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Yet another game takes illegal immigration to an offensive level

LatinaLista — Once again, the issue of illegal immigration goes from the halls of Congress, grassroots protests and Latino communities under siege by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel to — gameland.


Ever since the issue has become almost a daily headline, there has been an eerie fascination with the idea of making sport of people, desperate to survive, illegally entering the country.

The latest game to try to turn a profit from the unfortunate circumstances of others is called Smuggle Truck. The title pretty much explains the premise of the game.

While the 23-year-old creator, Alex Schwartz, would like everyone to believe that he and his partner, Yilmaz Kiymaz, created the game to raise awareness about the issue after seeing a friend having a hard time navigating immigration laws.

Unfortunately though, it’s hard to figure out which issue he’s trying to raise awareness about — 1. If a truck goes very fast over bumpy terrain, people will fall out of the truck; 2. A truck has to work up a certain amount of speed to clear the top of a barbed wire fence; 3. Lots of babies are born to immigrants.

The duo, who formed their own 2-person company cleverly named Owlchemy, created the game initially for the iPhone, iPod and iPad. They don’t have a commitment from Apple just yet that their game will be approved but like any young entrepreneurs, they’re undaunted — they’ve already decided on a Plan B — make it accessible to everyone on the Internet.

While Apple may be tempted to decline the game (perhaps persuaded by phone calls and emails from immigrant advocates protesting it), early buzz about it among hardcore mobile game enthusiasts is extremely positive. They are saying that the game’s addictiveness could rival the popular Angry Birds game.

As one young columnist gushed about the game:

Aside from its addictiveness, obstacles, and unique level creation aspect, the artwork on Smuggle Truck also wows (created by William Tiller, a bit of a rockstar in the game development world). And since the game will run on any iOS device with those beautiful iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch screens, the graphics will definitely shine. It is also worth noting that you will be able to play Smuggle Truck right on your computer on the web. And thanks to another Boston-based company (can you guess who?), you will actually be able to use your iPhone as the remote control instead of your keyboard.

It should be noted that at no time did this columnist ever address the issue of illegal immigration or the prospect of it being a real-life issue for 11 million people. And while that’s disappointing, it also underscores the reality of the issue in this country — most people in their 20s and 30s, unless personally affected in some way by knowing someone who is undocumented, just don’t think about the issue beyond playing a game.

Given the response to this game by people who could care less about U.S. policies and more about having high game scores and the obvious technological ingenuity that went into creating this game, Schwartz and his partner, if they’re at all serious about what they said about raising awareness of the issue, should include in their game a reminder to players about why these immigrants risk their lives coming to the United States, what they do for this country and that 11 million are waiting for Congress to work on immigration reform.

But then again, that could be a big damper on things since it brings home the fact the issue is far from a game to the people who are living it.

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