An offensive new game from Canadian production company, Big-o-tree Games (yes, it is a pun), has been cancelled and pulled from release from iOS and Android app stores. The game in question, Dirty Chinese Restaurant, was pulled on October 5th with Big-o-trees Games releasing a short statement saying that they have pulled the game and sincerely apologize to the Chinese community. Since then, their twitter account has been taken down altogether.
Dirty Chinese Restaurant was a game intended to give players the experience of running a Chinese restaurant as the overweight cleaver-wielding Chinese caricature, Wong Fu. with the help of every chinese racial stereotype in the book, Wong Fu must run his restaurant in the best or worst way he sees fit. According to promotional material, gameplay included looking for stray cats and dogs in the back alley to cook for guests, hiding employees from immigration officers, and laundering money.
The backlash against the game was immediate and even garnered attention from a U.S. Congresswoman and the Chinese General-Consulate of Toronto. Initially, Big-o-tree defended the game as “a satire influenced by classic politically incorrect shows [they] grew up watching,” but they hastily backtracked and delivered an apology after boycotts were launched and public officials started demanding that the app not be released in any stores.
While Dirty Chinese Restaurant is easily identifiable as a racist game, it raises massive questions about how and when satire can be used effectively. When satire is used appropriately, it can be a humorous tool to point out the flaws in society. When it is not, satire is simply an excuse for creators to put out offensive content with the literary equivalent of a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. What creators have to understand is that satire is an art form, and it takes a massive amount of thought and planning in order to play off. Satires don’t show divisive topics as they are; they take divisive topics and crank up the absurdity to ridiculously high levels in order to show just how wrong or or crazy or strange these topics are. In short, just because racial stereotypes exist doesn’t mean that creators can showcase racial stereotypes in full form and label it satire. Instead, there has to be thought involved whereby the creator utilizes racial stereotypes in such a ridiculous manner that it showcases how awful these stereotypes really are.