A game featuring a bumpy truck ride and a bed full of immigrants is undergoing criticism for its content.
Advocacy groups are calling out Owlchemy Labs' upcoming iPad, iPhone, and web game Smuggle Truck for its political insensitivity. The game has players driving a rickety truck through dangerous environments while trying to keep immigrants alive inside the truck bed.
Eva Millona of the Massachusetts Immigrants & Refugee Advocacy Coalition told NBC she feels Smuggle Truck "trivializes the seriousness of immigrants willing to risk their lives to cross the border." Patricia Montes of another group points out that illegal immigration is mostly done out of desperation, she doesn't think it should be made into a game.
Thanu Yakupitiyage of the New York Immigration Coalition says: "This 'game' pokes fun and trivializes the harsh reality of our current immigration policy that leads to people putting their lives at stake and embarking on dangerous border crossings." She notes that 170 people were killed trying to immigrate to the U.S. in 2010.
Owlchemy co-founder Alex Schwartz says the game is justified as a parody of the U.S.'s immigration system. The game was born out of Schwartz's Turkish-born business partner's struggle to remain in the U.S. "We feel like there should be room for expression in this medium that can talk about this - but because we're approaching it with satire it's hard to do," he says.
Owlchemy is taking heed of the criticism, having changed the images of the "immigrants" in the truck so that they're not all Mexican in appearance. However, the company is unlikely to bow to advocacy group pressure due to the origins of the game and purpose behind it, which is not necessarily to make fun of illegal immigrants. Conceptually, it actually looks like a pretty fun game. It'll be out in March 2011.