A still from the forthcoming computer game Whore of the Orient.Its creator has called it ”one of the great untold stories of the twentieth century” but the forthcoming Australian-made computer game Whore of The Orient has been slammed by a prominent member of the Australian-Chinese community as an ”attempt to disgrace Chinese culture, history and traditions”.
What’s worse, says 28-year-old Jieh-Yung Lo, it is using government money to do so.
”The most shocking revelation is that [game developer] Team Bondi received $200,000 from Screen New South Wales to develop the project,” said Mr Lo, who has vowed to take his complaint to the Human Rights Commission on grounds of racial vilification.
”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.”
The game is the brainchild of Brendan McNamara, who founded Team Bondi in 2003. It is being anticipated as a sequel of sorts to that company’s LA Noire, the first-person interactive detective story set in Los Angeles in the 1940s.
That game has been a huge success, reportedly selling more than 5 million copies since its release in May 2011, but its development was riddled with delays, difficulties and complaints about working conditions from staff and contractors.
In August 2011, Team Bondi reportedly sold its assets and intellectual property to Kennedy Miller Mitchell, Dr George ”Mad Max” Miller’s company. Later that month Team Bondi entered administration.
The most recent administrators report, from April 2013, lists outstanding debts of just over $1.6 million.
The Team Bondi name, however, has risen from the dead, with interests associated with Miller registering a new company, Team Bondi Interactive Entertainment Pty Ltd, in February 2013. Mr McNamara is not listed on ASIC documents as a director or a shareholder.
The NSW state government announced its support for Whore of the Orient on June 21. In a press release it confirmed it had allocated $200,000 to ”KMM Interactive Productions – a partnership between Team Bondi, which created the internationally acclaimed game LA Noire, and Kennedy Miller Mitchell, which developed some of NSW’s most successful screen productions including the Mad Max films and Happy Feet 1 & 2 – to help develop Whore of the Orient”.
Asked if the organisation had any concerns about the title, a spokesman for Screen NSW said ”Screen NSW does not proscribe subject matter to content creators, including titles, but makes its funding decisions based on the creative integrity of a project and the expertise of the funding applicants.”
The spokesman added that the title ”doesn’t refer to any content of the game. ‘Whore of the Orient’ is an historical nickname for the city of Hangzhou.”
The game is set in 1936 in a city described in promotional material as ”the most corrupt and decadent city on the planet, where anything can be had or done for the right price”.
When announcing the project in November 2011, Mr McNamara declared the subject matter ”pretty interesting. It’s one of the great untold stories of the twentieth century. So I think it’ll be good.”
But historical accuracy is not what’s at stake for Mr Lo, who is a City of Monash councillor but stresses he is acting as a private citizen on the matter.
”It’s the use of the word ‘Orient’, more even than the word ‘whore’, that is the issue,” he explained. ”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.”
He adds that the state of New York in 2009 outlawed the use of the description ”oriental” in official documentation.
Mr Lo – who describes himself as a gamer, and admits to having enjoyed LA Noire – has called for Team Bondi to ”retract the title and stop development of the game”, but admits the former is his greater concern.
”The best outcome,” he said, ”would be a change of title”.
Kennedy Miller Mitchell declined to comment.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.