Whore of the Orient labelled "racially insensitive"

Despite being scrapped by its developer, troubled Australian game Whore of the Orient is under fire yet again. A 28-year old Chinese Australian is so horrified by the game’s “inappropriate” title that he’s threatened to take it to the Human Rights Commission – but the drama this time isn’t over the word you might expect.

Whore of the Orient

Our first – maybe only – look at Whore of the Orient

Jieh-Yung Lo explains:

It’s the use of the word ‘Orient’, more even than the word ‘whore’, that is the issue. 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.

According to studio head Brendan MacNamara, “Whore of the Orient” refers to Shanghai, in 1936: The Paris of the East, “The most corrupt and decadent city on the planet, where anything can be had or done for the right price”.

The game was always going to have a difficult time. The development of predecessor L.A. Noire, a similarly historical title, was plagued by delays and stories of disgruntled staff, and resulted in the developer being dropped by parent company Rockstar Games.

Team Bondi was then bought out by Australian studio Kennedy Miller Mitchell in August 2011. A year later, we first officially heard of Whore of the Orient, when a website update showed off concept art and explained a little about the game. That was quickly taken down and we were left in the dark.

Less than two years later, however, with Whore of the Orient dropped by rumoured publisher Warner Bros, KMM also shut the doors on Team Bondi, apparently also axing the game in development.

Now though, five months later, Mr. Lo explains the game’s title is an “attempt to disgrace Chinese culture, history and traditions,” by using a word that is offensive to Asian communities – and receiving Australian taxpayers’ money to do so.

Mr. Lo tells The Age:

The most shocking revelation is that [game developer] Team Bondi received $200,000 from Screen New South Wales to develop the project.

Australian institutions should be encouraged to fund projects and initiatives that cultivate mutual understanding and prosperity in the Australia-China relationship. We need to build greater trust and cultural understanding rather than promote division and negativity.

Mr. Lo – Deputy Mayor of Victoria’s Monash Council, documentary filmmaker and self-confessed gamer – has called on Team Bondi to “retract the title and stop development of the game”. Looks like he’s a few months late on that request, as we hear from developers that Whore of the Orient, controversial title and all, is no longer being worked on.

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