Prof’s ‘Migrant Trail’ Video Game Has Students Cross Border Illegally

by Dominic Lynch - Loyola University Chicago on May 29, 2014

For the last two decades, students have grown up playing the venerable social studies video game “Oregon Trail” – but the times, they are a’changin’.

Students once played as peaceful settlers – now they play as immigrants and agents.

A New York University professor has developed a video game called “The Migrant Trail,” in which students can experience the perils of what it’s like to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

Like most video games, it includes danger and obstacles – blistered feet, scorpion bites, dehydration, being spotted by ranchers. And in the end, when the U.S. Border Patrol rolls up – game over.UndocumentedInsideScreenshot

Professor Marco Williams describes his video game as a chance for students to experience and truly understand the human toll of U.S. immigration policy.

The video game – which can be played free online at TheUndocumented.com – is relatively new, and is slowly being embedded into public schools. For example, today it’s used as an educational tool in a couple of schools with high Latino student populations, Williams told The College Fix in an interview.

“I asked myself, ‘How can I reach young people about issues like this?’” said Williams, with NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

In the game, users can choose to play someone crossing the border illegally, or a border patrol agent. It uses comic-book inspired graphics, but flashes real-life images here and there of border patrol agents, immigrants suffering from ailments, and decomposed body parts of those who died crossing the border.

Agents are tasked with the goal to “catch migrants, administer first aid, and retrieve the dead.”

The game-play style pays homage to Oregon Trail, but instead of fixing a broken axle or giving the oxen water, players die in the Sonoran Desert of heat exhaustion or have their dreams of life in America crushed by border patrol agents.

Those who play as migrants can choose from eight different characters, each with their own background and reason for crossing the border, such as the hope of a better job or to be with loved ones. The game aims to produce a greater understanding of who crosses the border, and why, Williams said.

The objective of the border patrol agents is to apprehend and tend to the migrants while the migrants try to avoid capture and make it to a “pickup point.”dead

The Migrant Trail is a spin off of a documentary Williams produced several years ago called “The Undocumented.”

“Many, many, many migrants die while crossing the desert, it’s almost impossible to carry enough water through the desert to survive,” Williams said in a Kickstarter video he made to help fund the documentary. He added the film aimed to “expose this humanitarian crisis.”

“And it is a crisis,” he added. “It breaks my heart that our policy – the United States immigration policy – has resulted in nearly 2,000 to 3,000 deaths along this corridor.”

College Fix contributor Dominic Lynch is a student at Loyola University Chicago.

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IMAGE: YouTube screenshots

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