Celebrating AAPIHM – Part 2

Get to know some of the cool people at Mojang Studios!

The Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – the month in which we celebrate the culture and contributions of the AAPI community, is coming to an end. Well, at least for this year. We obviously have many more Mays ahead of us, which means AAPIHM is guaranteed to return!

Over the course of this month, Mojang Studios has participated in this important initiative, raising awareness and sharing stories from Asians and Pacific Islanders across the world. We’ve even toured a virtual Chinatown!

On this last day, we turn to people within Mojang Studios to both highlight their achievements, as well as bring awareness to their struggles and experiences. Today, we meet Chi, Rebecca, and Patrick.

Chi Wong – Netherlands

The first in our terrific trio is Chi – Mojang 3D artist extraordinaire (as well as a frequent savior of certain Minecraft.net editors in need of art for their articles). Born in Rotterdam of a Chinese family, Chi can speak three different languages: Chinese Cantonese, Dutch, and English – and soon Swedish, thanks to his studies in Stockholm. His artistic side, as well as his passion for building, seem to run in the family – his older brother is an architect who shares Chi’s passion for games. 

“Most of my days growing up were spent playing Super Mario World, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Mario Kart” Chi tells me. “Later, my brother and I would buy the next generation of consoles and handhelds. It was the start of a very interesting roadmap.” 

A roadmap that would expose Chi to many different games! His discovery of Minecraft came during his studies of 2D/3D Visual Arts at Breda University of Applied Sciences. While making next-gen 3D game art, he was invited to join a friend who was already hooked. 

“When I entered their server, they had hours and hours of playtime. The world was filled with awesome creations. I knew that this game would be hard to turn off. I had nothing on my character, so I started punching a tree…”

Today, Chi works with the Vanilla team delivering cool features for the Caves & Cliffs Update. And before you ask: “Which cool features did Chi work on?!”, feast your eyes upon these adorable creatures.

Your assumption is correct, esteemed readers – Chi helped design the axolotl! 

“I’m proud of all the visible and invisible work I do, and especially of the Bedrock achievement art that I made,” he says. “Internally, there are many things that I’ve done that don’t make it to the public eye, but I’m still proud of the work that I put into it because it could empower others to do their work more efficiently! In the end, we’re all part of one team.” 

AAPIHM means a lot to Chi, who feels connected to the group. “My parents moved with their parents from China to Europe in the late 70's in hope of finding a better life outside their home country. They’ve contributed to society the best they can with the least amount of onboarding or integration the Netherlands could provide. Thanks to the AAPIHM, even my parents get a bit of recognition across the seas now." 

Rebecca Gordius – USA 

Seattle-based Korean American Rebecca is no stranger to Minecraft. For six years, she’s been working as PR Manager, fostering relationships with Minecraft’s YouTube, Twitch, and video community. In her free time, however, she works more on her mountainside dream home in Creative Mode. Did we also mention that she has an adorable skinny pug named Pumba? 

"Minecraft might look simple from the outside in,” Rebecca tells me. “But people who play it and work on it know that it’s actually quite complex. It’s a wonderful feeling to work on something that so many people love, and I’m proud to be part of a team that wants to have a positive impact on the world.” 

The global pandemic has created many challenges in bringing people together – but only to a degree. Recently, Rebecca and her team hosted Mojang Studios’ first virtual creator summit. "It was amazing! We used to all come together in person at the Stockholm office, Minecraft Live, or community events, etc, but with the pandemic, we haven’t been able to do that. It was lovely to have that old 'convention' atmosphere and get to hang out with friends and colleagues. This has been a tough year, but I’m glad we can still find ways to come together.” 

Growing up in a small town lacking diversity, Rebecca felt that she was noticeably different from her classmates – something that led to struggles with her own identity. “It’s hard as a kid to feel like you don’t belong or to not have that many role models or characters to relate to in movies, TV, games. However, I think times are changing and more people are making an effort to embrace different cultures and be more inclusive, so I’m optimistic that things will be better for the next generation!” 

AAPIHM is one example of an inclusive initiative that has helped Rebecca. It has given her the opportunity to discuss her own Korean heritage with friends and colleagues, to give them knowledge and perspective. 

