Immigration Debate Argued Through Videogames


The national political debate over immigration has produced its fair share of partisans, some of whom are now turning to videogames to highlight their perspectives.

An article in The Los Angeles Times today discusses the trend, citing several examples of student-produced, internet-based games featuring immigration as their central theme.

One game produced by a human rights group called Breakthrough features some of the following gameplay:

“As you navigate through New York City, you make risky decisions along the way. At a subway turnstile, do you jump or swipe your card? At a corner store, do you pay or shoplift? If you make bad choices and lose points, you can win others by attending immigration rallies or taking English classes.

But watch out: If an immigration agent pops onto the screen, you go straight to a detention center and face possible deportation.”

So far, the article notes, games like this command only limited audiences and are free to download or just prototypes.

Nonetheless, the general concept of using video games as a tool for education is garnering some funding support:

“The MacArthur Foundation recently awarded a $1.1-million grant toward the development of a school in New York that would use games to teach core subjects. Through so-called serious video games, students can role-play and solve problems, said Connie Yowell, the foundation’s director of education.”

The production of games highlighting immigration is not limited to those sympathetic to their condition. One online Flash-based game, Border Patrol, features the player shooting immigrating Mexicans ranging from drug smugglers to pregnant women to gain points.

While shock value and experimentation may attract news coverage, Toy Wishes magazine editor Chris Byrne told the paper that neither guarantee sustainability:

“For family game night,” Byrne said, “people are going to reach for Cranium before they reach for these games.”

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