Online game teaches immigrant kids about rights of due process

Joi Ito tells Boing Boing about an online game by human rights organization Breakthrough, called ICED ("I Can End Deportation"). The object of the game is to become a US Citizen. Joi says,

It's a game for kids teaching them about their rights and trying to stop abusive anti-due-process stuff the INS is doing. It's a amazing story and a great site.
From the website...
ICED puts you in the shoes of an immigrant to illustrate how unfair immigration laws deny due process and violate human rights. These laws affect all immigrants: legal residents, those fleeing persecution, students and undocumented people.


  1. If Immigration has eight foot tall muscle-cops, I think I’ll renounce my citizenship and start over.

  2. The only thing that online or offline games teach kids is how to play games. People who inflate the educational value of game playing are misinformed. People who promote the educational value of game playing are dangerous. Recreational activities like game playing have little transfer to things that matter like cooking an egg, sawing wood, calculating change or mortgage rates, and sending someone to the Moon. Time this fantasy stopped.

  3. The only thing that online or offline games teach kids is how to play games. People who inflate the educational value of game playing are misinformed. People who promote the educational value of game playing are dangerous. Recreational activities like game playing have little transfer to things that matter like cooking an egg, sawing wood, calculating change or mortgage rates, and sending someone to the Moon. Time this fantasy stopped.

  4. crackofthebat: Hey, George Costanza learned a lot from Frogger; and I know exactly how much feed and bullets I would need if I had to set out on the Oregon Trail. I’m also fairly certain I could defend up to three cities with one button and a trackball.

  5. Yeah, that whole recreational book reading thing is pretty worthless, too. We should probably just start kids in vocational school at age three so that they can be trained right from the beginning.

  6. Doesn’t look like an online game for me. When I clicked “Play” it gave me download links for Mac/PC.

  7. How about a game that teaches Americans who buy this crap that they’re helping the elites ruin this nation?

  8. Antinous, it means he’s going to poison himself through alcohol because you’re a cruel brute.

    Do you get automatically kicked out if you register with a suspicious name?

  9. Not yet, but I’m working on it. I understand the shots comment. It’s the one below it that I can’t wrap my brain around.

  10. Please tell me I’m not the only one that was incredibly offended — nay, disgusted — by this.

  11. Why? Irish is as good as Scotch. Or did you mean the game,the INS or American social hypocrisy?

  12. Nothing is as good as Scotch. Except maybe top shelf Tequila. Or Calvados. Or Okhotnichya. Oh, never mind. Did you mean Scottish?

  13. how many billions does America receive in real value of work done for sub-market wages?

  14. Everclear is just ethanol. Arak is filtered through greasy old farm equipment. And it’s anise flavored. The name actually means ‘sweat’ in Arabic. Imagine Ouzo’s evil twin.

  15. The caraway one? That was a bad drunk! Drank a whole bottle after my best friend’s funeral. We had a U-Haul in front of the house because we were moving the next day. We were so hungover, that we had to call a mover to move us. Literally move us. We couldn’t even walk. I still can’t get near anything with caraway in it.

  16. US immigration law is a funny thing.

    On the one hand, you have loopholes that allow for some genuinely parasitic and conniving behavior to be rewarded with citizenship or at least the ability to remain in the country and receive social services, often at significant cost to those paying for said services.

    On the other hand, there are also some particularly nasty thorns that make life hard on those who might want to do things the legal way and become naturalized citizens, which is, I’m told, far more frustrating than it already was now that everyone who wasn’t born in bumfucksville Nebraska is planning to blow us all up until proven innocent.

    To hone this all into less-than-meaningless rambling: it’s good to see someone tackling the latter issue, now we just need some work on altering the laws such that the latter -and- the former are properly addressed and resolved, or at least triaged.

  17. This conversation has gone sideways! Booze is NOT the issue. Gaming is the issue. I am worried that gaming is the new booze. Addictive. Bad for you. Desperate times. Doesn’t translate into a job. Like being a movie buff in the 80s and working in a video rental store. Dead End! Gaming is good for gamers. But won’t get you a job on Wall Street.

  18. uh, did anyone spend much time at the site? Beyond the synopsis given here?

