Tragic Death of Tencent Game Engineer Triggers Online Speculation

Mao Xingyu’s cause of death remains unclear, although Tencent reportedly told Chinese media that it was “an accident”

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Jesse Pottinger
1:15 AM HKT, Sat December 18, 2021 1 mins read

Mao Xingyu, a renowned game engineer at Tencent Holdings’ Tianmei F1 Studio in Shenzhen, tragically and unexpectedly passed away on the morning of December 11. Tencent, one of China’s most prominent tech conglomerates, confirmed his death to Jiemian News on December 14.

According to, Tencent employees received an internal email stating that Mao was always an outstanding employee and achieved strong performance in the past few years.

The memo also revealed that Mao was hospitalized this year from August to September, but the company chose not to disclose this information to honor his and his family’s wishes. The email lists only “physical reasons” for his hospitalization stint.

“Losing Mao is heartbreaking to all of us. After his death, we set up an emergency team as soon as possible to deal with follow-up matters. We will do everything we can to support Mao’s family,” reads the company notice.

A precise cause of death remains unclear, although Tencent reportedly told Jiemian News that Mao’s death was “an accident.”

At present, the hashtag ‘Tencent confirms Mao Xingyun’s death’ (#腾讯确认毛星云离世#) has 2 billion views on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

In the absence of an official explanation for his death, many netizens speculate that the game developer may have died by suicide. Others blame his passing on Chinese tech companies’ infamous 996 work schedule.


One netizen called on the government to tackle labor abuse, writing, “Government officials, please pay attention. 996 is way too common. It is a luxury to work eight hours.”

“We would not be as stressed if 996 was not a thing. It has become so normal in our society today to be depressed,” another wrote under a hashtag related to Mao’s passing.

Born in 1991, Mao was a game engine development engineer with Tencent IEG Tianmei studios from June 2015 to February 2021. He then took on the role of lead engine programmer for the Tencent Game Engine Team. His profile on Zhihu, a Chinese Q&A site similar to Quora, describes him as a “Post-90s, Microsoft MVP, Game Programmer.”

An important figure in China’s gaming community, Mao published numerous online articles and books on video game programming and development, including Introduction to OpenCV3 Programming and Windows Game Programming from Scratch.

In 2013, he was listed as one of China’s top 10 information technology bloggers, and in April 2014, he was honored with the Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals Award.

Cover image via Depositphotos

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