02/27/08: Updated: It’s hard for me to be too harsh on the game because of its intent. However, I do think it could have been put together a little better. The decisions your character is faced with in the game, and the assumptions about migrants that can be drawn from those decisions, are easy prey for nativists.
I’ve spent some time playing the ICED video game and will provide some input. The game is designed much like many popular first person games, but thankfully without the gun or shooting (though you’re challenged as to whether or not you should pick one up). The game is based on a city like New York and you essentially run around doing good deeds, answering questions, and are challenged with opportunities to break the law. These challenges include picking up a gun, jumping a turnstile, spray painting a wall and stealing a car. If you analyze the game closely it seems to focus more on those opportunities to commit crimes.The game does not allow you to interact with the world you’re in directly. To interact with another character who may ask you to vote, join the military or buy counterfeit DVD’s you simply walk up to them. I chose the character Suki who came here as a student, but did not realize there was a credit hour requirement for his legal residence. Having taken only nine hours in college he had violated his conditions of stay and therefore was considered to be here unlawfully.
After you pick your character the game loads. The following message is scrolled up the screen as the game is prepared:
Breathrough: Building Human Rights culture
Since 196 almost 2 million people have been deported from the U.S.
No one is safe from deportation – the sick and elderly, pregnant women, families, Green Card holders and even people escaping other countries where they might have been tortured for their beliefs.
Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of immigrants being detained in horrendous conditions. They have no idea of their destiny.
They do not have access to due process.
They are not given the legal rights that U.S. citizens have.
Are these are American values?
It is a myth that detaining immigrants keeps America safe.
In fact, detaining immigrants breaks up families and destroys their lives.
Moving through the first part of the game you come upon hand icons which give you points for doing good deeds such as planting a tree, adopting a cat, becoming a big brother helping the homeless and donating blood. I wasn’t sure how some of these good deeds could be achieved given the fact that you’re trying to keep a low profile (in the game), but I understand the idea that a person’s citizenship status has nothing to do with what’s in their hearts. Sadly though, what’s in your heart is not taken into consideration when you’re before an immigration judge. As the game taught me an immigration judge cannot make considerations based on the person before them.
Throughout the game there are also light bulb icons which ask you questions about immigration and undocumented migrants. Many of the questions have to do with things that can cause someone to be deported.
After the thrill of winning citizenship you are given the opportunity to celebrate by being placed into a detention center.
There was more complexity in trying to go through the various checkpoints in the detention center and it seemed as though there was no way out. I’m sure this is similar to what many migrants are going through. In this portion of the game you learn about the horrors of immigrant detention centers – horrors such as those recently posted about on the Damn Mexicans blog.
After running around the detention center for a while I gave up and conceded to being deported.
Though the game did tell me that I wouldn’t be able to apply for citizenship for a long time by taking this route I did not want to continue in the detention center. The terrible irony is that I was bored running around the detention center and felt as though I’d never get out while for many people this is a real situation that I cannot even imagine. This scenario made me feel as though these detention centers were designed to break the migrants and force them to concede to deportation. I can’t imagine spending one day in a place like. What’s worse is you can be constantly moved from center to center and your family may not be kept together.
When looking at this game I tried to see it from various perspectives. People that are compassionate to this cause or who just want to learn about the injustices this is a good game. I believe you have to be open to something like this in order to receive its benefits. For those on the anti-immigrant front they will probably not be moved be this game though I’d like to think they could be.