with the Chairman’s words is just the kind of thing that would attract official attention. Contextual info here:

      • Reviews can only be posted on accounts that own the game.. For those profiles that aren’t market private you can check how old the account is and how many titles it has associated with it. It strikes me as very unlikely that the Chinese government would have a lot of active Steam accounts with purchases on them (including purchasing KSP) just to review bomb it over the replacement of a one-liner appearing on a single screen of the game.

    • If the people in question understood enough Chinese to know that “汉” was a specific ethnicity, then they should know enough Chinese to realise that the phrase doesn’t have a specific gender connotation.

      Heck, genuine question, does Chinese even have inherently gendered words (ala french) outside of the words that are used specifically for the purpose of specifying gender?

  • 男 means male.
    男人 means man.
    汉 means Chinese Han ethnic group or Han Dynasty.
    汉人 means Chinese (Han) person.

    I am both a 男人 and a 汉人. Whomever made this comment doesn’t understand the Chinese language and their objection is mildly offensive and face palm worthy.

  • I was wondering what needless shit the internet was going to work itself up into a tizz over, seeing as I haven’t see a gross overreaction to something in around 48 hours so far.

  • The users who were screaming sexism can fuck right off. The original was a witty play on words and the devs should have stuck right with it. The Chinese have no time for Westernised values and opinions on their culture and language.

  • Who cares about a witty play on words from a phrase by the world’s worst mass murderer?
    Imagine the uproar there would be if it was a play on words on something by Hitler, and then magnify it 4 times.
    Hitler killed 11 million. Mao killed 45 million.
    Let’s paraphrase something from Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin.

    • The 45 million figure is one estimate of the number of deaths during the Great Chinese Famine, caused by a combination of economic incompetence and natural disaster. There are no figures for how many died in the Cultural Revolution because the Chinese government never kept data, but estimates put it around 1.5 – 2 million. Not that I think there’s any value in comparing ‘who was worse’ but where most deaths in China under Mao were unintentional, Hitler consciously and specifically ordered the 11 million deaths under his reign.

      As for who cares, obviously a number of Chinese people do. The statement is typically taken to mean that people who don’t overcome difficulty in pursuing their goals aren’t worthy of its rewards, a proverb with cultural value regardless of who originated it.

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