I conscientiously answer the questions: “Where are your parents from? “My dad is from Bangladesh, my mom is from Bulgaria” – but growing up on predominantly white Long Island bothered me that anyone ever had to ask. I am pale. My hair is thin and bleached blonde, and I could never grow it out to stay strong and curly against my waist like all my cousins I’m jealous of.
I wanted to be a real Bengali like half of my family, but my father always encouraged me to be more American. For me, that meant conforming to my whiteness and that of my neighborhood, and while it cut off a part of me that I had hoped to nurture, it just seemed easier at the time. When my wavering high school identity shook and I felt more secure in myself as a human, I began to more sincerely embrace the two cultures that created me.
So during Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, which begins May 1 each year, I feel a special duty to my fellow Asians who have been taught to separate their culture from themselves. Now, as a video game writer, I often think about how gaming has a somewhat fragile relationship with Asian and Pacific Islander culture. Although China and Japan dominate the global video game market, I fear that the equally important American market sometimes turns culture into a caricature. It seems that even after decades of Asian influence on games, the United States still doesn’t know not all asian characters need to own a katana.
But the games on this list know that a person’s AAPI identity is worthy of respect and the effort to understand it. All emphasize history and heritage rather than tedious, superficial aesthetics. Of of course, “AAPI” is a giant umbrella and this list is just a small selection of the fantastic games that honor the AAPI culture. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy them and use this AAPI month to better understand yourself, your friends, and the many beautiful cultures that make our little brilliance of the world.