• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 6:01am
NewsChina Insider
GAMING

Race row over Australian computer game called 'Whore of the Orient'

New game branded “racially insensitive”

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 12:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 1:02pm
 

An Australian-made computer game that was branded “racially insensitive” and “disgraceful” by members of the country's Chinese community has also angered people in China. Some furious netizens in the mainland have even called for a boycott of all Australian games.

Well, that is, if the Chinese ever pay for their games - as one astute blogger noted.

Produced by Australian Game developer Team Bondi, the game, Whore of the Orient, is set in 1930s Shanghai and considered a sequel to the developer's hugely successful 2011 game LA Noire, according to Australian media reports.

The game, aiming for a 2015 release, was viewed as an attempt to "disgrace Chinese culture, history and traditions," according to critic Jieh-Yung Lo, a 28-year-old councillor in the City of Monash, a suburban area of Melbourne. 

Shanghai earned the name “Whore of the Orient” during the 18th and early 19th century when the city was rife with brothels and drug dens, according to some historical accounts. However, the city was also referred to as the “Paris of the East,” among some other more  graceful nicknames.

But Jieh-Yung Lo, a gamer himself, was relentless in his criticism. Lo compared use of the word “Orient” for Asians with use of the N-word for African-Americans in the United States.

“It's a 19th century racial-colonial conception and it's especially painful for older people in the communities. That was a very bad time in China, and people don't want or need to have it dragged up,” Lo told Australian media.

Lo said it bothers him more that the game had been sponsored with Australian tax payers’ money.

Screen New South Wales, a state government programme which “supports the screen production sector to make quality projects,” said in a June press release it had granted A$200,000 to a partnership to develop Whore of the Orient, according to reports.

In an email sent to the South China Morning Post on Tuesday, Tracey Mair, spokeswoman at ScreenNSW confirmed that Screen NSW supported the production.

"Screen NSW does not proscribe subject matter to content creators, including titles, but makes its funding decisions based on the creative integrity of a project and the expertise of the funding applicants, as set out in the funding guidelines," Mair said.

While the news upset some on China's blogsphere on Tuesday, others suggested the Chinese should just laugh it off.

"Why should the Australians care as the Chinese will only play bootleg games?" a Guangzhou blogger wrote.

Update

In an email sent to the South China Morning Post on Wednesday, Jieh-Yung Lo dismissed criticism he had “overreacted”.

“I believe projects like this have the potential to create misconceptions and negativity within the community,“ he wrote. “ Game developers have an important responsibility to ensure their projects and ideas create inclusion rather than division.”

Lo said he had already heard from several members of the Australian-Chinese community who supported his view.

While he understood the phrase -”Whore of the Orient”- was used as a historic nickname for Shanghai, Lo said this did not mean its use was appropriate in the 21st Century.

“As an Australian of Chinese heritage, I find the word ‘orient’ offensive and racist because it is associated with the colonialist, racist and imperial attitudes of the 19th and 20th centuries, which should not be welcome in the 21st century”. Lo argued.

Lo said he officially lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission this week after Team Bondi failed to respond to him personally.

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This article is now closed to comments

Tim Lau
When you're an Australian following this idiocy where there was none of the cultural baggage relating to the world Oriental your IQ is 10 points lower than a pot plant.
Point 4 the phrase "**** of the Orient" is a great stylistic choice, it was one of the nicknames of Shanghai in the 30s and evokes a similar gritty noire feel for me too that LA Noire did for me too.
del.fino.39
First off, I'm no Chinese apologist(Anyone who knows me personally and professionally will confirm this) But imagine if you're in the shoes of the Chinese in this case and the game was called "Whores of Melbourne" with a Chinese guy beating up white settlers and saving the aborigines in an alternate history sceneario.
All I'm saying is that, Human sympathy doesn't hurt in this day and age.
Also I'm certainly not hoping for a worldwide Nuclear War in military and politics if minor issues like this can't even be politically correct.
pharding81
Weird. I don't get why using the word "Orient" to describe a region (Orient meant East originally) is similar to using the "N" word to describe people of African origin.
I also don't get how it is logical to boycott all of a country's games just because one company releases a game that is insulting. Why stop at all Australian games, why not all games made by countries starting with the letter "A"? Or all games made by countries in the southern hemisphere? Or just all games made in the same city as the offending one? Illogical nationalism is so arbitrary.
chanaa
its just a game. Fantasy.
Lighten up us chinese people, whats with all the insecurity
chaz_hen
They can't...unless they can COPY it from someone.

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