Cultural identity issues and gaming

Something like that, yeah.

Being born to a British father and a Korean mother while being raised in a Chinese city I felt I didn’t belong to, has led to some well realised identity issues as I’ve gotten older. As a teenager, I more closely associated with my father. I felt and still feel very culturally British, something that my inability to speak Korean has only contributed to. Yet, I’ve always resembled my mother. From an early age, I’ve looked much more Asian than Anglo-Saxon, something that has made the occasional queries from strangers as to whether I am Chinese or even in one extreme case, whether I was adopted, all the more disheartening. (NOTE: Nothing is wrong with either one of those things, I simply feel disheartened for being categorised as something I'm not) Unlike one’s desire to be slimmer or stronger, looking like an ethnicity I don’t ‘feel like’ is something that I’ll never be able to properly change. And that has been a hard pill to swallow.

It was around the same time that I’d been playing “Saints Row 2” though that this issue really became something that preoccupied me. For the majority of my time in the world of Stillwater, I’d been playing as the default character that had been set by the game. I can’t remember whether it was some obsession with the developer’s portrayal of the character or simply creative bankruptcy on my behalf, but for some reason I had chosen to play as someone that just ‘wasn’t me’. Once this occurred to me, I decided to remedy it. After an ungodly amount of time at one of the game’s many plastic surgery clinics, my character had come out looking a lot more like... well, a cross between myself and my father.

As I moved onto other games that featured character creation (Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Fallout 3 etc.) I began trying to recreate myself in the way that I’ve always wanted to look, resembling the man that has played the biggest role in my life: my father. As I’ve matured, I’ve come to terms with my appearance and my own cultural identity. I feel confident in my ‘British-ness’ even if I know that my physical appearance may never reflect this and I feel that games have helped me come to this conclusion. Despite this, whenever I return to the world of gaming I’m allowed to look like the man I want. Though that may never be able to extend to the real world, for the time being I’m okay with that.