“I love the different heritage months throughout the year because they’re a great time for people to feel proud of their culture and for others to learn. AAPIHM is special in particular because Asians and Pacific Islanders are so diverse – there’s such a huge cultural diversity in this category.” 

And it’s not just culture that one can be proud of, but also people! For Rebecca, there are many awesome AAPI people worth highlighting, but one that comes to mind is her colleague Stephanie on the Minecraft team.  

“She has done an awesome job starting the dialogue within the team around the treatment of AAPI people in the US historically and with the recent surge in hate crimes. We’ve had some great discussions as a team and I think we’ve all learned a lot. I also have to give a shout-out to Youn Yuh-Jung, the Korean actress who broke new ground winning an Oscar for her work in the movie 'Minari' – go check her and the movie out!”

Patrick Liu – Sweden

Last, but certainly not least, is Patrick Liu, Mojang Studios’ very own Head of Games. Before you ask, no, being Head of Games does not mean you get to play games all day – even if you’re the head honcho. Instead, it’s Patrick’s job to head up all game-related endeavors Mojang Studios undertakes. A passion for games is obviously a plus, which he reassures me he has.

“I still love it! I have tried a number of things that aren’t games-related, but keep coming back to it. My first game console was a Vectrex, maybe that dates me." 

The Vectrex-dated Patrick was born in Sweden to Hong Kong-born parents and has worked with games for over 15 years, which means he’s older than Minecraft itself. Wait! I'm also older than Minecraft, so why didn't I have a Vectrex? 

“I played Minecraft for a while in the early years, way before I started working at Mojang of course. Back then I was working with very different types of games and was fascinated – both professionally and as a player – by what was going on. My fondest memories of playing it are really just playing it with other people and the stories you create together. I remember one time we really wanted to build a house in the sky (inspired by Laputa: Castle in the Sky). It didn't get quite that majestic, and there were plenty of "accidents" building so far above the ground...”

Much to Studio Ghibli’s relief, Patrick is no longer building castles. Instead, he and his colleagues work more as “shepherds of Minecraft”, which he describes as a balance of creating things that are both familiar and adds something new to its universe – something that can be both scary and very exciting at the same time.

“I'm very happy to be able to grow the Minecraft universe outside of Vanilla, figuring out what fits and what doesn't, what excites our players. I'm a big board game fan, so it was incredibly fun to produce a board game with Ravensburger. It turned out better than I could ever imagine. Also been a long-time Nintendo fan, and to be able to collaborate so closely on including Minecraft in Super Smash Bros Ultimate was another big moment for me.”

As a leader of Mojang Studios, Patrick sees the AAPIHM as an opportunity to build empathy for both Asians and other groups by sharing his experiences living in a society with a culture and heritage that are different from his own. He also highlights the minority myth: the Asian stereotype that they’re hardworking and more successful than other immigrants. “It may not sound bad, but it in practice erases diversity in Asian cultures, puts us as perpetual foreigners – and worst of all – hides the actual racism that marginalizes us.” 

Racism and prejudice are ever-present issues we face in society that constantly need to be called out. It’s also something Patrick has experienced himself, first-hand. 

“For me, it's been a time where I've more gone back in time in my own history and reflected on what I've been through. It's been enlightening and I've surprised myself with how emotional I get when I start speaking about the topic openly. Much of it has to do with the realization of how much I've suppressed my feelings, experiences growing up, and internalized racism against myself – in essence being ashamed of who I am. As I've grown up, I've embraced my roots more, but I have certainly experienced prejudice in a very practical sense in everyday life and professionally, like discrimination, outright insults, and even physical harm.” 

As much as AAPIHM is about raising awareness, it’s also about celebrating people, and much like how Chi wanted to give recognition to his parents, so does Patrick: 

“I'll have to thank them for having moved halfway around the world to find a better life. Moving to a country where they don't know the language and have no real qualifications really, to build something from scratch so I could have a healthy upbringing.” 

Learn more 

If you’re curious how you can support your AAPI friends and colleagues, as well as learn more about the hardships they face on an everyday basis, the Asian Americans Advancing Justice – an affiliation of five organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans – is a good place to start! Learn more here.

Per Landin
Written By
Per Landin