A Canadian indie developer is facing backlash for the studio’s unreleased mobile game Dirty Chinese Restaurant, a restaurant business simulator that employs racial stereotypes as the game’s backbone.
Toronto-based Big-O-Tree Games, a play on the word ‘bigotry,’ created the game to prove a point about “the mad world we live in,” claiming they make “the offbeat games we know you want to play, but you didn’t think anyone had the cojones to make.” Besides the awkward use of a Spanish word to promote a racist game, the studio’s entire purpose of creating offensive games is resulting in reaction. Specifically, activism to have the game removed from the iTunes and Google Play stores before the title’s release.
On Monday, New York Rep. Grace Meng posted on Facebook advocating for the game’s pre-release removal on the digital storefronts. Meng criticized the game for its depictions of Asians and said the game “uses every negative and demeaning stereotype that I have ever come across as a Chinese American.” She insisted that the game be dropped and “any other game that glorifies in hurting any community.”
Some of the depictions Meng spoke against include the characters’ faces, names and the type of food served. One of the game’s features involves ingredient management. Big-O-Tree addresses this by having the main character, Wong Fu (sounds like ‘wrong foo’) chase cats and dogs with a cleaver. This image is such a prominent visual for the company that a tweet including a gif of the scene, dating to last November, is pinned to the account.
— Big-O-Tree Games (@bigotreegames) November 14, 2016
The studio claims satire as a defense to the game‘s “offensive, yet side-splitting funny cast of characters,” along with its other problematic themes in response to the backlash. However, satire does not mean using blatantly racist images to capitalize off a minority group is acceptable. Satire usually incorporates humor with a biting jab at a dominant ideology (e.g. racism) instead of revalidating such a mentality.
Ontario Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism Michael Cotaeu tweeted his standing with Meng yesterday, which was met with edgy responses and few positive comments. Some replies tried to undermine Cotaeu’s legislative title while one directed a racial remark mimicking ebonics at Cotaeu himself.
— Michael J. Coteau (@coteau) September 28, 2017
Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism? Sounds like some idiotic title your friend made up to get you a job. You're a joke.
— Michael Lemond (@lemond2007) September 29, 2017
Why are you all getting so sensitive and offended about everything?? Are there no other problems to tackle in our country?? Must not be…
— Hank (@hmurach) September 29, 2017
Da video game dindu nuffin!
— Calgacus (@realCalgacus) September 29, 2017
thank you for speaking out against this racist video game.
— Ken Lister (@kenlister1) September 28, 2017
Thank you for standing out for Chinese and we Chinese people will not allow any kind of racism!
— Jacqueline Yu (@Hangyu_xo) September 29, 2017
The game, and these responses defending it, are another example of how ingrained prejudice is within the gaming community. Racism and gender discrimination are the main offenders in the industry and community, with a vocal section of gamers typically protesting inclusion.
A released date for Dirty Chinese Restaurant has not been confirmed.