Now, Big-O-Tree Games has decided to pull the planned game, and has issued a formal apology to the Chinese community. They have also removed all of their hosted web content related to the game from the internet.
This post was updated on October 5, 2017. Please scroll to the bottom for updates.
A Canadian independent mobile game development company, Big-O-Tree, is in hot water this week after the Asian American community caught wind of the company’s first mobile game offering: an offensive, anti-Chinese game called “Dirty Chinese Restaurant”.
The game centers around protagonist Wong Fu, a pot-bellied immigrant from Hong Kong who is tasked with managing his brother’s new Chinese food restaurant. Judging from the game’s twotrailers, game developers have taken great pains to include virtually every anti-Chinese stereotype one might be able to think of in this retro-style restaurant management mobile game. As Wong Fu, players have the option of gambling to raise money, hire undocumented immigrant workers, and pay employees exploitative wages. Workers can be motivated to work harder by invoking “sweatshop” mode. There is a mini-game where ingredients can be obtained by hunting dogs, cats, and mice, or by searching local trash bins and dumpsters. Players must bribe tax collectors, and may have their workers deported by immigration officers. An online webcomic published in association with the game suggests that protagonist Wong Fu might be an undocumented immigrant who snuck into the country on a falsified passport. Even the look of the game is offensive: characters are rendered in skin tones of bright yellow, and many restaurant patrons are inexplicably wearing coolie hats while they dine.
Food blog Grub Streetnoted that the game is one where “apparently no racist stereotype gets left behind.” Representative Grace Meng (D-NY 6th) took to Facebook to slam the game, saying “this game uses every negative and demeaning stereotype that I have ever come across as a Chinese American.” She urged the Asian American community to call out this shocking example of racism, and for Google, Apple, and Android to deny the game placement in their app stores.
As nerds of colour, we’re all too familiar with the conundrum: what do we do when our geeky fare is both awesome and offensive at the same time?
It’s a problem born of the simple fact that the creative teams behind some of our favourite nerd media — comic books, video games, board games, and movies — tend to be overwhelmingly White and male, fostering a sort of nerd-bro culture that too often gets the voices and narratives of women and people of colour horribly wrong (an issue well-discussed on last week’s epic Hard NOC Life podcast episode featuring industry insiders Larry Hama and Joe Illidge). Often, the arguably racist or sexist mistreatments of non-White, non-male characters — while offensive — is a symptom of a much larger weakness in a comic’s creative team, resulting in a book that can be easily dismissed as universally bad. Take, for example, the much-anticipated upcoming Mighty Avengers book, which Illidge predicted in last week’s podcast was unlikely to succeed due to both racial as well as creative problems. On the flip side, a book like Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese gets things right on all counts: it is on the one hand both well-written and well-illustrated, and on the other hand a compelling exploration of the Asian American identity.
In short, things are easy when the politics of a book also fit the overall quality of a book.
But, what happens when a favourite comic book or video game is both incredibly good, and pretty racist? Or, vice versa, how are we supposed to react when the politics of a book are compelling, but the execution leaves something to be desired?
Put another way, what happens when we find our identities as Nerds and People of Colour at odds?
This conundrum was brought to a head for me this past week when J. Lamb and I snatched up our copy of Grand Theft Auto V.