Have you met

Mr. Chang?

by Anne Sharp

He's a very popular character role-played by Twitch streamer Lord Kebun in the NoPixel server's version of Grand Theft Auto.* In early performances as Mr. Chang, Lord Kebun used the crude method of reversing Ls and Rs to suggest an Asian accent. But as the character evolved, Chang's accent tactfully mutated into an ethnically nonspecific speech disorder in which crack becomes cwack and masturbation becomes maskabatan, both of which Mr. Chang likes very much. People who refer to him as Asian are now indignantly informed that he's Puerto Rican.

His handsome face aged by years of hard living and a persistent stubble he doesn’t have time to shave, he dresses mostly in classic black menswear, his favorite wardrobe piece being a leather jacket as beat up looking as he is. Sometimes when a statement is called for he makes an appearance wearing just Rugrats underpants or camo print briefs with matching body paint. His hair and brows are usually dyed the sort of unflattering auburn common among West Coast immigrants trying to fit in with the Anglos. He is a heavy drug user and adrenaline junkie skilled at urban combat and martial arts. His spirit animal is the dragon.

He travels the mean streets of Los Santos (a gorgeous photorealistic version of the greater Los Angeles area) with the Chang Gang, a collective of sociopathic thrill seekers that he directs as a sort of dark triad servant-leader. His goal seems to be not so much to amass wealth or power but to just generally seduce, confuse, disgust, and scare the hell out of as many people as possible, and in this he’s very successful. His bonobo-like sexuality attracts all sorts of admirers, such as the Millie Jackson-spirited Gladys Berry (played by Twitch streamer Mick), who wrote an erotic rap ballad for him, and the Juggalo Freya (Curvyllama), who persuaded him to marry her, only to be relegated to playing Columbia to his Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

Chang is fundamentally a man of action, his signature style involving extreme jackass high-speed driving and deliberately jumping and driving off steep precipices. As an experienced gamer, Lord Kebun has an unmatched ability to create exciting scenarios for Chang and his fellow characters, using elements of the GTA game environment in spectacularly creative ways. He's also one of the most inventive and intuitive improvisational actors in the NoPixel ensemble, making every scene he appears in more interesting. Naturally, this makes Chang a very desirable character for other streamers to play with, but you have to have serious skills yourself in order to take full advantage of it.

Chang reminds me a lot of the hard-boiled characters Peter Lorre played in films noir of the later 1940s like "Black Angel," “The Chase,” and “Quicksand.” They were middle-aged immigrants with easily mocked accents living on the fringes of the American social order, getting by on hard-earned survival instincts, quick wit and a wicked taste for the absurd. Like Peter himself come to think of it.

See also my Mr. Chang YouTube playlists here and here and a provisional alternative backstory for Mr. Chang.

*NoPixel runs an altered version of Grand Theft Auto V that allows selected streamers to use the game's digital characters and environment for roleplay. The result is a 24/7 entertainment combining elements of improvisational theater, puppetry, and ultraviolent gaming.

(c) 2019 by Anne Sharp. All rights reserved.