My latest San Francisco Chronicle column: What color is my avatar? On race, stereotypes and videogames
This week's Asian Pop looks at a topic inspired by the reawakening of my love for the awesomest fighting-game franchise of all time, Street Fighter II (and its dozens of digital descendants). With my son having chosen tae kwon do as an afterschool activity (and subsequently, engaging in "practice" at home, wreaking havoc on furniture, his baby brother and the dog), I introduced him to the game hoping to discourage indoor sparring in our somewhat cramped apartment.
That, in turn, led me to consider the lack of diversity in the world of videogames — which, despite their rising influence in popular culture still largely fail to incorporate nonwhite protagonists (and, for that matter, non-male). Although Asians are moderately well represented, that's primarily due to the fact that Japan is such a key source of gaming innovation; Asian Americans are almost completely absent from the videogame landscape. (This, by the way, is the subject of a panel, "Social Justice and Videogames," at SXSW on March 16, organized by Latoya Peterson of Racialicious and featuring always awesome videogame vet N'gai Croal and game designer and feminist blogger Naomi Clark. Here's the piece, in which I spoke with Latoya, N'gai, Game Informer editor Matt Kato, and my friend and Secret Identities co-editor Parry Shen (who lends his voice to the upcoming Hong Kong-based thrillride of a game, True Crime, coming from Activision in October). Game on. Check it out!
This year, my wife and I gave our big-boy-first-grader son Hudson the right to pick his own afterschool activities, and, not surprisingly, he chose the one most likely to result in domestic mayhem: Tae kwon do.
In a more disciplined soul, martial arts might be a means to achieve focus and inner calm; for Hudson, it's mostly been a new way to menace the dog....