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Asian Americans and Digital Games

Summary and Keywords

Asian Americans have frequently been associated with video games. As designers they are considered overrepresented, and specific groups appear to dominate depictions of the game designer, from South Asian and Chinese immigrants working for Microsoft and Silicon Valley to auteur designers from Japan, Taiwan, and Iran, who often find themselves with celebrity status in both America and Asia. As players, Asian Americans have been depicted as e-sports fanatics whose association with video game expertise—particularly in games like Starcraft, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike—is similar to sport-driven associations of racial minorities: African Americans and basketball or Latin Americans and soccer. This immediate association of Asian Americans with gaming cultures breeds a particular form of techno-orientalism, defined by Greta A. Niu, David S. Roh, and Betsy Huang as “the phenomenon of imagining Asia and Asians in hypo- or hypertechnological terms in cultural productions and political discourse.” In sociology, Asian American Studies scholars have considered how these gaming cultures respond to a lack of acceptance in “real sports” and how Asian American youth have fostered alternative communities in PC rooms, arcades, and online forums. For still others, this association also acts as a gateway for non-Asians to enter a “digital Asia,” a space whose aesthetics and forms are firmly intertwined with Japanese gaming industries, thus allowing non-Asian subjects to inhabit “Asianness” as a form of virtual identity tourism.

From a game studies point of view, video games as transnational products using game-centered (ludic) forms of expression push scholars to think beyond the limits of Asian American Studies and subjectivity. Unlike films and novels, games do not rely upon representations of minority figures for players to identify with, but instead offer avatars to play with through styles of parody, burlesque, and drag. Games do not communicate through plot and narrative so much as through procedures, rules, and boundaries so that the “open world” of the game expresses political and social attitudes. Games are also not nationalized in the same way as films and literature, making “Asian American” themes nearly indecipherable. Games like Tetris carry no obvious national origins (Russian), while games like Call of Duty and Counter-Strike do not explicitly reveal or rely upon the ethnic identities of their Asian North American designers. Games challenge Asian American Studies as transnational products whose authors do not identify explicitly as Asian American, and as a form of artistic expression that cannot be analyzed with the same reliance on stereotypes, tropes, and narrative. It is difficult to think of “Asian American” in the traditional sense with digital games. Games provide ways of understanding the Asian American experience that challenge traditional meanings of being Asian American, while also offering alternative forms of community through transethnic (not simply Asian) and transnational (not simply American) modes of belonging.

Keywords: digital humanities, new media, interactive media, video games, race, Asian America

In 2012, the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian American Experience in Seattle, Washington held an exhibition titled, “Asian American Arcade: The Art of Video Games.” The exhibition’s goal was to “explor[e] the interplay between video games and Asian Pacific American identity & experience.”1 In sight of this goal, the exhibition hosted two types of artists: painters, graffiti artists, and graphic designers; and programmers and game designers. This pairing revealed a strange dissonance in representing the “Asian Pacific American identity & experience,” for while graphic artists like Ken Taya and Gene Luen Yang explicitly represented “identity & experience,” game designers seemed to lack this element within their games. Derek Yu, creator of the game Spelunky, has characters resembling Indiana Jones rather than Bruce Lee. His games feature multiracial cute characters that do not, on the surface, seem to emphasize Asian American identity or experience. Another designer, Jenova Chen, a migrant from Shanghai, has never had an Asian or Asian American character in any of his games.

This dissonance between the exhibition’s goals to explore “Asian Pacific American identity & experience” and the game designers’ actual work exposes the challenges of comprehending video games from Asian American cultural politics. According to every available statistic, Asian Americans are overrepresented as both gamers and developers.2 Specific groups appear to dominate depictions of the game designer, from South Asian and Chinese immigrants working for Microsoft and in Silicon Valley, to auteur designers from Japan, Taiwan, and Iran who find themselves with celebrity status in both America and Asia. And yet, as scholars and bloggers have repeatedly pointed out, video games have lacked Asian American characters seemingly more than any other American minority, including Native Americans, Blacks, and Latinas/os. As players, Asian Americans are most commonly depicted as e-sports fanatics whose association with video game expertise—particularly in games like Starcraft, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike—is similar to sport-driven associations of racial minorities: African Americans and basketball and Latin Americans and soccer. For some, this immediate association of Asian Americans with gaming cultures breeds a particular form of techno-orientalism, defined as “the phenomenon of imagining Asia and Asians in hypo- or hypertechnological terms in cultural productions and political discourse.”3 In one of the first sociological studies of PC rooms, scholars Mary Yu Danico and Linda Trinh Vo showed how these gaming cultures respond to a lack of acceptance in “real sports,” and how Asian American youth have fostered alternative communities in PC rooms, arcades, and online forums.4 For still others, this association of Asian Americans with games also acts as a gateway for non-Asians to see game space as a “digital Asia,” a world whose aesthetics and forms are firmly intertwined with Japanese gaming industries, thus allowing non-Asian subjects to inhabit “Asianness” as a form of virtual identity tourism.5 Indeed, because Japanese characters in video games are almost uniformly dubbed into an American-accented English, Asian Americanness can be read into entire genres of video games (Japanese role-playing games, Japanese dating simulations, Japanese visual novels), making games a far more approachable and comfortable space of interaction for Asian Americans than other media.

Asian Americans have frequently been associated with video games, but as transnational products, video games use game-centered (ludic) forms of expression that push the limits of Asian American identity. Unlike literature and cinema, games carry no obvious national origin (what is immediately Russian about Tetris?), while games like Call of Duty and Counter-Strike do not explicitly reveal or rely upon the identities of their Asian North American designers. Games do not seem as concerned with the interior explorations of an individual mind as much as with exterior insights. As Ian Bogost has rightly pointed out, games help us understand the procedural forms of everyday life, the rules, the logics and processes, without necessarily offering an interior explanation for why things are.6 In other words, games expose how cultural practices can take precedent over representation, and this shift from representation challenges Asian American Studies through a form of artistic expression that cannot be analyzed with the same reliance on stereotypes, tropes, and narrative. Because avatars in games are roles-to-be-played rather than characters-to-be-watched (or read), games cause us to question the fundamental premise of “representation” in Asian American politics. How do audiences see their representation in playing Asian avatars? How can we read games through Asian American methods when games produced by Asian American designers have no Asian bodies or anything else explicitly “Asian” about them? What do we do with self-identified Asian Americans who find more pleasure in playing Street Fighter II’s Guile (a white American military man) than playing Chun-li (a Chinese woman)?

