The stray falls into the usual pitfalls of Cyberpunk’s Orientalism

The protagonist of Stray is sitting with a backpack.

picture: Annapurna Interactive

If you feel uncomfortable about the rice caps in them strayyou’re not the only one. stray Asian aesthetics elevate to evoke exoticism and danger, but do not interact with the history of the city they capture. This presents a particular problem because its real-world setting carries painful historical baggage that cannot be reduced to neon signs and cramped apartments.

with more than Three million people per square mile (which is 47 times more populous than Manhattan), the walled city was the most densely populated city in world history. The streets were lit up with neon signs because the buildings didn’t let in much natural light from above. developers stray Tell USA Today That the walled city of Hong Kong was “the perfect playground for a cat”. The artists at BlueTwelve Studios were inspired by the way the realistic city was built organically and filled with details and intriguing perspectives, such as air conditioning units and exposed pipes. And they weren’t the only ones who liked the environment. Photographers and Architects Dexterity praised In people’s ways of living without safety laws or central government.

But this organic construction came about for painful historical reasons. The walled city was originally a military base of the Qing Dynasty. It became an enclave separate from British-controlled Hong Kong after the Sino-Japanese War weakened China. Japan, China, and Britain have all tried to claim the Walled City throughout its history. To ease international tensions, both China and Great Britain eventually gave up trying to rule the Walled City after the end of World War II. The The chaos that followed A winery for organized crime and opium dens. Trinity gangs turned the pocket into “The center of the drug trade in Hong Kong.None of this context is particularly evident when exploring the dusty streets of Walled City 99.

Jesse Lam, a video game concept artist whose family hails from Hong Kong, explains,[The Walled City] It was this city so crowded, full of crime and destitution – thanks to the Triads – that it took decades for it to finally be demolished. We’re not talking about towering coffin-sized apartment rooms these days…there’s a silent rage out there.”

The history of the walled city is closely connected with colonial rivalries, but none of them were represented in stray. In the game, the city was a shelter that was built to protect humans from the plague. The only living beings left are the self-aware robot “buddies” who built their society in the absence of humanity. Later, I appreciate their charming personalities, but when I first met these robots, my first thought was: “Why are they wearing rice hats?”

Rice hat wearing a robot struggling with a device.

screenshot: Annapurna Interactive

Cone cedar hats have a turbulent history within the Asian diaspora community. They are used as an ethnic abbreviation to refer to Asian origins, regardless of the actual context. Retail clothing stores Abercrombie and Fitch, for example, I once used pictures of Chinese men wearing rice hats in its production line. While the presence of farmer hats is not offensive in itself, it becomes startlingly racist when used in unrelated images, such as A racist parody of a laundry business. Protests and angry messages forced Abercrombie and Fitch to do so Pull offensive shirts from their stores.

Luckily, stray Meets minimal non-racist language to describe robots (even if it’s gratuitous Japanese use The language in Hong Kong is a little fiction eyebrow lift). But the game’s pervasive customization of Asian history and culture needs to be supported by care in design and execution. Singapore-based Alexis Ong wrote an excellent article ribbed article about strayIts accuracy is relative to Hong Kong, while others like Lam are not less impressed by how the game portrays the Walled City.

“Graffiti and banners are a big question mark. Obviously anything in English a player faces but [in-game]Who will these marks be for? Lam said my box. “It is one thing if the bots are relaying messages to each other but overlapping each other rather than being written around each other. Which raises the question if said developers also understand graffiti culture and etiquette. But also…why Deliberately making some robots wear rice hats? When there is clearly no way out or anywhere in the game to farm?” Headgear like baseball caps are becoming ubiquitous for urban fashion, which may explain their comrades copying this pattern, but rice hats You don’t. These conical hats were used to refer to Asians in Western media, and stray You cannot separate yourself from this history.

As this comes up every time I blog about Asian representation: No, I don’t think BlueTwelve Studios is intentionally racist. And I don’t think the resulting game is the worst when it comes to cultural appropriation. Its shortcomings are typical for the genre of cyberpunk as a whole. Cyberpunk originates from America’s Fears About Japan’s economic dominance, but the cyber media is often reluctant to fill its cities with Asian characters. I felt the same sense of alienation while playing the game stray.

I’m sure the developers didn’t gleefully rub their hands when they decided not to implement any human characters. But Walled City 99 was another Cyberpunk town where people like me weren’t welcome. Not unless you’re a robot wearing a cone hat. This does not suit me either. “Asian Robot” is a Hollywood troupe that frequently dehumanizes Asians (Ex Matrica, Cloud Atlas, Matrix). There is even a type name for it: Technological Orientalism. In these works, Asia is expressed through an “aesthetic sense rather than the representation or focus of actual Asian characters.” stray It falls directly under this type.

Robots crash into a garage.

screenshot: Annapurna Interactive

“[There’s] A lot of the same generic ideas get recycled a lot across projects and sometimes that extends into the cyberpunk genre,” Lamm said. my box via Twitter messages. “Orientalism as a whole is not new.”

I just wanted to play a cute cat game without Technical Orientalism. Unfortunately, stray It does not question creative influences at all. And from the moment the developers decided to base their game on an enclave created by British colonialism, they had a responsibility to deal with its history. stray He cares a lot about how he represents cats. I wish it was consistent about the legacies of real humans.

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