Michael Chu has recently graduated from Macquarie University with a Master of Accounting (CPA Extension) and completed the GLP in Session 1, 2017.
I joined the GLP with little more than a year left in my Accounting masters. With a bit of thought, it is not as hard to complete the GLP in one year as you might imagine. In fact, there are many interesting ways of completing the cross cultural practicum without going overseas.
To earn my credit, I developed a video game about shadow puppets. It is called Projection, a puzzle game about light manipulation, curiosity and lost art. The wonderful thing about working on this project is that it opened up many opportunities to explore different cultures.
Projection has the player explore Javanese, Chinese, Turkish/Greek, and 19th Century European cultures. These 4 locations used shadow puppetry as a popular form of storytelling. For each culture, I drew inspiration from popular stories of the time: The Ramayana, Journey to the West, Kharagoz and Hacivat, Shahmaran, and Alexander the Great.
I was hesitant when I brought the idea of this game up with GLP as I wasn’t sure if it would fit into one of the cross cultural practicum options but I was positive that 40 hours into this project I would have experience with different cultures. Once GLP wrote back accepting my proposal, that’s when I knew I had an end goal in sight. So my bit of advice: take that initiative and ask.
Admittedly I had been working on this game prior to starting the GLP, but during the year, I contributed more than 80 hours towards working on Projection. Many of these hours involved watching shadow puppet shows from Indonesia and China since it was imperative that I did not misrepresent any of the cultures. For instance, one of the earliest characters I had problems with was a creature from the Javanese shadow puppet culture:
I made a boss character who was based on this creature I found on Google. I perceived that what I was looking at was a monster. However, I now had to question what role it played in the Ramayana. For all I knew, this creature was actually a benevolent god. It would have been culturally insensitive for me to use a character without knowing their origins. Thus many hours were spent watching stories from the Ramayana to make sure that I could legitimately use this character as a demon.
A further implication of introducing different cultures was tradition. For instance, I introduced the characters Rama and Sita through statues. It was a way for the player to know about who the characters were without actually meeting them. However, it turns out statues were often an indicator the person had died.
Learning that even artifacts had their own cultural significance meant I had to question the way cultures did things. What would it mean if I made a character bow when they saw the player? What would be the implications if characters ignored the player? Was it ok for houses to be placed in certain areas? These questions are very simple, but have a significant weight when put in to the broader context of respecting culture. I found that I was setting my own goals for how culturally aware my project would be.
Don’t just do it for the hours. I wanted to be proud that my game was accurate in exploring different stories from these cultures. I ended up meeting with shadow puppeteers, showcasing my game at theatres, being interviewed about Projection with Game Magazines, and working with an artist to draw characters which were true to the stories they were representing. What you work on can take you places you did not expect. If you think this sounds daunting, don’t be discouraged. I did not expect to do any of this when I started GLP. All I was interested in was working on a game which had a cross cultural focus.
So if you’re wondering how to complete your cross cultural practicum, but can’t afford to go overseas or can’t find a suitable place to complete your 40 hours, start a project for yourself. Making a video game is probably as different as can be from doing an accounting masters, but it just goes to show, if you’re creative about what’s around you, exploring culture and leadership is close at hand.