Not just a game; cracking a murder with a smartphone - Taipei Times
Wed, Feb 07, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Not just a game; cracking a murder with a smartphone

An augmented reality game released last week featuring a Taiwanese-American detective has players running all over the city trying to solve a decades-old White Terror murder case

By Han Cheung  /  Staff Reporter

Unforgivable: Eliza is a location-based, augmented-reality mobile phone game.

Photo courtesy of Toii

When Ed Lin (林景南) was asked to write a script for an augmented-reality smartphone game that was based in both New York and Taipei, he knew it had to be rooted in Taiwanese culture and history.

“How could it not be?” says the Taiwanese-American mystery author. “You’re going to have a zombie plague going around or something?”

Lin presented a modern take on his best known “Chinatown” series, set in 1976 featuring Chinese-American detective Robert Chow. Taking Chow’s place in the same precinct is Taiwanese-American Danny Lin, who travels to Taiwan to solve the murder of his grandfather, an activist who was murdered during the White Terror era.

Launched last Monday by US and Taiwan-based game developer Toii (踢歐哎哎), players of Unforgivable: Eliza (鎮山) follow Danny Lin’s quest, which is linked to the 1970 attempted assassination of former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) in New York City.

Players can choose to visit the locations in person or use purchasable “tickets” to travel virtually. Although the story spans two continents, it’s playable entirely in one city — for example, Da-an Forest Park serves as a substitute for New York’s Central Park for players in Taipei. It’s currently available in New York, Taipei and Taichung, in both Chinese and English.

Toii CEO Allen Yu (余政彥) says they received funding from the Ministry of Culture after proposing to create something that connects Taiwanese-Americans to Taiwan, noting that many don’t speak Chinese well and regard Taiwan as a foreign country even when they visit.

“That’s one thing they really liked — to let English-speaking countries know about Taiwanese history,” Yu says.

TAIWANESE CONSCIOUSNESS

Like many Taiwanese-Americans, Danny Lin starts the game with a blank slate — he knows virtually nothing about Taiwan as his mother had refused to visit due to what had happened to her father. She believes that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) spies are still active and he is left with the impression that Taiwan is a very dangerous place.

Aside from the main story, players can learn more details on White Terror by doing side quests, such as one where Danny Lin calls his mother and asks her about the history of the Chiang family. Another has him visiting the Taiwan Center and finding out about the KMT’s oppression of Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) and other local languages.

Ed Lin notes that during Robert Chow’s era, there was no such thing as Taiwanese-American — or at least it wasn’t discussed openly.

“In the last 10 years or so, being Taiwanese-American has been a real stand to take as opposed to when I was growing up,” he says “Everyone was Chinese. But then again, the KMT had their spies around too.”

He adds that the rise of National Basketball Association player Jeremy Lin (林書豪) has pushed that identity to the forefront.

“I was thinking, with this kind of consciousness, what would it be like to apply it to a Taiwanese-American cop who has never been to Taiwan?” he says. “Maybe this game could be an entree to modern Taiwan for a generation that has never been there.”

Yu says that this phenomenon of focusing on Taiwanese elements is relatively new even in Taiwan. During last week’s Taipei Game Show, he received many comments about the number of recent games that are connected to Taiwan, including Raid on Taihoku, a board game released last year based on the US bombing of Taipei in 1945.

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