Yes, I did. (Though Loretta Lok seems to be focusing on use of quasi-Asian aesthetics inside a game, instead of something that’s specifically an Asian setting.)
Which has me thinking about tropiness and what Steph calls information debt. When we’re creating the setting of a larp, there’s a pull between keeping the setting detailed and vivid, vs. more information than the players can handle. Too much back story, and players will just start ignoring it - too much, too loud. So game designers often pull in familiar aesthetics: Space Vikings, Space Pirates, Space Camelot, Space Samurai, Space Ancient China… The aesthetics aren’t generally… stunningly accurate, and sometimes they get subverted, but they give players a pattern to group their information around while they memorise other stuff, like their Nemesis/Former Lover/Employer of the evening. (But Vikings, Arthurian Knights, and Pirates are unlikely to show up and say, “Excuse me, there’s more to my people than cool armour and great hair.”)
I thought this:
was interesting in that light. “What is your reason for including this element?” is always a useful question.
That said, I was kind of going in the other direction for Fragrant Harbour. It has a lot of tropiness to it, because the bulk of my player base were ‘going to KapCon and this happens to be the flagship’ players, not ‘really interested in that period’ players or ‘enthusiastic about Chinese Literature’ players, and I needed hooks and tropes and shortcuts to get all the information in.
Given that we did include a lot of flamboyance and whimsy, I wasn’t trying, as Loretta suggests, to ‘other’ the characters here. (I can’t speak for the designers of the games she’s talking about.) Straight Alder isn’t The Chinese Policeman. He’s that guy whose family has been here for donkey’s years and he’s working for the latest administration while worrying that some of his family are career criminals and is it his fault that he and his wife are childless, is it? and meanwhile there are shenanigans to thwart. Apricot Fairy isn’t Pretty Asian Fairy In A Sparkly Dress (though wasn’t Hannah’s outfit grand?). She’s a nature spirit who converted to Buddhism and that makes for awkward conversations with her older brothers (who didn’t) and meanwhile she has to work with an official from yet another heavenly administration and, and it’s all a bit tense. Why does someone feel tempted by the Boxers? How does a mainland-Chinese Crypto-Catholic feel about the new Protestant Mission? How’s that intergenerational family drama working out?
I wasn’t looking for otherness. I was looking for humanity.
(How well I succeeded in that is a different question. I’m a bit afraid to reread the game.)