This article investigates Asian Americanness in games across four positions: (1) as the roles in a video game, (2) as game players, (3) as the workers who produce the game hardware, and (4) as designers who create its software. Part of the goal of this article is to shift the narrative of minority identity in games from one centered on characters and narrative to emphasize the background roles of designers and makers. The frequent critique that games lack Asian American representation often repeats the mistake of cinema audiences in perpetuating a celebrity culture that fetishizes stagecraft and narrative over the artists and workers behind the camera, or the viewers and players who are able to read Asian Americanness into the products they habitually consume. In games, the habit of spotlighting the in-game characters as racially inclusive is even more fallible, as avatars do not even represent real actors, and games do not emphasize character and story (many games have none at all) so much as the rules, boundaries, and processes that make up a playthrough experience. As the queer Asian designer Robert Yang observed in my interview with him, “hardly anyone makes ‘personal games,’” and the racial identity of the producers is not expected to correlate with that of the game’s characters.7 Games provide ways of understanding the Asian American experience that challenge traditional meanings of being Asian American, while also offering alternative forms of community through transethnic (not simply Asian) and transnational (not simply American) modes of belonging.8


Because games are not as reliant on national origins for consumption and most often take place in speculative (or unspecified) settings, analyzing Asian American figures has proved particularly difficult. When racial identities are visible in games, it is most often ostensibly racist (America’s Army, Ethnic Cleansing), antiracist (September 12, Sunset), or a parody of sorts (the Grand Theft Auto series). The vast majority of video games that include explicit racial identities often make little attempt to thematize racial issues, even when including racialized main characters (the nameless lead in Prince of Persia, the Native American lead in Turok). For this reason, studies on race in video games have borrowed analytical methods from other media, focusing on race only in games that are strikingly similar to cinema or in games that operate as virtual worlds, where performing racial others is crucial to maintaining a visual spectacle.

In the games-as-cinema camp, analyses of games like Grand Theft Auto or The Last of Us rely heavily on narrative and cinematic visual cues. Games thus frequently cater to American identity politics by providing empowered characters who follow heroic story arcs sometimes taken explicitly from cinema or literature.9 The 2012 game Sleeping Dogs takes the point of view of a Hong Kong-born man, Wei Shen, who returns to Hong Kong after living in America for fifteen years and has infiltrated the Sun On Yee (新安義‎) triad as a member of the undercover police. Even as the game was developed by a Canadian studio (United Front Games) and a UK studio (Square Enix London), the game was able to feel “authentic and relevant for a new generation of Asian American men” as its characters and storylines were ripped from Hong Kong cinema.10 Similarly, Ubisoft’s 2014 game Far Cry 4 (2014) features an Asian American returned son, Ajay Ghale, who arrives in Kyrat (Nepal) to bury his mother’s ashes and is led to help rebels vanquish a despot (see Figure 1). Even so, the game’s basic mechanics and habitual killing of brown men and women remain unchanged from the previous installment, Far Cry 3, where players took on the role of a white twenties-something from Southern California who killed scores of brown men and women in Malaysia. Still, the myopic focus on Asian American representation led Far Cry 4 to be celebrated for its inclusive narrative.11 Here the “empowerment” of Asian American characters becomes weaponized in games to legitimate the American war machine, welcoming the player to wreak havoc as a minority, assured that their ethical quandaries are safe in the developer’s hands.12

Asian Americans and Digital GamesClick to view larger

Figure 1. Sleeping Dogs’ Wei Shen (left); Far Cry 4’s Ajay Ghale (right).

Asian American females in games, as one might expect, are most often synonymous with eye candy, which is partially due to Western orientalist stereotypes present in games like Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia, and to Japanese aesthetic forms of hypersexual women who, thanks to English-language dubbing, appear Asian American. The two most recognized “empowered” representations of Asian American women, Portal’s Chell and Mirror Edge’s Faith, are not strictly Asian American, as they exist in a future when America has been replaced by corporate empires. Still, Chell and Faith have become celebrated as nonsexualized representations, even as these prized characters are given little personality to speak of (they cannot or do not speak). Faith has been lauded as a positive representation of Asian American women, with critics noting that she appears both “attractive,” but “nonsexualized,” while others praise her tattoos and hairstyle. Yet critics have also remarked that Faith exhibits no personality and seems otherwise characterless, a visual spectacle as meaningful as a “cool skin.”13 As in Far Cry 4 and Sleeping Dogs, these characters were developed by white designers and writers.

The second way to read racial identities in gaming has been more critical than the cinematic or narrative focus and takes into account the act of play as performance. Forming from games featuring virtual worlds (World of Warcraft, Second Life), here race has been treated as a form of “identity tourism,” as Lisa Nakamura has defined it, when “the appropriation of racial identity becomes a form of recreation, a vacation from fixed identities and locales.”14 Such performance need not necessarily be “touristic,” but can exhibit what Petri Lankoski has called an “empathetic engagement” with an avatar, where the player recognizes her desires and attitude as partially products of her imagination and thus parts of herself.15 Politically, this can be construed upon a spectrum of racist or antiracist attitudes. David Leonard has interpreted identity tourism as a form of blackface that allows participants to “try on the other, the taboo, the dangerous, the forbidden, and the otherwise unacceptable.”16 In contrast, Takeo Rivera writes that the pull to play-as-other gestures to a politics of “slippages, role reversals, and unintuitive affects,” wherein a virtual world of self-annihilation can cause the player to “reflectively interrogate hir own racialization.”17

The identity tourism method seems most appropriate for games that rely heavily on interaction and the telepresence of others but falls short when analyzing games that encourage race as a form of play itself. Perhaps the most famous game to play with race in this manner is Capcom’s Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, one of the most successful video games of all time.18 Street Fighter II successfully deployed racial stereotypes while detaching itself from its country of origin and featured an array of characters who appear next to national flags; they fight in a competition that appears meticulously balanced, with none of the eight characters overpowering the others. Each fighter is marked by unique strategies so that every player can find a character appropriate to his or her own play style. The Japanese character Ryu plays easy for beginners and moves at medium speed. Ryu comes with the flexibility to face short-, medium-, and long-range attackers, while other characters like Dhalsim are better long-ranged, and Vega is better for intense speed-driven players. Here racial stereotypes are deployed as synonymous with different play styles. Dhalsim, an Indian Yogi sporting face paint, pupil-less eyes, an emaciated torso, and a necklace of skulls, can strike players from a distance with his stretchable arms and legs, but can also incinerate them up close by shouting “Yoga fire!” and spitting out a stream of flames.

