Breakthrough, an international human rights group, has created a video game called ICED that teaches players about the “unjust nature of the 1996 U.S. immigration policies, which deny due process and violate fundamental human rights.”
ICED, which is a play on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department, stands for “I Can End Deportation.”
In the 3-D downloadable game, players can step into the shoes of five different characters of various immigration status and ethnicity, from an Indian green-card holder to an undocumented Mexican immigrant to a Japanese national on a student Visa. All the characters were based on real people and situations that the creators consulted when designing the game.
The Breakthrough Web site indicates that since the Illegal Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act passed in 1996, more than two million immigrants have been deported. Due to these laws, immigrants who commit minor crimes can possibly be sent to mandatory detention, in addition to possible deportation, the Web site shows. Many are also being denied access to due process and a fair day in court, the Web site shows.
At the beginning of the game, players can listen to the character’s background stories and are then given information about the 1996 laws that altered immigration policy and created what the game claims to be unfair laws against immigrants.
Everyone starts out with 100 points, but in order to keep them, they must avoid immigration officers, correctly answer questions about the myths of immigration and not commit any crimes.
If players do commit crimes or answer incorrectly, their points decrease, although they can gain points by performing good tasks in the community.
When they do make the wrong decisions, they are forced into the detention center where they suffer cruel living conditions and are separated from their families.
The game was designed and created by two MFA students. In creating the game, which is aimed at high school and college students, Breakthrough worked closely with 100 New York City high school students, former jail inmates and several immigrant rights organizations.
Although the game was created to allow a player to feel what it’s like to be an immigrant, the ability to truly understand the plight of immigrants would lie solely on the individual and the playability of the game, said G. Michael Barnes, professor of computer science.???????????
“These types of games certainly have the potential to have an effect, but it depends on how well it can pull people into the game,” Barnes said.
There should be deep character development, Barnes said.
Barnes said, “Clearly, games are very engrossing for people, but it all comes back to, not how cute or realistic the game is, but to how it pulls a person’s imagination into the game.”
Freshman computer science major Roberto Flores said he wouldn’t play the video game because he’d be more interested in adventure and fighting games, but also because he doesn’t think this type of game could influence anyone’s opinion.
“A person couldn’t understand what it’s like to be an immigrant just from playing the game,” Flores said.
Communications studies professor Bernardo Attias said, “The people more inclined to play the video game are people who have some knowledge of the immigration topic.”
Attias said the people who created the game are “preaching to the choir” because pro-immigrant people might be the only ones interested in playing.
Attias said the game could be enlightening to some, but “I don’t think you’ll see people on the far-right spectrum changing their minds on the topic.”
Senior Abraham Kim, 25, an avid video game player, said he’d play the ICED video game.
Barnes said, “There’s something to be said about video games that you don’t have with television or by just reading a narrative,”
The game will be available for download in January 2008 at www.icedgame.com.