Break Through Games today released a video game where the player takes on the role of an immigrant to the United States whose legal status is questionable, and whose goal is not to be deported (or detained):
This game is all about barriers, mostly those that immigrants to the U.S. face in becoming legal citizens. However, the first barrier you will encounter comes long before you start up the game. Clicking on the download button will immediately get you into a hassle with your computer’s pop-up blocker. You are then asked to take a survey about immigration. In this questionnaire you have to answer questions like “Immigrants harm the economy by taking jobs away from citizens and by not paying taxes” or “Undocumented immigrants pay many of the types of taxes that US citizens pay“. The possible answer choices are ‘false‘, ‘it might be false‘, ‘it might be true‘, and ‘true‘. You’ll also be required to supply your email address, age and sex when answering the questionnaire. When I tried to install this program on my Windows Vista computer I got an error that the program could not install due to an unspecified error.
Thankfully, the site has a ‘News’ section with TV spots on the game. The game appears to be your typical ‘over the shoulder’ RPG type game, and not online. In the game the ‘bad guys’ are the ICE officers. The name of the game is a play on the real life US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The goal of the game is to avoid the ICE agents. Do good deeds and your visibility goes down, commit petty crimes (like shop lifting, graffiti, or jump a subway turnstile) and you might get caught. Get caught and you can end up in detention or even deported. During the game there is a voice that is narrating different positions on US immigration policies to the player. Since I was not able to install and play the game, I cannot comment on any ‘win’ condition in the game.
Watch videos from news releases
(game footage towards end)
From what I was able to see of the game in the videos, the 3D presentation is acceptable and appropriate for the environment. The game leans heavily in one direction politically. You will not see the term ‘illegal’ or ‘alien’ on the webpage, and I suspect in the game. All players are either ‘immigrants’ or ‘undocumented’. Making all ICE agents the bad guys heavily biases the game. But the point of this post is not to review the game’s politics, only to comment on the use of the technology.
The webpage is of high quality and very well done. There is a tab for Blogs, but only one entry is there, and that entry appears to be from one of the game’s characters. There are six main characters in this game; Marc (Haiti, Asylum Seeker), Javier (Mexico/Undocumented), Anna (Poland/Thinks she’s a citizen), Suki (Japan/Student Visa), Ayesha (India/Green Card), and the ever present ICE Immigration Officers. I suspect playing each of these characters exposes you to different attitudes directed towards these different immigrants treatment.
I will post a better review of the play mechanics and atmosphere of the game once I get a copy that will install to Vista. No mention of compatibility problems are listed on the website.
While the politics of this game are painted with a broad and definitely tinted brush, the game does show that this technology can be used to take on serious issues and try to help players step out of their own shoes, and into a pair where their perspective is skewed beyond their own personal reality. This is the virtual equivalent of the old saying “walk a mile in my shoes”. Role playing games have traditionally been all about hobbits, trolls, and dragons. It looks like there may be new RPG’s entering the mainstream that instead take aim at slaying our societal dragons.