    Warning sign number one: Oh, you get to play it offline, by downloading the 80+ MB installer, but in the meantime, a pop-up window quizzing you on whether or not you’ve already had experience in being kept down by the Man.

    Warning sign number two: The character profiles don’t mention any attempt at the legal immigration procedure. Not even a mention of unfairly turned down application.

    Warning sign number three: “The goal of ICED is to stay out of detention by making good decisions and doing positive things for your community. If you do these actions, you have the chance of becoming a citizen of the United States.” Uh, what? Immigration status based on subjective bonus points? Really?

    Warning sign number four: Playing on the semantics of the word immigrant. Save for some that we consider native americans, the US, that’d be most of us that are considered US citizens are either immigrants or the descendants thereof. Redefining immigrant to be a non-citizen is a bit appalling. Is this the usual fluff to avoid saying “illegal immigrant”? Dodging that by avoiding the newer nomenclature of “undocumented immigrant”?

    Warning sign number Oh, forget it. I got into the intro and the whole thing smacked of baiting words and appealing to emotion to the point that calling it an educational tool would be a disservice.

    I don’t think I’m racist. But this seems pretty biased to an idea that I find a bit hard to swallow believing in the rule of law and equal application of the law.

    But then, I might’ve missed the point that said it was a human rights issue to live wherever you please. I kind of saved that card for not getting tortured.

  19. @18: disingenuousness, sensationalizing and political correctness in general get to me. This game paints ICE as an inherently evil Big Brother organization — ooo, scary narrator! ICED wouldn’t have existed sans the exodus of Mexicans into the USA.

    Now, sure, our immigration policy is an imperfect as any human endeavor and has loopholes that need closed and various problems that need fixing. However, unless folks look to video games to learn about societal issues, ICED won’t get our populace any closer to addressing real problems. If you’re so apathetic that only a video game can get you to care about US immigration policy, then you are never going to be involved enough to make a difference anyway. Insert Nietzsche here.

    Since when did deportation need ending? The power to deport is necessary for any nation to retain sovereignty. “Let’s open the borders, dissolve citizenship and become the Earth Nation. Let’s all live in peace, smoke some hash and live in a vegetarian utopia.” Eh. We should round up all these glossy-eyed idealist imbeciles and eject them onto a terraformed Mars as a sort of planetary-scale Lord of the Flies experiment.

    We can look to European and Asian nations as role models for our economy but can’t have any semblance of their largely xenophobic immigration policies? Why not? Oh, right — because deportation is the devil. Forget the fact that virtually every civilized nation in the world cracks down on aliens within their borders! Everybody deserves to partake of American largess. They needn’t endure the procedures countless millions before them followed. It seems folk think the virtue of coming from a 3rd-world hellhole grants illegal aliens the right to completely bypass extent US laws. It’s not like 3rd-world hellholes just suddenly started existing over the last 3-4 decades.

    Why not come straight out and address the real issues without the bullcrap? Why can’t we address the corruption and incapacity of Central and South American governments, their broken economies & societal upheavals, US laws that need revision, US companies that should be held accountable for employing (exploiting) aliens & thus encouraging alien traffic, etc?

    How can one argue against the USA’s status as World Police whilst advocating its becoming the World Asylum? I don’t know. The hypocrisy and double-standards purveyed by folks who look at issues from the corners of the ring instead of the middle really offend my sensibilities.

    I guess that’s my biggest problem — stupid people. Antonio Villaraigosa, for example. “How dare you ask American Apparel to prove that each of their workers is actually a legal resident.” My god. Our own politicians… there is no end to it. What he should have said was, “How dare you expect American companies to pay people an honest day’s wages.”


    I know, I’m tangential. Sorry.

  20. Ok, wait, is this satire?

    I played the game for a bit…

    “You planted a tree +5 points!”

    “You recycled a can +5 points!”

    If you get enough points planting trees and recycling, do you get to be king of the world?

  21. QZ TM!!

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    ) nn f th bv

    fnny hw tht wrks.

  22. Funny, I’ve never heard of due process. Is it in the Constitution? What does it mean?

  23. Part of the problem with the immigration situation is most American’s dont percieve there is any problem whatsoever – deportation is for those who really deserve it, right?

