The Owlchemy Labs, a Massachusetts-based developer of wacky and silly games, is taking some local heat from advocacy groups for its iOS game Smuggle Truck: Operation Immigration. In Smuggle Truck, players drive a pickup truck loaded with illegal immigrants. The goal of the game is to bring them over a fictional border while avoiding bumps that make them fall off the back of the truck.
Owlchemy Labs claims on the product page for the game that it was created out of a "the frustration our friends have experienced in trying to immigrate to the United States. With such a troublesome issue being largely avoided in popular media, especially video games, we felt the best way to criticize it was with an interactive satire."
The company also claims that they "maintained a meticulous eye to avoid depicting stereotypes and specific locales."
Despite those claims advocacy groups such as Mass. Immigrants & Refugee Advocacy Coalition and Centro Presente are not amused by the game at all. Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrants & Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said the game "is in poor taste" and trivializes the risks that immigrants face trying to get into the country.
"Last year, 170 human beings died crossing the border," Millona said. "It’s disgraceful that anyone would try to make money out of this tragedy by making light of it in a game."
Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, a Somerville, Massachusetts-based Latino immigrant advocacy group, agrees.
"I don’t think that people who are trying to emigrate into the U.S. think they are part of a game," Montes said. "They do it because they are desperate."
Developer Alex Schwartz said that the message the game is trying to convey is that it is very tough to legally emigrate to the U.S., and that it is often easier to be smuggled across the border – despite numerous dangers.
You can watch the video to your left and make your own determination. More details on the game can be found at smuggletruck.com.