PBS Website Features Immigration-themed Games

There are few issues in American politics these days more divisive than immigration.

For those who wish to pursue a hands-on look at the controversy, a PBS website maintains a collection of games dealing with immigration. P.O.V.’s Borders is a web-only examination of the debate. Nearly two dozen games and interactive segments are available from the site.

These include The Maria Sisters, a game about conditions faced by immigrants in chip manufacturing plants in Silicon Valley. In Your Decision the player assumes the role of an INS agent who must decide whether or not to grant a request for political asylum in the United States.

GP: Also worth a read concerning the intersection of video game tech with the immigration debate: Pixels, Politics & Play: Digital Video Games as Social Commentary.

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    […] Social Media, Web 2.0: A blog analysis « Krazy Kiwis and Their Kash Konverting! Digital Games as Social Commentary on Migration October 19th, 2007 Gamepolitics brought my attention to this interesting PBS website maintaininga collection of games dealing with immigration. I think games are the perfect medium to explore this issue due to the similarities between playing a game and negotiating one’s way in a new, alien society: In both cases it’s about trying to figure out the rules and stick to them in order to succeed. If you fail you won’t be able to finish or enjoy the game respectively slip into the role of a social outcast – with the difference that games will in most cases give you another chance. An arcade game in this connection can even serve as a metaphor for bribery or the fact that money helps to gain social acceptance: As long as you feed the machine with quarters you’re allowed to stay.Not only offer games therefore – due to their simulational nature and their reliance on rules as their core mechanic and defining criterion – fascinating possibilities for cross cultural training but they can also serve to highlight the prejudices migrants or minorities feel in a new environment. Let’s say statistics found that the chances of dark skinned emigrants finding a job are 40% lower compared to white people despite them having the same qualifications. This result now could be included as a arbitrary rule in a game dealing with finding a job in their new environment. Arbitrary because not only because it would reflect the different real-life attitudes of people living in this society (prejudiced/ not prejudiced/ not too sure etc.) but also because it can help to built up the frustration a migrant might feel while on the job hunt.Also it made me think about the assumption that we won’t play a game differently just because the tokens changed. Take chess for example, you can play it with the figurines of king and queens but you might as well just play it with different piles of mud. Will this change your overall goal or your style of play? Probably not. But imagine a game of Space Invaders where you as some border patrol officer have to shoot illegal immigrants instead of aliens. Due to the meta-text and intertextuality of the game and the representations in it you might more consciously think about your style of playing (meta-text and intertetuality = the marketing, box art, references to other media, the way the player’s character and NPCs are presented and what that entitles etc. – it basically it means games don’t exist in a vacuum but within discursive formations of the society they’re played in). This of course always depends on your political believes and attitudes. Do you see these migrants as intruders who just want your piece of the cake or poor, disadvantaged people who contribute valuable services to society by doing the jobs no one wants to?-Jens […]

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    Nebslox says:

    Yup, I can totally see these type of games replacing ordinary news.

    Are these aimed at children, or adults who wouldn’t take their political/ social commentary any other way?

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    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It’s good to see a collection of immigration-themed games that aren’t racist or stupid. It seemed for a while there that the only ones we heard about were the childish “let’s offend everyone” games…

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