Immigration Advocates Upset Over 'Smuggle Truck: Operation Immigration' Game
The game's objective is pretty simple: players must navigate a truck full of immigrants across the border, and are rewarded based on how many they successfully transport. The fewer passengers that fall off the truck, the higher a player's score. Developer Alex Schwartz insists that 'Smuggle Truck' was designed as a satire of U.S. immigration policy, the complexity of which can often encourage immigrants to enter the country illegally. "We felt like this issue was kind of a bit taboo for games and popular media," Schwartz told the AP. "So we wanted to build something ... about this struggle that we could put into our work and our passion, which is making games."
Others, however, think that 'Smuggle Truck' makes light of a very serious and often deadly issue. "Last year, 170 human beings died crossing the border," reads a statement from Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrants & Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "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 Latino immigrant advocacy group Centro Presente, added that crossing the border certainly isn't a "game" to most people. "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."
Yet Schwartz insists that the game isn't intended to trivialize the plight of illegal immigrants, nor does it even target any particular ethnic group. "For example, one of the immigrants is a nerdy looking guy with a pocket protector," Schwartz explained, adding that the lucky winner of a competition to develop new levels will have his or her face appear on another immigrant featured in the game.
In fact, Schwartz thinks that 'Smuggle Truck' is no different than 'Angry Birds,' implicitly suggesting that the border-crossers in his game are equivalent to a bunch of cartoon birds with an inexplicable anti-pig bias. Steve Kropper, co-director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Immigration Reform, wholeheartedly agrees with Schwartz's mildly incomprehensible comparison. "I think 'Smuggle Truck' will do to the immigration debate what 'Angry Birds' did to ornithology," Kropper giggled. Fortunately, neither Kropper nor Schwartz elaborated on what they were trying to say.