Playing as the Other

This is a topic I talk about quite a bit in person and in various blogs, and it even came up on a recent episode of the podcast Asians Represent! I strongly recommend giving it a listen or checking out Clio Yu-Su Davis’s LARP, “The Long Drive Back from Busan,” available in the Golden Cobra archives.

Interestingly, the advice from this episode (and from Davis’s LARP) is very similar to the tips you can find in Chapter 6 of Steamscapes: Asia, as you can see from the following excerpt.

Here are some tips for playing a character from a different country or culture:

  • Don’t make a big deal about it. Once you’ve described your character, just do what you think your character does without constantly referencing identity. People are basically people wherever you go, so just play your character normally. As you become comfortable with the character, then maybe you can do some research to add a few layers.
  • Think in terms of goals, not identity. Focus on what your character wants and how to get it, rather than trying to just play who they are.
  • Avoid stereotypes. Pop culture makes a habit of using shorthand indicators of character elements like gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, and cultural identity. These are almost always inaccurate and frequently offensive. This definitely includes accents and dialects—unless you are an actor specifically trained in that dialect, you are going to get it wrong. Just speak in your normal voice.

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