(H/T Asian American News)

Team Bondi, the Australian-based maker of the popular 3rd person shooter L.A. Noire that was distributed in the U.S. by videogame behemoth Rockstar Games, is in hot water over an upcoming video game currently in development. The game, which is a collaboration with filmmaker George Miller (an animated film director responsible for such works as Happy Feet 2), is titled “Whore of the Orient” and is set in 1930s Shanghai.

Shanghai of the ’30s certainly seems like a tantalizing choice for a video game of this nature; the city was a bustling intersection of Asian and Western traders and businessmen, with plenty of shady locales rampant with crime. However, it remains unclear how Shanghai, as well as its Asian residents, are being depicted in the game, which is being developed for next-generation consoles. VideoGamer.com has unearthed early production footage which suggests the game will follow a Westernized protagonist as he shoots and slices through hordes of Chinese antagonists; in fact, watching this early video reminds me of troubling scenes in films like Kill Bill wherein we find ourselves in the position of rooting for the killing of a bunch of Asians.

Moreover, the title of the video game — “Whore of the Orient” — may be sufficient fodder for charges of racism. Though it’s a reference to one of the era’s nicknames for Shanghai, the title of the game is nonetheless racially and sexually insensitive. The word “Orient,” although a popular contemporary term for Asia at the time, is currently considered related to the word “Oriental,” which is viewed as a pejorative epithet for people of East Asian descent, particularly in the U.S. (where this game will likely also be marketed). This in combination with the premise of the game and its potential for depicting East Asians as faceless cannon fodder raises questions about the racial sensitivity of the video game.

I am also wary of the other term in the game’s title — whore. While not exactly an epithet, the reference to prostitution certainly raises an eyebrow for me. Rockstar Games certainly doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to its depictions of women in their video games — re: the Grant Theft Auto series — and L.A. Noire has also been accused of rampant sexism. Given this history, it’s unlikely that “Whore of the Orient” will buck the trend of depicting women as little more than prostitutes, druggies, housewives or corpses; and if so, then the presence of the word “whore” in the title will only add fuel to that particular fire.

Now, it would be easy to dismiss these charges as just another insensitive video game, and to argue that if I don’t like it I don’t have to buy it or play it. But complicating the issue are reports that Team Bondi received $200,000 from Screen New South Wales, a federal agency of the Australian government, to facilitate the game’s production. This, in effect, makes the Australian government complicit in using taxpayer money from Australians, including its 12% Asian population, to make a potentially highly racist video game against Chinese people.

In fact, Chinese-Australians are already up in arms over the game, reports Tech in Asia.

It’s an “attempt to disgrace Chinese culture, history and traditions,” says Jieh-Yung Lo, a City of Monash councillor who takes offense at both the words “whore” and “Orient” in the upcoming game’s title. He tells The Age:

The O-word is very similar to the N-word for African-American communities. 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 that dragged up.

In the end, only time will tell. “Whore of the Orient” is still in development, and a lot can change over the lifetime of a game in production. But I, for one, am wary of this game and its potential to be a racist and sexist disaster.

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6 thoughts on “Whore of the Orient Video Game Slammed for Anti-Asian Racism

  1. Thanks for the reblog, Katinka!

    There’s a part of me that wants to reserve judgement on this game until it drops and we know more about it. But then the other part of me wonders how a game called “Whore of the Orient” could possibly NOT be subversive.

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  2. The name of that game is just so unbelievably crass and mindless, I’d Not want to buy it just because it sounds like something a 12 year old came up with. Not to mention, the graphics are abhorrent. There are many superior and higher quality titles that lack originality and quality coming out from Japan and the US. Even Europe makes better games than this sorry excuse of a game.

    “Whore of the Orient”
    More like snore of the outback.

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  3. The game just has a very provocative title, I fail to see how it is racist. Hell, there is some movie directed by some Chinese American guy called, “Chink” and no is is saying that movie is racist. People just love to use the race card whenever they have the chance. Besides, the game looks like it has an Chinese guy as the protagonist.

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