Fun, games, and identity: AZN Flush – Cold Tea Collective

If you get rosy after a couple drinks, why not embrace it rather than be embarrassed by it?

Skip the Zantac because there is a game that you and your friends can bond over besides a genetic enzyme deficiency.

With game rules like “If you were premed at one point, take four sips” and “If you’ve ever calculated the lowest grade you need to get to keep an A, take 7 sips”, AZN Flush will not only deepen your hue, but also your friendships.

Cold Tea Collective caught up with John Lim, the creator of AZN Flush, about building a community for Asian Americans through games, connecting with his heritage, and bridging cultures through the power of vulnerability.

Creating space for Asian Americans

When Crazy Rich Asians broke the box office as the highest-grossing rom-com in a decade and Subtle Asian Traits began to overtake social media with dating memes, Lim saw an opportunity to make space for Asian Americans in the game industry.

As a long-time game enthusiast and digital marketer, he designed AZN Flush, which draws on Asian American cultural references and shared experiences in a fun and provocative way.

“My guiding principle was to create a space for people to disconnect from their phones for awhile,” the Seattle-based Korean American said. “For the most part it’s been a great conversation starter.”

Since its launch in January 2019, AZN Flush exploded from a side hustle to a full-blown business. As orders flooded in, the game began to gain traction and a loyal following of dedicated fans.

“Hearing how grateful people are for us to create this space to enjoy with other Asian Americans is the best part of the business,” Lim said.

Unlike other Asian American games, AZN Flush offers a wide spectrum of offerings through themed packs, like the ABC Pack which was a collaboration with the Chinese Canadian Youtubers of CantoMando and the highly anticipated Boba Pack, a collaboration with Kungfu Tea coming in June. If you’d like to experience Lim’s version of a wild night, try his personal favorite, The Fire Chicken Noodle Pack.

As a new game creator, Lim hopes to build on the success of the game and bring them into big box stores, like Target and Walmart. The cultural game industry still has lots of room for growth, but mainstream retailers are becoming aware of the increasing influence of ethnic consumers and the strong desire for culturally-specific products.

“We’re still trying to elbow our way into those conversations, but I’m hopeful, because we are a growing demographic and there is a strong demand for games that are relatable,” he said.

Healing through games

AZN Flush is more than fun and games. Not only is it a great conversation starter, but it also acknowledges some deep-seated issues, especially the parent-child dynamic which Lim recognizes to be a source of trauma for many people.

Lim believes that games have the ability to “free you up to be playful and engage in the material in a way that is not self-conscious or defensive.”

“You actually grapple with these concepts in the game and let people be heard,” Lim said. “We’re doing our part to help people heal and learn about themselves.”

In a recent livestream event, Lim did something many of us would never have the courage to do – he invited his mom to play AZN Flush. Through the game, he revealed things about himself to her that he never thought he would, like a question on premarital sex.

To his surprise, she was okay with it.

“She took it well and answered it honestly,” he said. “It was more modern-day and less traditional than I thought.”

Lim’s cultural awakening

Growing up in a predominantly white community in Maryland, Lim always felt like an outsider. As one of the only three Asians at his school, he struggled to find someone who could relate to his upbringing.

“I couldn’t really commiserate with anyone else about my strict parents,” Lim said. “There was a lot of self-loathing growing up.”

It was not until college that he finally found a sense of belonging. Through Asian student groups, Lim was able to connect with his culture and, for the first time, feel proud of his heritage. He hopes AZN Flush can play a part in helping others discover their cultural identity.

“I want AZN Flush to mimic that Asian awakening I had,” Lim said. “My dream is for a younger version of me to go to college, attend that first orientation event hosted by an Asian student club, play this game – and eventually find their community.”

After college, he continued his cultural journey by taking up a teaching position in South Korea, where his mother was born. He was eager to be immersed in his culture and most importantly, be surrounded by people who looked like him.

However, the reality was not quite what he had imagined. The differences in his skin tone, hairstyle, and mannerism, subtle as they were, set him apart from native Koreans.

“I always thought I was too Asian for America and thought I would fit in in Korea,” Lim said. “When I got there, I realized I was too American.”

This is one of the challenges many third culture kids like Lim face when returning to the country their parents grew up in. Despite this realization, he was grateful for the time he had to connect with his relatives and to learn more about his mother’s life prior to moving to America.

Lim described his visit to his mother’s rural hometown as “being brought back to another time period.” Seeing the shack she used to live in with her seven siblings, as well as the poverty in the area, Lim developed a profound appreciation for the risk his mother took to immigrate to a foreign country.

“At the age of twenty, we were trying to figure out what we want to major in,” Lim said. “At that age, my mother picked up everything she owned to move to a place she has never been before, all for the kids that she didn’t even have yet.”

Bridging cultures through vulnerability

For those picking up the game for the first time, Lim encourages players to just get into it and be vulnerable.

“People are always afraid to be vulnerable first,” he said. “You’d be surprised how many people will follow you when you’re willing to take the risk.”

Great risks come with great rewards. By approaching the game with an open mindset, players will get more out of the game.

“I’ve played this game with absolute strangers and come out feeling like I know them really well, even after playing just a couple rounds,” he said.

Beyond facilitating conversations within the Asian American diaspora, Lim hopes to connect with non-Asians who are interested in the Asian culture by making more game packs with broader, relatable themes like KPop, anime and boba.

“It doesn’t matter what colour you are or where you come from; you have this shared experience and share a love for something,” Lim said.

“We’re excited to make games that ring true for Asian Americans – and we had a good start – but there’s always room to build more and reach more communities.”

In celebration of National Bubbletea Day on April 30, AZN Flush has collaborated with Kungfu Tea to create the special edition of Boba Pack, coming soon in June. Use the code COLDTEA for a 20% discount on a fresh pack of AZN Flush!

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