Sleeping Dogs and Where I Belong Mar29


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Sleeping Dogs and Where I Belong

Screenshot from Sleeping Dogs.

When left in isolation, humans experience a range of physical symptoms and even deeper damage to their minds. A McGill study that was attempting to analyze the effects of isolation by having people stay in sensory deprivation rooms for a month had to be cut short; by the second day, almost all the volunteers were hallucinating sound, sight, and pain. The effects were too dangerous and overwhelming to continue. Even hermits that remove themselves from society keep a pet or talk to God or seek some sort of community; being alone is unbearable.

Sleeping Dogs, an open world adventure video game, makes me feel like I need to belong somewhere, but where I belong matters just as much as belonging. In the game, Wei Shen returns to Hong Kong as an undercover cop set on infiltrating the Sun On Yee triad. His mission is to destabilize the triads and reduce their control over society, but Wei has a vendetta against one of the mid-level bosses named Dogeyes who he blames for introducing his sister to heroine, the drug that would eventually take her life. His goals were infiltrating the gang, undermining its bosses, and getting revenge.

As Wei Shen, you join a triad boss named Winston who is in competition with Dogeyes. It’s a perfect situation to target your rival while undermining the triads. The characters are crude and violent, so it’s easy to feel good betraying them and putting a stop to their misdemeanors. Even throwing someone else under the bus in order to protect your cover seems like the “right” thing to do.

It was nice to not be constantly under suspicion and know that if I ran into trouble, they had my back.

To prove that you aren’t a cop, you are expected to assist in a raid on one of Dogeye’s establishments. You are handed a gun and told you better use it because undercover cops don’t kill people. I don’t know if you can play without killing some triads, but I didn’t even try to avoid doing so. I wasn’t going to be tortured and buried alive to keep a few triads alive. I justified doing so as part of the greater effort to destroy the triads, removing genuinely bad people from the streets, and because Wei Shen is willing to do whatever it takes to get vengeance for his sister.

After the raid, you are treated as a friend by the criminals. To be totally honest, it was nice to not be constantly under suspicion and know that if I ran into trouble, they had my back. The deep familial connection became more and more evident within Winston’s crew; they see each other as more than just coworkers. Shortly after this, Winston asks you to drive around his fiancé Patty to make sure they get the right flowers, cake, and dress for their wedding. I was willing to break into places and threaten people to make sure this couple had the wedding they wanted. Patty cares for all the criminals in Winston’s crew because they make her feel safe; she has these brothers that will defend her and her soon-to-be husband.

I started to feel attached to this “family.” The acceptance and inclusion felt like a community that Wei had been missing since his sister died and he left America. During the wedding, Dogeyes infiltrates and kills Winston and Patty. Winston’s dying words are to desperately ask me to care for Patty and make sure she gets out okay; I didn’t have the heart to tell him she lay dead next to him.

Screenshot from Sleeping Dogs.

From this point on, I became an official bad guy. Winston’s people became my people. I was their family and nothing was going to harm my family. I had no issues murdering Dogeyes’ guys or eliminating police threats against my people. I’d sacrifice other people to keep mine safe as I took Winston’s place as a triad boss. I’m afraid to finish the game because Wei Shen might lose that community if his betrayal is discovered.

Where I belong matters just as much as belonging.

Thinking about this has made me look around at the communities I’m a member of now and question what I’d be willing to do to maintain acceptance. Am I willing to bend laws, give preferential treatment, or go against my own morals or ethics for them? I want to say no, but after experiencing how easy it was to go from cop on a mission to triad leader, I’m not as sure. I have begun to take a hard look at the expectations my community is placing on me and make sure I am not being influenced in negative or destructive ways. The people closest to me affect who I am.

I also don’t want to alienate people from each other because of differences. Society sometimes frowns upon us geeks; likewise, we sometimes frown upon society for treating us that way and feel superior. Doing so can make me feel like I’m defending my people, but when I engage in putting someone else down, I end up alienating others because of their differences, people who long for community and acceptance the way I have.

I have likely pushed people away and forced them to seek community with less safe and caring people in my arrogance. I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing that made me feel hated and alone as I grew up, and that must not continue. Being reminded of how desperate I can be for community and acceptance, I want to be more inclusive and inviting of others. I may not always see eye to eye or totally understand someone, but I want them to feel like they have a brother in me.

Dustin Schellenberg

Dustin Schellenberg

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Dustin spends his time exploring the far reaches of space, understand the ancient ways of might and magic, and wandering the post-apocalyptic wastes. If it has a reasonably open world, a crafting system and some way to sneak around, he'll be there. When not gaming, he's probably planning his next D&D character (because his DM keeps killing off the old ones). He is a competent bass player and guitarist, mediocre mid laner and outright awful FPS player. He is father of two, husband of one, a sometimes theologian, and all-times pastor of Crestview Park Free Methodist Church in Winnipeg, MB.
Dustin Schellenberg