The play-as-cinema method and the identity tourism method gets us far in thinking through the presumptions of game discourse, yet there has recently emerged a third method that investigates how identities can function along entirely different concepts than representation and narrative. As Jos de Mul writes, games are unique from other media in that they produce race as a form of ludic identity, where groups identify not with a nation or minority, but with a set of rules and a style of play that reimagine social space through the game’s universe. Ludic identity, as Jos de Mul describes it, tends “toward an increase of openness” in how one identifies with histories, institutions, and communities, and does not promise freedom of choice, but habituates to a particular way of dealing with the anxiety of choice.19 In other words, gamers identify with forms of play, creating an “open” and flexible attitude toward identity that can also be called playful. If games are competitive environments where one plays within a stage or a “magic circle,” then the barrier that allows games like Street Fighter to evade serious racial analysis is definitive of video games in general: that representations are not mere representations of identities, but are interacted with as a form of play.20 Such analyses can also illuminate the ways in which race is already “played” or is made game-like. As Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu has argued, race has functioned in the US military within a “militaristic multiculturalism” by equipping the race and skin with particular skill sets so that the racialized body is not characterized within a cultural and historical lens, but as a set of attributes (environment awareness, sense of touch and knowing, and biological immunities).21 Tara Fickle has similarly pointed out how Asian American cultures and politics have already become attuned to race as a form of play.22 This emerging understanding of “race as play” allows us to see the virtual racial formation as one not of culture or skin but of play styles, of strategies and tactics that can be seen as foreign, minoritized, or uncivil to the proposed national project.


If the game industry gives little visibility to designers or to Asian American characters, it does offer a great deal of attention to Asian American gamers, who, as Dean Chan writes, are “both hyper-visible and out of sight.”23 Asian American gamers often fluctuate in gaming racial formation within a binary of supreme skill (suspected cheating) and “intolerable play” (suspected game exploitation). Asian American gamers then are often persuaded by gaming cultures to hide their racial identities and often do so by taking on Anglo-sounding gamer tags.

Since game companies like Nintendo and Sega are so associated with Asia, it seems natural that Asian Americans have come to become gaming spectacles as gamer “addicts” and as e-sport gamers, where Asian Americans, seemingly lacking talent in other sports arenas, seem naturally fitted. Such gamers are racialized as technical geniuses who can detect and even mathematically determine strategic outcomes, especially at a professional level where Asian Americans often play the role of gaming gurus.24 E-sport teams have typically spotlighted Asian American team members like Tomo Ohira and Dennis Fong (a.k.a. “Thresh”), who have both earned worldwide recognition. Tellingly, these Asian heritage gamers are often more associated with their speculative gamer tags than with their given legal “Asian-sounding” names, and these gamers too do not shy away from playing games that include white heroes repeatedly killing Asian characters. As Michael Nguyen’s studies have shown, games like Shellshock Nam ‘67, a game about the Vietnam War, was routinely played by Vietnamese gamers who saw the game as a chance to understand their own heritage, even from a bleakly American white hero narrative.25 In their 2004 study of Californian cybercafés in Little Saigons and Chinatowns, Mary Yu Danico and Linda Trinh Vo argued that Asian American gamers saw games and PC cafes as a space of refuge from poverty and racial stratification as well as from living in “cramped, multigenerational households.”26

The Asian American association with e-sport smuggles along the disparaging notion that Asian American gamers are more likely to be addicted to games, as video games in the United States lack the admiration of sports as a self-evident good. In President Barack Obama’s first major speech to the African American community at the NAACP’s Centennial Convention celebration, Obama said parents should be “putting away the Xbox and putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour.”27 Despite the cultural associations of African American competitiveness with basketball, baseball, sprinting, and other sports, video games signified laziness rather than technical superiority. In contrast, in East Asian countries like South Korea and Japan, video games have become a popular (though similarly despised) form of sportsmanship that signifies skill sets of teamwork and tactical outmaneuvering.

The other pole in this binary are Asian American gamers who are subjected to surveillance and suspicion for playing for the wrong reasons. Asian American gamers can seem “too Asian” if they play in a way that evades most of the game’s challenges and if they take on a “cheese” (cheap and easy) style of play.28 Here race emerges as a style of intolerable play, an “opposed play,” where play style obstructs the larger team’s goals. The “Chinese gold farmer” remains a game stereotype of Asian workers who play massive online games like World of Warcraft, intending only to level-up their characters as fast as possible so that they can sell virtual equipment or their avatar to other players for real-world money. As Nick Yee and Lisa Nakamura have pointed out,29 gold farmers have been identified by gaming communities through their accents and subsequently targeted for harassment or hacking. The banning of Chinese gold farmers in games like World of Warcraft forms a racial, national, and linguistic boundary across players who are otherwise celebrated as anonymous. Game administrators seek out these groups through linguistic cues and rely on the online community of players to surveil each other, thus producing groups of players identified as foreign who enter the game world not out of leisure but out of economic need. For Nakamura, these unwanted Chinese subjects “depict Asian culture as threatening to the beauty and desirability of shared virtual space.”30 This dissuades Asian American gamers from depicting their in-game avatars as Asian or from mentioning their racial identities within the game for fear of reprisal.

Like sports, video games can have the effect of producing a ludic identity where a group identifies with a set of rules and form of play. Even so, these rules smuggle along presumptions based on nationality, race, and gender: they presume that certain races excel at some sports, while also labelling marginalized peoples—like Asian Americans—as spectacles who are to be seen as “naturals,” and in that process, surveilled and dehumanized. The association of Asian Americans with e-sport and gold farming reiterates a techno-orientalist racism by seeing Asian American (male) identity as robotic. The rigorous competitive ethos that characterizes e-sport echoes the martial arts discipline that characterized Ryu, but also identifies Asian societies as a dangerous vision “of the future itself.”31 As Toshiya Ueno has written, techno-orientalism understands Asians as an extension of the Chinese coolie who built American railroads while eating only rice and symbolized the transition to automated labor. The Asian thus becomes dehumanized as an “automated other” who does not conquer technology so much as they are conquered by it, integrating into a “rhythm of technology” that figures them as an “automated doll.”32


While most Asian American games critics focus on representations of Asian Americans as actors or characters, Asian Americans must also reckon with the transnational labor regime of information technology (IT). As Lisa Nakamura and Aihwa Ong have pointed out, information and communications technology have relied heavily on the intensive labor of Asian factory hands, who have been crucial to the production of video game hardware. Yet these workers have remained obscured from Western audiences because they contradict the ethical narratives of information technology, characterized by the selfless charity of Bill Gates and the innovative genius of Steve Jobs.33 Gaming discourses distance players from manufacturing processes through (1) the literal distance of space and time, and (2) the distance of the virtual objects themselves, which seem to lack any need for material production. This distancing, however, is never total, as the worker remains present in the visibility of Asian Americans themselves who remain tied to gaming technology as its subjects (workers and addicts) within a techno-orientalist imaginary.

