Sat, Aug 30, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Not just a game

Taiwan’s social movements are inspiring a crop of toys and other novelties meant to spark conversation

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

“Like celebrities, street-wear labels in Taiwan are afraid to make political statements. We, on the other hand, label ourselves right from the start. We loathe them [the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)]. We are against them. And we don’t care if you don’t like [what we do],” says Chen Wei-chung (陳威仲), the designer and owner of the label.

Incorporating the Guy Fawkes mask, now a universal symbol for anti-establishment protest, into the brand logo, the people behind Radicalization excel at conveying simple, yet powerful messages. One of their T-shirts, for example, draws inspiration from a song by political rapper Dog G (大支) and is fitted with a bilingual sign that reads “Taiwan is Not Part of China (台灣的內地是南投).” Combining social advocacy and practical functionality, their anti-nuclear raincoat might come in handy when the police decide to use water cannons to disperse protestors.

Kou Chou Ching’s activism, however, has also produced plenty of enemies. Sold online exclusively through Tachihsiang Monopoly Bureau (大吉祥公賣局) in the Taiwan section of Yahoo! Auctions, Radicalization’s products are often the target of attack. Several negative reviews of the popular Civil Revolt towel resulted in it being removed from the auction site.

Radicalization’s designs — especially the Fuck the Government T-shirt, which has become immensely popular after Lin and Chen Wei-ting were seen wearing it during the occupation of the legislature — face another problem: piracy.

“[During the occupation], we decided to suspend our business because we felt it was not the time to have commercial activities. Then street vendors came in with pirated T-shirts, and they sold like crazy. One day I saw no peddlers and was like ‘that’s good.’ But a volunteer came to me and said, ‘Actually they sold everything and left early,’” Chen Wei-chung says.

In May, the designer and rapper received a notice from the police asking him to appear at the police station to be questioned over his involvement with the March 18 legislative chamber siege. He refused to go.

PLAYING GAMES

Going back to several months earlier. When Chen Wei-ting threw a shoe at Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) during a conflict last September, a group of 30-somethings were inspired and created Let the Shoes Fly (讓鞋子飛), a board game designed to familiarize players with current events and issues.

The Sunflower movement, public demonstrations triggered by the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), land expropriations for the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project and the forced demolition of private homes in Dapu Borough (大埔), Miaoli County are among the major social issues touched on by the game.

“We hope that by combining games with politics as well as important issues that people should be aware of, young people can become more interested in learning about what is happening in our society and doing their own research on things like why people would want to throw shoes at someone else,” says Wu Po-yang (伍博暘), co-founder of Godyu (神遊有限公司), the company that makes the board game.

Politically savvy and creatively astute, the board-game makers have generated plenty of discussion since their first game, The Wonderful Island (美麗島風雲), came out last year. The goal of the game is to remind the public what kind of tricky business the politicians have been up to over the past decade.

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