Want to groan at casual racism? Play Mr. Chin’s Gourmet Paradise!
When you are small, there are games that simply appear on your shelf. They come to you by way of a well-intentioned, if out-of-touch, grandmother, or a negligent father, or, I don’t know, your idiot brother stole them from one of his idiot friends. Typically, these games aren’t ones you’d have chosen for yourself, but they’re all you have, so you play them obsessively.
Oh, and because it’s the early ’90s, there’s a good chance these games are racist, misogynistic, or in some other way wildly inappropriate. But don’t worry, you won’t realize it until much later–or at least, well after your small, plastic mind has internalized all the dubious stereotypes, fears, and anxieties of whoever the hell made that found-object of a game you’re sinking hours of your life into.
For me, this game took the form of Mr. Chin’s Gourmet Paradise. From that title, you can probably see where I’m going here. Created by Romstar (defunct, shocker), MCGP involved a squat, rotund Asian man with a Manchu haircut. He loved him some peaches, and using what amounts to an electric tripwire, he’d transmogrify what can only be described as furry little whatsits into sumptuous fruit. Each devoured whatsit-cum-peach yielded Kcal, a point system I now believe to be referencing some sort of calorie system? Because he’s kinda fat? Anyway, Chin also had the power of flight (!), which he’d acquire by smashing his skull into blocks to uncover some manner of illicit substance.
So yes, eight stages and four bonus stages (those you’ll love–peaches fall from the top of the screen like mana from Heaven, straight into Chin’s unhinged-jaw of a mouth). For whatever reason, Romstar opted to loop the game back on itself rather than put on a proper ending, a particularly foul decision for those among us who simply could not accept that a game simply could not end.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Apparently, Johnny Law is not keen on Chin’s gluttonous adventure, and if the adorable, occasionally RayBan-wearing whatsits touch him too many times, he’s hauled off to the clink. Seriously, the Game Over screen is just Chin in prison stripes, crying his slanted little eyes out.
Obviously, this game’s characterization of Asians is comically offense. And I’ve got to wonder, how did this impact my 9-year-old psyche? It’s an age where all you can really do is internalize, internalize, internalize. Surely something would have stuck? I don’t really have an answer here, but what I can say is it’s comforting to me that my reaction to this game now is, “Wow, that’s pretty fucked up,” and not, “The thing about Asians is… they really like to murder cute animals.”
All that said, I’m really not recommending that you all go track down Mr. Chin’s Gourmet Paradise, based on some notion of engaging gameplay or deep, emotional storyline. (Plus, it’s on the Game Boy, so good luck with that.) Rather, social mores are a fascinating thing, and it’s interesting to me to go back and look at what was at one point acceptable, or at least acceptable enough to get certification and placement on store shelves. Sure, the game industry still has its fair share of issues, but we’ve at least made a bit of progress.
Want to bludgeon your friends with a golf club on a huge boat? Play The Ship!
Looking for stuff to play outside of the stuff we already tell you to play on a daily basis? You’re in luck! Every Saturday we’ll recommend an older game for you to check out, complete with a story on how we found the game and why we recommend you play it.
By Tom Magrino