The most visible event of Asian factory work in information technology occurred in 2012 when a slew of scandalous articles emerged about Apple, concerning the treatment of Chinese workers in factories owned by its Taiwanese-contracted manufacturer, Foxconn, one of the largest private employers in China. These scandals began in 2010 when eighteen Foxconn employees attempted suicide, resulting in fourteen deaths, and reporters took pictures of Foxconn factories where nets had been strung up to keep workers from leaping out of their dormitories.34 Though Apple received most of the negative press for the factory’s inhumane conditions, Foxconn also produces game consoles and gaming computers.35 All three major console companies, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, had their consoles (the Playstation 4, the Xbox One, and the Wii U) produced by Foxconn.36

Exploitative factory work has been a norm in information technology at least since the mid-1960s and has since been racialized as a form of labor suited to (nonwhite) women with small hands. Recently, Lisa Nakamura has traced female factory work in Asia from the emergence of IT factories to Navajo Indian reservations in 1965.37 Whereas the beginnings of digital media are often dominated by accounts of Silicon Valley, Nakamura exposes how Fairchild Corporation’s semiconductor division used ethnic associations of Navajo women with “blanket weaving . . . and jewelry making” to make them seem naturally fitted to build electronic devices and integrated circuits.38 Fairchild, one of the largest private employers in the United States until 1975, was forced to leave the United States when protestors accused the company of sweatshop labor. They then joined other IT companies in outsourcing manufacturing to female workers in Asia. This shift to Asian women as the best-suited factory hands permits discourses of games to remain indifferently distanced from the methods of production that make games possible.

The presence of the Asian female worker epitomizes techno-orientalist attitudes toward Asian labor in the Global South, as her quick dismissal resolves anxieties about a growing Asia by marking it as a space where things are made and America as a space where things are designed. The narrative of information technology needs games as its form of benevolent consumption par excellence, as it envisions futuristic utopias built through Western innovation. As a narrative that offers the creative technology of the past through the seemingly egalitarian technology of the early 21st century, video games act as a means of resolving real anxieties about exploitation and empire without actually changing the means of production of information technology. In turn, Asians are included as subjects of the production process.


One important counter-discourse to techno-orientalist attitudes in games is the growing visibility of Asian American designers and artists, especially those who reject the presumptions of American identity politics by refusing to make games that represent Asian American bodies and histories. In the fields of literature and film, ethnic authors have become so tied to representing their ethnic subjectivity and histories that, as Viet Thanh Nguyen writes, “if ‘ethnic’ means anything in relation to literature, it is the sign of the ethnic speaking of and for the ethnic population.”39 But in video games, Asian American game designers have had almost no visibility whatsoever, as in-game narratives and racial identities rarely correlate with ethnic authorship. Even when North American developers give interviews, they rarely, if ever, present themselves in terms of their racial backgrounds, deferring to the postracial presumptions of information technology. Designers with “Asian-sounding names” seldom discuss their family history in interviews or in popular media, and interviewers rarely ask them to identify their backgrounds, as an author’s ethnic identity, unlike in literature and film, is not considered marketable.40

Asian American designers have been overshadowed by the auteur cults of Japanese designers and have been buried within the American game industry’s habitual denial of crediting the developer as the game creator. In the Japanese context, designers play a crucial role in selling games, as games are widely accepted as pieces of art with an authorial creator, and also because Japanese games are often so bizarre to non-Japanese audiences that creative authority provides greater trust and brand loyalty.41 Though they were originally seen as “copiers” by American game designers in the early 1980s, since the release of the Nintendo, Japanese artists have been renowned by gamers and writers alike as artistic geniuses who take risks and have provided the most influential games for nearly every genre, from role-playing (the Final Fantasy series) to platforming (Super Mario Bros.) to arcade games (Space Invaders, Pac-man).42 In contrast, the American game market of the 1980s took an opposing tactic, refusing to spotlight game developers for fear of legal battles over intellectual property, to maintain a cheap workforce of game designers, and to avoid media censorship for violent games catering to children.43

The authorial absence in games should not immediately be seen as a fault or a lack, but as a way to provoke questions concerning the role of authorship in our consumption of other media (literature, films, and games). Games allude to the problems of authorship in film and literature, where presumptions that ethnic stories reflect an ethnic autobiography have for so long remained the accepted paradigm. Games by Brendon Chung, one of the most renowned Asian American independent developers, take place in South America with few (if any) Asian characters, yet his hard-cut and dreamy style take heavy inspiration from Wong Kar-Wai and the city of Hong Kong. To understand Asian American developer contributions like Chung’s, we must first stop looking for Asian American characters and instead look for shared forms, styles, and designs. Though the independent game “revolution” in 2008 saw a surge of new Asian American designers, we focus on three Asian North American designers who capture forms of authorship that push the limits of the accepted “ethnic authority” function found in cinema and literature: (1) the author as facilitator (Minh Le, developer of Counter-Strike), (2) the author as coder (Mohammad Alavi, level designer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare), and (3) the author as translator (Jenova Chen, developer of Journey).44

The Author as Facilitator: Minh Le a.k.a. Gooseman

If gaming cafes and PC rooms are often seen as Asian American spaces, it is surprising that the very game credited with the creation and expansion of such community-driven PC rooms was, in fact, designed by an Asian North American designer, Minh Le, a.k.a. Gooseman, the lead designer and creator of Counter-Strike. Minh Le was only twenty-one in 1999 when his pet project, Counter-Strike, was released into the world, spurring the growth of PC rooms across the globe and becoming one of the most successful video games of all time (having sold over 25 million units by 2017).45 Minh Le takes the role of a “facilitator” because, like many gamers and designers of color, he often denies his own importance as an author, crediting the community, his collaborators, and luck. In turn, he rarely discusses his Vietnamese background in interviews, and in design circles he goes by the name of Gooseman, a cartoon character based on Clint Eastwood cowboys.

