The Taiwan Cultural Center in New York highlighted Taiwanese comics and video games at the Taiwan ACG Carnival that was set up at Animefest during the New York Comic Con.
The pavilion was sponsored by the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture to bring Taiwanese comics and video games to the United States. Nine comics publishers were represented but of particular interest to gamers were two games from Taiwanese developers that highlighted the uniqueness of video games made in Taiwan.
Detention is a survival horror adventure game developed by Red Candle games. Set in the 1960s during the White Terror period where political dissent was brutally put down, the story follows two students trapped in a school in the mountains and hunted by supernatural creatures as they try to uncover the mystery of the haunted school.
Students trapped in a haunted school has become a common survival horror subgenre in Asian video games, especially Japan. What makes Detention unique is basing its story in a major chapter in Taiwan’s recent political history. It takes in Taoism, Buddhism, Chinese mythology and specific moments from Taiwanese culture. There’s a depth and literary sophistication in the story not common in video games. It’s not afraid of telling a tragic story about how history bears down on people and the lingering trauma that never goes away.
Detention may not be well-known in gaming, but it’s already gathering a cult following from horror fans with a clutch of rave reviews in its wake.
Detention is currently available on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux, on Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
Unforgivable: Eliza is an AR detective game playable on a smartphone. Like Detention, this game is part of the trend to address Taiwan’s authoritarian past when people were brutalized and disappeared in anti-communist purges under martial law.
You are Danny, a Taiwanese-American NYPD detective trying to find the truth behind your grandfather’s disappearance 40 years ago during the White Terror period. Your only clue is the mysterious Eliza and why she might be unforgivable. The game uses the GPS on your phone to discover clues, stories, testimonies at locations in New York City and Taipei. You chase down criminals and complete missions to get through the story. The developers are Toii, a startup studio based in Taiwan and New York City and the story is written by award-winning Taiwanese-American writer Ed Lin. This is a unique use of the AR phone game that also teaches the player major stories from Taiwanese history.
Unforgivable: Eliza is now available on iOS and Android.
It’s easy to see how these two games would be chosen to highlight the best of Taiwanese video games. They’re both unique, taking on familiar game genres and designs and trying out new ideas, diving deeper in story and themes and addressing Taiwanese culture and history for a rich experience. This is what sets Taiwanese stories apart from Japanese or other Asian pop culture. There’s a directness in its approach to story and history that’s refreshing and unique.