Critics Call Immigrant Smuggling Game "Disgraceful"

The new game is drawing fire from some immigrant advocates

By Julie Jessup
|  Tuesday, Feb 8, 2011  |  Updated 10:49 AM PDT
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A Boston-based tech company has developed an iPad app that challenges users to drive a truck full of immigrants through what appears to be the desert near the U.S.-Mexican border.

A Boston-based tech company has developed an iPad app that challenges users to drive a truck full of immigrants through what appears to be the desert near the U.S.-Mexican border.

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A Boston-based tech company has developed an iPad app that challenges users to drive a truck full of immigrants through what appears to be the desert near the U.S.-Mexican border.

The game, "Smuggle Truck: Operation Immigration," is targeted for release in March. Players must try to navigate a truck full of immigrants over cliffs, mountains and dead animals without immigrants falling off the bed of the truck. A score is tallied based on how many immigrants remain at the end of the game.

Developer Alex Schwartz of Owlchemy Labs said the idea for the game came from frustration his friends felt while trying to immigrate to the U.S.

"We felt like these issues were a bit taboo for games and popular media, so we wanted to build something [out of] this struggle that we could put into our passion, which is making games," Schwartz said.

Schwartz said the message developers want the game to get across is that it's so difficult to legally emigrate to the U.S., it's almost easier to smuggle yourself over the border despite the dangers.

"Last year 170 human beings died crossing the border," said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrants & Refugee Advocacy Coalition.

Millona said the game is in poor taste and trivializes the seriousness of immigrants willing to risk their lives to cross the border.

"It's disgraceful that anyone would try to make money out of this tragedy by making light of it in a game," Millona said.

Patricia Montes, executive director of another Massachusetts-based Latino immigrant advocacy group, agrees.

"I don't think people who are trying to emigrate to the U.S. think they are part of a game," Montes said. "They do it because they are desperate."

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