In the author’s 2017 interview with Minh, we discussed issues of race in his background and his games.46 Rather than show reluctance, he was candid, friendly, and reflective of how young (and “naïve”) he was when Counter-Strike was in development. He was frank in noting how the game’s popularity happened to coincide with the War on Terror and how the game came to mirror the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a facilitating author, Le saw the game’s reflection of terrorism as a symptom of the shared open design, where ideas were frequently pushed by the community. The game’s only Middle Eastern-inspired map, “de_dust,” was submitted by a member of the community (as they all were), only to be rejected by Minh numerous times over a month for being “too ugly.” Minh released it despite his doubts, only to watch it grow into the game’s most popular map, so that even in 2017, a Google image search of “Counter Strike” yields far more shots of “de_dust” than any other map.

Minh Le’s attitude as a facilitator rather than creator manifested partially due to his rise in the late 1990s, before independent gaming made game authorship more acceptable, and partially due to being of Asian heritage in an industry that accepted him as the cowboy figure “Gooseman.” Minh Le claims that he preferred his collaborator, Jess Cliffe, to voice the narrator of Counter-Strike because his own voice sounded too “prepubescent.” I asked him why his race rarely came up in interviews, and he replied that he liked “to shy away from controversy,” that his ethnicity was always present in “his name,” and that he was “very proud” of his Vietnamese heritage. In many ways, Minh’s attitude reflects that of an artist far more interested in appealing to the international community of gamers than the American or Canadian minority communities. To him, counterterrorist forces have come to define much of 21st-century global politics, and his game Counter-Strike, like many games, does not immediately strike players as an American or Canadian product.47 In this sense, Counter-Strike resembles a narrative of killing others (as so many games and movies do), but does so in a virtual transnational space where, as Wright, Talmadge, Boria, and Paul Breidenbach have observed, its players exchange verbal and nonverbal grammars that foster an international subculture.48

The Author as Coder: Mohammad Alavi

The Call of Duty series (2003 to current) has remained one of the highest selling game series of all time, having sold over 250 million copies, and earning over $15 billion dollars US. Despite the series’ immense success, little attention has gone toward two of its principal Asian diasporic architects: Steve Fukuda and Mohammad Alavi. While Steve Fukuda, as a director and lead writer, has rarely given interviews that reveal his ethnic background, Mohammad Alavi has been more visible as a daring level designer proud of his heritage, identifying as Persian and Iranian more than American, though he has lived in America for most of his adult life. Indeed, the racial diversity of the development team on Call of Duty might strike readers as ironic, since no other AAA (big budget or blockbuster) game over the past decade has been more associated with US military recruitment. This is a game where the player, part of elite forces, kills enemies while they sleep in their bunk beds, while they stumble around drunk, or while they cry, curled up in a dark corner; it is a game series that Viet Thanh Nguyen has accused of “train[ing] people to be part of a war machine, turning war into a game and a game into war.”49

As a coder and designer with little control over the overarching story and narrative, Alavi has found ways within his levels to depict “modern warfare” far from the celebrated honor and heroism of a war memorial. The fourth entry in the series, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007), established Alavi’s status as a rogue coder and level designer, as his design for the level “Crew Expendable” was rejected by the project leads, forcing him to hide his work on the code until it was ready to be shown. His two levels in Modern Warfare quickly became the game’s most popular, with “Crew Expendable” becoming famous as the defining level for all future cinematic game play (inspired by Alavi’s scripted teammates and gravity effects on a sinking ship), and his level “All Ghillied Up” is now considered one of the most sophisticated levels ever made.50 Yet these levels can also be read for their political commentary, what we might envision as Alavi’s own suspicions about US empire, as a “proud Iranian,” and his refusal to identify as an American. “Crew Expendable” begins with a vicious killing of a ship’s Russian crew, shooting them while drunk or while sleeping in their bunk beds. Indeed, the level’s scripted teammates—praised as a technological innovation of the genre—are integral to this brutality because if the player chooses not to execute these men, the other members of the team will do so, quipping phrases like “sweet dreams” (see Figure 2). As the game’s opening level, “Crew Expendable” creates a new normalcy for how modern warfare is envisioned.

Asian Americans and Digital GamesClick to view larger

Figure 2. Killing Russian soldiers in their bunks in Alavi’s “Crew Expendable.”

The Author as Translator: Jenova Chen

Like Minh Le and Mohammad Alavi, the migrant from Shanghai, Jenova Chen, similarly sees his heritage as integral to who he is and how he sees the world, yet he produces games that seem, to American political optics, apolitical. Chen identifies with a gamer tag as a name (Jenova from Final Fantasy 7), and consciously keeps his games from expressing an explicit “message,” sometimes eliminating elements when users find them politically oriented.51 Instead, Chen’s goal has been to use games to create forms of collaboration, sympathy, and compassion across politicized boundaries of nation, race, and language. He has described his games as “interactive poems” that attempt to broach the optics of identity. As he has said in interviews, he claims not to understand countries where his audiences reside—Japan and America—and his designs strive to “pick the most global feeling. The things that cross culture, and gender, and age, that everybody can relate to, and work them into games.”52

Chen’s most well-known game, Journey (2012), is an exploration of this politics of “nonidentity,” as one might call it. In Journey, a player must traverse a shifting three-dimensional landscape and solve puzzles in order to advance. The game’s eight levels appear barren until, seemingly at random, another player appears in the game, a “companion” who cannot speak or be identified. There is no gamer tag, no address, no nationality or self-representation, and the two players can only communicate via “chirps”—flashes of light with a repeating chirping sound. The game is also only voluntarily collaborative. Players do not need to help each other to advance, and players who solve the puzzles on their own can choose to abandon their companions. As Patrick Jagoda has written of Journey, the game expresses the common experience of relationships “defined and made possible by strangerhood.”53

Jenova Chen remains a “translator” author because his work does not imagine a postracial future so much as a postlinguistic one, which is to say a postnationalist future. Journey’s main efforts are not to hide the author’s race or even to assimilate, but to refuse the trappings of linguistic translation itself, to see the object being translated as not one’s language but one’s style of play. In Journey, language is absolutely restricted, forcing telepresence to remain simply as that unintelligible product. As Akira Lippit has argued, languages are configured as national—with “normal” and “accented” languages reaffirming national belonging.54 In games, where bodies are virtual, racial otherness is most visible in language; by restricting it, Journey attempts to break barriers separating its players. Journey does not assimilate into a postracial nationalism but attempts to denationalize player-to-player relations.

