New Video Game Aims to Build Human Rights Culture around Immigration

March 20, 2008

A new game on the internet is called ICED and stands for "I Can End Deportation." As players step into the shoes of immigrants, they critically examine the U.S. immigration system and how newcomers navigate it. The game came out of a collaboration of Hunter College students and Breakthrough, a New York-based international human rights group. Breakthrough staff then worked with high school students, immigration attorneys and detainees to build the game. They did not consult with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement which oversees detention and removal.

Through ICED, Breakthrough aims to educate individuals on what the organization feels are abusive policies and behaviors that deny legal rights to immigrants. They believe that "immigration policy is a bigger conversation about what kind of America we want to live in." ICED also focuses on judgments that immigrants must make to avoid detention and deportation, and provides information on how to get involved in supporting immigrant rights.

Suzanne Seggerman, co-founder of the non-profit Games for Change which supports organizations using digital games for social change, sees immense value in the video game format. She explained, "There's probably not a lot of reading kids have done about immigration before. They're not watching newscasts. How else are you going to reach them? You've got to reach them on their own turf." Breakthrough Executive Director Mallika Dutt further points to the unique ability of pop culture to open conversation, but that it's a one-day wonder and "you have to build upon the buzz." So while ICED is being distributed to schools and immigrant rights groups, it comes with a curriculum that teachers can use to educate students on human rights and law making.

Players should expect a long downloading time and simplistic portrayal of immigration. However they can anticipate an experience of what it feels like to be "in the system", especially if one chooses the first person view option. Somewhat unexpectedly, even the knowledgeable immigration expert will learn little known facts about detention center ownership from this game.

The game comes at a time when the Pew Research Center estimates that by 2050, 1 in 5 Americans will be an immigrant, and a recently released report by The Opportunity Agenda points to the need for advocates to figure out how to have a new conversation about immigration. ICED can be downloaded for free at www.icedgame.com.

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