Dirty Chinese Restaurant, a racist smartphone game created by Big-O-Tree Games, is making waves on social media for its blatant bigotry and disrespect toward Chinese and Asian Americans.
The game features Wong Fu as the main character, who inherits a Chinese restaurant from his brother.
The video game is rife with disgusting stereotypes and offensive language and exists solely to make fun of Chinese culture and cuisine.
For example, the game allows the player to hunt cats and dogs with a butcher knife in the restaurant’s alley with the understanding that these animals will be served as food.
In another racist instance, players can select the speed at which the workers perform as “sweatshop.” And, of course, the name alone, Dirty Chinese Restaurant reinforces the (false) stereotype that Chinese restaurants are filthy and that Chinese food is dirty and not fit for consumption.
Although millions of Americans enjoy Chinese food, Chinese cuisine is generally seen as “less than” and rarely viewed as a delicacy, the way some Italian or Japanese dishes are, for instance.
These ideas about Chinese dishes arose out of racism and xenophobia: Chinese immigrants were paid abysmally low wages in America in the 19th century and felt the effects of discrimination, such as scapegoating, from white Americans. Then, in the early 20th century, Chinese Americans started opening up restaurants to earn better lives. The very reason why Chinese restaurants even exist is because of the rampant hatred against Chinese people.
An effective way to discredit an ethnic group’s culture and background?
Demonize their food and spread the notion that it is unsanitary. This has the dual result of presenting that culture as “other” and untrustworthy while damaging business and livelihood. Both Dirty Chinese Restaurant and its creator, Big-O-Tree Games, reflect not only hatred but an unabashed enjoyment of celebrating racism. On Big-O-Tree’s (bigotry, anyone?) website, the creators market their game by proudly asserting that “being politically correct is so…boring.” The site describes Dirty Chinese Restaurant as an “unorthodox” game while claiming their goal is to make games that are “shockingly humorous and full of satire inspired by the mad world we live in.”
Excuse me, what?
Racism is not satire.
It’s only humorous to bigoted and hateful individuals who think that someone else’s culture and lifestyle exist for the sole purpose of derision.
The game itself is wholly disturbing. Using the word “oriental” and depicting restaurant workers in bamboo hats degrades the concept of the Chinese restaurant to an otherworldly, parody-like space. In this way, the Chinese restaurant is not seen as a legitimate establishment, but as a commodity defined by others (read: white supremacists) for the purpose of profit and entertainment.
However, the insidious language on Big-O-Tree’s website is as alarming as the game itself. The company attempts to normalize racism by painting it as something humorous and socially acceptable.
The attitude of the company is, “Sure, we know Dirty Chinese Restaurant is racist as fuck, but we are totally going to spin it as satire and harmless fun.”
They are proud of the fact that they aren’t politically correct. It’s right there on the homepage.
This rhetoric has been present in America since it was founded, but after President Trump moved into the White House, we’ve seen a violent resurgence of this type of language and intolerance. There has been a clear backlash against political correctness, with the far-right claiming that their divisive hate speech is simply “free speech.”
We have seen, time and time again, a blatant disregard for and contempt of immigrants, people of color, and anyone who does not look white and “traditionally” American.
Dirty Chinese Restaurant and its founders continue to add to this pushback against diversity and inclusiveness by twisting racism and hatefulness into an opportunity to give the middle finger to communities who are seen as “other,” different, or unwanted in America, all while selling it as harmless fun.
The good news is that Apple and Google are not likely to allow the game on their respective app stores, due to various anti-discrimination policies. The bad news, of course, is that this game exists in the first place.
There are undoubtedly people who would purchase it in a heartbeat.