The Body and Asian American Critique

This article explores Asian Americanness in games, with the goal of carving out methods for ludic inquiry that are not merely derivative from fields of linguistics, literature, cinema, and performance studies, but come from the fans, bloggers, and researchers who have advanced the study of games. As Danico and Vo noted in 2004, video games are unique from other media and even from sports because they allow marginalized players to feel outside of their bodies.55 And yet Asian American politics remains focused on the body and only names media “Asian American” through the body’s explicit representation. Games are both a challenge and a critique of this political tendency, but also an opportunity to foster a broader view of Asian America not as a represented identity, but as creators of an open and denationalized culture that fosters connections across languages, nations, and oceans.

Discussion of the Literature

The published scholarship so far on the intersections of Asian America and video games has been fragmented and scanty, with no single monograph yet devoted to the field. Lisa Nakamura’s early work on virtual tourism signals an important point of emergence, as does work by Danico and Vo, who studied games and Asian American youth culture.56 Throughout the 2000s, articles on this subject were mostly focused on the lack of representation of Asian Americans or their caricature (see Dean Chan, Edmund Chang, and Thien-bao Thuc Phi). Meanwhile, new methods emerged from Asian American Studies to understand digital technology and new media, with books from Lisa Nakamura and Wendy Hui Kyong Chun exposing the racial histories of information technology corporations and their utilization by the US military complex.57 Several anthologies on digital media and Asian American subjectivity also emerged, which tilted the field from concerns over representation into observing how game forms enacted techno-orientalism.58 In the 2010s, much of the work in Asian American Studies and video games has crossed over into Asian studies and transpacific studies. Works by Chris Goto-Jones and Takeo Rivera reframe some games as already Asian in their genre forms and associations with Asian players, designers, and spaces.59 Essays by Tara Fickle have considered the social and political functions of play and games in Asian American cultural practice. The author’s articles have stressed the imperial networks of game manufacture throughout the trans-Pacific, as well as the way games reveal imperial pleasures of domination in Asia.60

Game studies incorporating ethnic studies methods have been crucial in the outgrowth of Asian American Studies and video games. Articles by David Leonard on race in video games have provided useful tools for understanding the racialized avatar. Lisa Nakamura’s work on labor in information technology performed by Native Americans and Malaysian workers has offered insights concerning how “otherness” is framed in games, and Jodi Byrd’s work on Dark Souls has unveiled settler colonial logics in interactive media.61 Works on gendered dimensions of game play have contributed to understandings of game cultures and ludic identities, and much of the intersectional work on Asian Americans in video games has been influenced by the work of Mia Consalvo, Adrienne Shaw, and those of feminist game journalists like Anita Sarkeesian. The recent work by queer game studies scholars like Bonnie Ruberg, Amanda Phillips, merrit k, and others has led the way on new understandings of video game consumption and forms of queer play.62

For Asian American game studies to grow into a more critical discourse, it must approach games as transnational commodities produced through imperial networks and developed by multiple entities. To do so, Asian American game studies scholars should be aware of two emerging fields: inter-Asian and trans-Pacific studies of video games, and the work of Asian American game designers themselves. In the first field, new scholarship has been devoted to understanding the vast outpouring of game forms from Japan and the West, noting its neocolonial effects, while other scholarship on gaming in Asia has revealed how Asian (American) avatars are often designed for consumption in Asia.63 In the work of Asian American game developers, Robert Yang has explored how games with optional racialized protagonists, like Dead Island, attempt to shift play experiences based on racial, gendered, and sexual fantasies.64 Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris has written and presented extensively on her games as simulations of racial, gendered, and sexual social relationships.65 Jenova Chen has theorized forms of game design without identifications.66

The nascent nature of Asian American game studies gives greater hardship to summarizing the field or even naming it as such. Most, if not all, of those who have contributed to the field do not work solely on it, and thus the field has remained fittingly interdisciplinary. The most difficult thinker to pin down within this discourse is Lisa Nakamura, not merely because she bookends the field from the beginning (early 1990s) to now, but because her work has remained flexible, broaching any discursive limits. Her ideas have continued to direct Asian American game studies, from identity tourism to Chinese gold farmers to gender and queer game forms to microprocessor manufacture.67


This work was supported by a Faculty Research Grant provided by Hong Kong Baptist University.

Further Reading

Bogost, Ian. Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. Boston: MIT Press, 2007.Find this resource:

    Chan, Dean. “Being Played: Games Culture and Asian American Dis/Identifications,” Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media 16 (2009).Find this resource:

      Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. “Introduction: Race and/as Technology; or, How to Do Things to Race.” Camera Obscura 24, no. 1 (2009): 7–35.Find this resource:

        Danico, Mary Yu, and Linda Trinh Vo. “‘No Lattes Here’: Asian American Youth and the Cyber Café Obsession.” In Asian American Youth: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity. Edited by Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, 177–189. New York: Routledge, 2004. Find this resource:

          Dyer-Witheford, Nick, and Greig De Peuter. Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.Find this resource:

            Fickle, Tara. “No-No Boy’s Dilemma: Game Theory and Japanese American Internment Literature.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 60, no. 4 (2014): 740–766.Find this resource:

              Goto-Jones, Christopher S. The Virtual Ninja Manifesto: Gamic Orientalism and the Digital Dojo. New York: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2016.Find this resource:

                Lee, Rachel C., and Sau-Ling Cynthia Wong. Asian America.Net: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cyberspace. New York: Routledge, 2003.Find this resource:

                  Leonard, David J. “Not a Hater, Just Keepin’ It Real: The Importance of Race- and Gender-Based Game Studies.” Games and Culture 1, no. 1 (2006): 83–88Find this resource:

                    Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. New York: Routledge, 2013.Find this resource:

                      Patterson, Christopher B. 2016. “Making Whales Out of Peacocks: Virtual Fashion and Asian Female Factory Hands.” In Global Asian American Popular Cultures. Edited by Davé, Shilpa, LeiLani Nishime, and Tasha Oren, 321–334. New York: New York University Press.Find this resource:

                        Rivera, Takeo. “Do Asians Dream of Electric Shrieks?: Techno-Orientalism and Erotohistoriographic Masochism in Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution.” Amerasia Journal 40, no. 2 (2014): 67–86.Find this resource:

                          Roh, David S. Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

                            Sze-fai Shiu, Anthony. “What Yellowface Hides: Video Games, Whiteness, and the American Racial Order.” The Journal of Popular Culture 39, no. 1 (2006): 109–125.Find this resource:


                              (1.) “Call for Art: ‘Asian American Arcade, the Art of Video Games,’” Wing Luke Museum, Critical Gaming Project, August 17, 2011; see also Edmund Chang, “Visiting the Asian American Arcade Exhibit at Wing Luke,” Ed(mond)Chang(ed)agogy (blog), February 14, 2012.

