The kickstarter project I want to talk about today is Asian Adventures by Iain Lovecraft.
Some of you might remember my post about my experience as cultural developer on the kickstarter Manchukuo.
Well, this time, I just wanted to point out how bad a campaign profiting off of Asian culture looks when the creator(s) do not care about the culture they are profiting off of, or have zero Asians on the project team, or have even bothered to consult someone knowledgeable or Asian to vet their shoddy research (or lack thereof).
Before we start, I'd like to define cultural appropriation a bit and what it does. In my opinion, cultural appropriation happens when a person or group profits off of another's culture without giving back to that culture, or worse yet, misrepresenting that culture. This effect is amplified by the economic and power imbalance between cultures. For example, misrepresenting the thai culture through western media will leave a far more harmful impressions than misrepresenting american culture through Thai media. This is because western mainstream media is exported globally, but not the reverse, and there is a much larger thai community ingrained in the west than there are westerners ingrained into thailand.
Exhibit A, the "Fortune Cookie" Font:
Because "Asian Adventures" doesn't already scream Orientalism, we need the font to scream it too.
Exhibit B, the "Coolie" slur:
Seriously all you have to do is google the word Coolie to know that it's a freaking slur.
Exhibit C, the literal caucasity:
This is the textbook definition of profiting off of the culture and likeness of real existing people without giving a damn about their existence. Obviously, the harmful effects of misrepresentation does not cause Iain from Texas to lose sleep.
Exhibit D, using names with zero research:
Is this Chinese? Japanese? Singaporean? Who knows, who cares. Someone googled "Red Bridge", found Guzei (which is not even a real name for Japanese red bridges, just something propagated by english speakers obsessed with japanese zen) and just used it. Badly too, because these bridges would not have circular designs on them. They're usually called Taiko-Bashi or Sori-Bashi, not Guzei, whatever that is.
Exhibit E, the love of Japanese so much you make common terms special but call others just <insert country here> building:
Nikaitade isn't a proper noun. It's just 2 story building typed into google translate. Meanwhile the "Thai Pagoda" they used is not what Thai people would even think of when talking about them. They used a picture of Wat Chedi Sao, which is a very unique and specific arrangment of 20 Chedis (Stupas) in the courtyard. Seriously just google Thai Pagoda, it's not that hard.
As this list is getting long, and the more issues I get into, the more lengthy the explanations will be, I'll just end it here with these two comment responses to my concern of cultural appropriation:
To many, the harmful side effects of misrepresentation in media is non-existent, but racism does not appear out of thin air. It requires a culture that constantly creates media that builds the confidence of those who are ignorant, leading them to say or do racist things.
These kinds of campaigns continue to crop up in the board game industry, and further highlight the need for designers and publishers to reach out to their fellow industry folk of color and pay them for some basic guidance.