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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