                              (2.) International Game Developers Association, “Game Developer Demographics: An Exploration of Workforce Diversity,” October 2005.

                              (3.) David S. Roh, Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015).

                              (4.) Mary Yu Danico and Linda Trinh Vo, “‘No Lattes Here:’ Asian American Youth and the Cyber Café Obsession,” in Asian American Youth: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity, ed. Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou (New York: Routledge, 2004), 177–189.

                              (5.) As Chris Goto-Jones has argued, techno-orientalism appears in the video game itself, where entering digital spaces signifies a move into Asian territory, a “Gamic orientalism” that is “centrally concerned with becoming a Digital Asian.” See Christopher S. Goto-Jones, The Virtual Ninja Manifesto: Gamic Orientalism and the Digital Dojo (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 45.

                              (6.) Ian Bogost, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010).

                              (8.) Many of the arguments and research presented here are similar to the author’s previous work found on his website, published under both is legal name (Christopher B. Patterson) and his pseudonym (Kawika Guillermo).

                              (9.) In early Game Studies scholarship, this would have been called a “narratological” approach, in contrast to “ludological” approaches focused on game play and design. See Janet H. Murray, “The Last Word on Ludology v Narratology in Game Studies,” in International DiGRA Conference, 2005.

                              (11.) See Christopher B. Patterson, “Heroes of the Open (Third) World: Killing as Pleasure in Ubisoft’s Far Cry Series,” American Quarterly 68, no. 3 (2016): 769–792.

                              (12.) As Viet Thanh Nguyen writes, “In war machines, the bristling armaments are on display, but more important are the ideas, ideologies, fantasies, and words that justify war, the sacrifices of our side, and the death of others.” See Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016), loc. 1562.

                              (13.) Andrew Vanden Bossche, “Analysis: Memorable Game Characters, Mirror’s Edge And Picture Books,” Gamasutra, 20092017.

                              (14.) For Nakamura, the “vacation” of the virtual world satisfies “a desire to fix the boundaries of cultural identity and exploit them for recreational purposes.” See Lisa Nakamura, “Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet,” Works and Days 25, no. 26 (1995): 13.

                              (15.) Petri Lankoski, “Player Character Engagement in Computer Games,” Games and Culture 6, no. 4 (2011): 1.

                              (16.) David J. Leonard, “Not a Hater, Just Keepin’ It Real: The Importance of Race- and Gender-Based Game Studies,” Games and Culture 1, no. 1 (2006): 86.

                              (17.) Takeo Rivera, “Do Asians Dream of Electric Shrieks?: Techno-Orientalism and Erotohistoriographic Masochism in Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution,” Amerasia Journal 40, no. 2 (2014): 70.

                              (18.) The franchise has spawned eight different series, each with updated editions that refined game mechanics (Street Fighter II alone had six subsequent editions), and it has led to various animation series in Japan, South Korea, and America, as well as three feature films.

                              (19.) Rather than settle on an identity, ludic identities “search for new possibilities” of identity and operate against “the threat of closure” that is repeatedly presented by identity-based discourses, whether of the nation, the community, history, or religion. See Jos de Mul, “The Game of Life: Narrative and Ludic Identity Formation in Computer Games,” in Representations of Internarrative Identity, ed. Lori Way (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 178.

                              (20.) “Magic circle” was coined by Johan Huizinga as the virtual world where normal actions become play: “All play moves and has its being within a play-ground marked off beforehand either materially or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course.” See Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955), 10. The term has recently been scrutinized in Mia Consalvo, “There Is No Magic Circle,” Games and Culture 4, no. 4 (2009): 408–417.

                              (21.) Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu, “A Laboratory of Skin: Medicine, Military, and U.S. Race-Making in the Mekong Delta” (conference presentation at Imagining Asia in the Era of Trump, Hong Kong, Hong Kong University, 2017).

                              (22.) As Fickle argues, “the concepts of strategic play and gaming are crucial to understanding broader questions in Asian American literature about identity, authenticity, and national belonging—and to recognizing, furthermore, the fundamentally gamelike attributes that inhere in the (Japanese) internment as a site of historical memory.” See Tara Fickle, “No-No Boy’s Dilemma: Game Theory and Japanese American Internment Literature,” Modern Fiction Studies 60, no. 4 (2014): 741.

                              (23.) Dean Chan, “Being Played: Games Culture and Asian American Dis/identifications,” Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media 16 (2009).

                              (24.) The brothers Andy “Reginald” and Dan Dinh became known for launching one of the first community- based websites dedicated to learning and teaching League of Legends, and currently coach American e-sport teams.

                              (25.) Michael Nguyen, “New Vietnam War Video Game Sparks Controversy,” Viet Weekly (2004), 2017.

                              (26.) Danico and Vo, “No Lattes,” 181.

                              (27.) Barack Obama, “President Obama’s Speech to the NAACP Centennial Convention,” U.S. News and World Report (2009), 2018.

                              (28.) See the author’s chapter on gold farming and labor: Christopher B. Patterson, “Making Whales Out of Peacocks: Virtual Fashion and Asian Female Factory Hands,” in Global Asian American Popular Cultures, ed. Shilpa Dave, LeiLani Nishime, and Tasha Oren (New York: New York University Press, 2016), 321–334.

                              (29.) Nick Yee, The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us—And How They Don’t (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015); Lisa Nakamura, “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 26, no. 2 (2009): 128–144.

                              (30.) Nakamura, “Don’t Hate,” 142.

                              (31.) As Stephen Hong Sohn has written, despite Asia’s perceived “superb technological efficiency and capitalist expertise, their affectual absence resonates as an undeveloped or, worse still, a retrograde humanism.” See Stephen Hong Sohn, “Introduction: Alien/Asian: Imagining the Racialized Future,” Melus 33, no. 4 (2008): 5–22.

                              (32.) Toshiya Ueno, “Japanimation and Techno-Orientalism: Japan as the Sub-Empire of Signs,” Documentary Box 9 (2003), 2018.

