‘All Our Asias’ Is a Vital Reminder That Creators Matter


All Our Asias, a short PC game by independent creator Sean Han Tani (creator of Anodyne and Even the Ocean) , begins in surprising fashion. As the game loads up, before any play begins, the creator introduces himself in a text prelude as “The Storyteller,” and explains his vision for the game. All Our Asias is an attempt to get at certain questions about identity and Asian heritage, he writes—a means of wondering what, exactly, people of the Asian diaspora have in common. When this introduction is finished, he begins telling the story, and the game properly begins.

But that oddly explicit introduction isn’t the only unusual thing about All Our Asias. Its visual style is rendered in a blocky, polygonal style taken directly from the early days of 3D gaming, where environments were vague and fuzzy to look at because that’s the only thing the hardware of the time could create. A framing interface of dials, buttons, and circuits surrounds the screen at all times—a constant reminder that this is, in fact, a game.

Most games try, at least a little bit, to hide their game-y-ness. Like in theatre and TV, there’s the idea of the fourth wall, and a general agreement that breaking it is likely a bad idea. A player in a game should be made to feel that their experience is a facsimile of reality, the conventional wisdom goes. When asked about the themes or meaning of their games, most major creators say that that’s up to the player decide. A designer’s role isn’t to talk; it’s to facilitate. All Our Asias quietly resists these ideas about games, and it’s better for it.

Han Tani’s story, about a man named Yukio diving into a VR reconstruction of his dying father’s memories, is enriched by the sense that it’s an authored story, a deliberate attempt to use interactivity to communicate and understand. The game’s surrealism, drawn largely from the vague, foggy graphics, feels like the working of a mind, both of Yukio’s father and of Han Tani himself. It’s a dream in the mind of the artist.

Every game is, in its way. But Han Tani’s insistence on including himself in his game lends All Our Asias a strong sense of the personal. It’s not autobiographical, but it asks questions that seem personally essential to the author, and gives Yukio’s strange, meditative journey a quiet insistence. What connects us, really? What does Yukio have in common with a father he never knew? What do I have in common with people of my race, or class?

All Our Asias is a simple game, a surreal platformer through a man’s dying mind, woven together by a son’s hope to know him in his final moments. But it’s also a showcase of the power games can have when artists take full responsibility for their creation and their inevitable presence within it. All art has an imprint of the people who made it. But not all creators are brave enough to admit that, or use it. Sean Han Tani is, and All Our Asias is made a better game for it.



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