                              (33.) Ong focuses on microprocessor factories in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in Malaysia, where IT companies were “given a free hand to exploit abundant low-wage workers, most of whom were female.” See Aihwa Ong, Spirits of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline: Factory Women in Malaysia (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), 103.

                              (34.) Jenny Chan, Ngai Pun, and Mark Selden, “The Politics of Global Production: Apple, Foxconn and China’s New Working Class,” New Technology, Work and Employment 28, no. 2 (2013): 100–115.

                              (35.) Twenty universities in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan wrote an eighty-three-page report that detailed the Foxconn suicides and labor conditions, which they called an “inhumane” “labor camp.” See Fiona Tam, “Foxconn Factories are Labour Camps: Report,” South China Morning Post (2010), 5.

                              (36.) Richard George, “Iphone, Wii U Manufacturer Admits to Employing Children,” IGN (2012), 2014.

                              (37.) Lisa Nakamura, “Indigenous Circuits: Navajo Women and the Racialization of Early Electronic Manufacture,” American Quarterly 66, no. 4 (2014): 919–941.

                              (38.) As Nakamura states, “The idea that Navajo weavers are ideally suited, indeed hard-wired, to craft circuit designs onto either yarn or metal appeals to a romantic notion of what Indians are and the role that they play in U.S. histories of technology.” See Nakamura, “Indigenous Circuits.”

                              (39.) Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies, loc. 1562.

                              (40.) Consider Siobhan Reddy, who Forbes named one of the ten most powerful women in gaming, but whose interviews and self-promotion never shared her ethnic identity or the origin of her family name, “Reddy.”

                              (41.) See Chris Kohler and Shuhei Yoshida, Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2016).

                              (42.) Tim Skelly, Cinematronics game designer, called the Japanese designers “horrible copiers.” See Steven Bloom, Video Invaders (New York: Arco, 1982), 42.

                              (43.) Atari and other American companies believed that “questions about designers’ identities and new projects remain off-limits or, at best, off-the-record.” See Bloom, Video Invaders, 48.

                              (44.) Other popular Asian American game designers include Navid Khonsari (1979: Black Friday), Robert Yang (Radiator), and Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris (Redshirt).

                              (45.) Counter-Strike pits two teams against each other, Counter-Terrorist and Terrorist, who can win by eliminating all the members of the other team or by completing opposing objectives. After the game was acquired by Valve in 2000, it yielded three reiterations: Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (2004), Counter-Strike: Source (2004), and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012).

                              (47.) As Albert Chan observed in Hong Kong in 2008, “If you walk into…any of the cyber cafes, nine out of ten computers are running Counter-Strike.” See Albert Chan, “Headshot!: An In-Depth Analysis of the Success of Counter-Strike as a Team-Oriented First Person Shooter and Its Effects on Video Game Culture Around the World,” (2012), 2017.

                              (48.) Talmadge Wright, Eric Boria, and Paul Breidenbach, “Creative Player Actions in FPS Online Video Games: Playing Counter-Strike,” Game Studies 2, no. 2 (2002): 103–123.

                              (49.) Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies, 110.

                              (51.) Chen eliminated elements when players felt they sent an environmental message to “be green.” See Brandon Sheffield, “Finding A New Way: Jenova Chen And Thatgamecompany,” Gamasutra (2008), 2018.

                              (52.) Sheffield, “Finding a New Way.”

                              (53.) Patrick Jagoda, Network Aesthetics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 176.

                              (54.) Akira Lippit, “Imaginationalisms: Imaginary Languages in Translation, Imagined National Cinemas,” in Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field, ed. Janet Hoskins and Viet Thanh Nguyẽn̂ (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2016), 181–200.

                              (55.) Danico and Vo, “No Lattes.”

                              (56.) Nakamura, “Race in/for Cyberspace.”

                              (57.) See Lisa Nakamura, Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (Hoboken, NJ: Taylor & Francis, 2013); and Wendy H. K. Chun, Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008).

                              (58.) See the anthologies: Beth E. Kolko, Lisa Nakamura, and Gilbert B. Rodman, Race in Cyberspace (New York: Routledge, 2000); Rachel C. Lee and Sau-ling Cynthia Wong, Asian America.Net: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cyberspace (New York: Routledge, 2003); Kent A. Ono and Vincent N. Pham, Asian Americans and the Media (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010); Shilpa Davé, LeiLani Nishime, and Tasha G. Oren, Global Asian American Popular Cultures (New York: New York University Press, 2016); and Roh, Techno-Orientalism.

                              (59.) Goto-Jones, “The Virtual Ninja Manifesto”; Rivera, “Do Asians Dream.”

                              (60.) Patterson, “Making Whales”; Patterson, “Heroes.”

                              (61.) Jodi A. Byrd, “‘Do They Not Have Rational Souls?’: Consolidation and Sovereignty in Digital New Worlds,” Settler Colonial Studies 6, no. 4 (2016): 423–437.

                              (62.) All these authors have works in the anthology Queer Game Studies. See Bonnie Ruberg and Adrienne Shaw, Queer Game Studies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017).

                              (63.) See Larissa Hjorth, Gaming Cultures and Place in Asia-Pacific (New York: Routledge, 2012); Ted Tschang, “Creative Industries Across Cultural Borders: The Case of Video Games in Asia,” in Creative Economies, Creative Cities, ed. Lily Kong and Justin O’Connor (Amsterdam: Springer, 2009), 25–42. See the 2008 special issue of Games and Culture on the Asia-Pacific, and the 2016 special issue of Games and Culture on Games and Gaming in China.

                              (64.) Robert Yang, “On ‘FeministWhorePurna’ and the Ludo-Material Politics of Gendered Damage Power-Ups in Open-World RPG Video Games,” in Queer Game Studies, ed. Bonnie Ruberg and Adrienne Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 97–108.

                              (65.) Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris, “NPCs Need Love Too: Simulating Love and Romance, from a Game Design Perspective,” in Game Love: Essays on Play and Affection, ed. Jessica Enevold and Esther MacCallum-Stewart (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014), 82–93.

                              (66.) Jenova Chen, “Flow in Games (and Everything Else),” Communications of the ACM 50, no. 4 (2007): 31–34.

                              (67.) Nakamura, “Race in/for Cyberspace”; Nakamura, “Don’t Hate the Player”; Lisa Nakamura, “Queer Female of Color: The Highest Difficulty Setting There Is? Gaming Rhetoric as Gender Capital,” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology 1, no. 1 (2014); and Nakamura, “Indigenous Circuits.”