    The sad fact is the people most affected by the seemingly arbitrary rules are the ones with the least say in the matter. While the game is pretty slanted to make a point, the facts don’t seem too far out of line from the truth.

    Of course this is a whole side of “welcome to America” most citizens don’t see.

  24. If you want to learn about due process, a better method would be taking a history class.

  25. It’s interesting to see this reaction to this sort of game. At the Knight Foundation, we’ve considered these programs and wondered about how people would react. Your comments are helpful.

  26. One category of issues that I’ve heard of is foreign nationals who are naturalizing for citizenship whose spouses die during the waiting period. Many are now quickly deported. This is particularly unfair when the spouse is a US soldier who dies in combat. The non-US spouses of dead soldiers are often deported.

    Another category that seems to be a problem is detention of immigrants based on very old charges. I heard that recently, an elderly woman was detained based on 10 year old drug possession charges and was not permitted to take her medication and died in detention. In many cases, those detained do not have access to the charges or the evidence and do not receive “rights” under the constitution because they are not citizens.

  27. It is perhaps worth mentioning that this game recieved one of the first negative reviews ever from the ‘Play This Thing’ blog, which described it as, more or less, a heavy handed propaganda pamphlet in a badly made 3D world.

    But game, it is not. Except in the vaguest, most all-embracing senses of the word, anyways.

  28. #4/5 – CrackOfTheBat

    Maybe you haven’t ever played the right games. I attribute much of my success in school (elementary through college) to problem solving skills I learned playing adventure games and education games in the 90s (Sierra and LucasArts products) There’s certainly much less focus on both those genres these days, but they actually used to be the majority. I learned all my georgraphy from Where In The World is Carmen San Diego! And some of those game did actually teaching things like cooking and calculating interest.

  29. “The only thing that online or offline games teach kids is how to play games. People who inflate the educational value of game playing are misinformed.”

    The only thing that broad generalizations teach kids is how to make broad generalizations. People who inflate the educational value of broad generalizations are misinformed.

    I can name at least a dozen games that have been educational for me, starting with chess.

    Not all games are Grand Theft Auto.

  30. Ummm… Glassmusic? Read and learn.

    Immigrants add to the local culture, pay taxes every time they buy something, tend to avoid applying for benefits so they don’t run afoul of ICE, and learn the language quickly as a matter of survival.

    And those anchor babies? They’re likely to end up incarcerated along with their parents while they wait for their hearings, or else left in the tender care of the foster system.

    (Proud son of an immigrant)

  31. They needn’t endure the procedures countless millions before them followed. It seems folk think the virtue of coming from a 3rd-world hellhole grants illegal aliens the right to completely bypass extent US laws.

    Did you follow those procedures? I did not. I was a US citizen before I even knew what citizens were, I never had to do anything to get it.

    Nobody debated about whether I deserved citizenship, or complained that I didn’t participate in mainstream American culture.

    Nobody judges me based on how hard I work. I had (and still have) all the benefits and privileges of US citizenship even if I just sit around playing video games all day.

    Our immigration laws state that people who happen to have exited their mother’s womb at GPS coordinates within the range approved by the US bureaucracy win automatic free citizenship independent of any other considerations.

    And of course, if you, like most people on the planet, had the misfortune to have exited the womb at one of the many unapproved GPS coordinates, you must go through a lengthy, difficult, and expensive process to even be considered for citizenship.

    This seems arbitrary to me, effectively creating a reward system which is mapped to randomness, not merit. I think it’s more likely that people who feel strongly about such an arbitrary reward system have other motivations. I’d guess they either want to defend their own unearned privilege, or to simply express hostility towards a particular group they do not like.

  32. Hi,

    Breakthrough created the ICED game to show that:

    *Immigration laws affect ALL immigrants- not just illegal, but ALL- legal residents, those fleeing persecution, students and undocumented people. And if you play the game notice that 4 out of 5 of our characters are legal.

    *Due process is owed to all regardless of immigration status.

    Please take the time to play the game and learn about these issues.



  33. I’m just gonna sit here all day, chuckling at the endless politically incorrect jokes that this concept will inevitably inspire…

  34. r: GNTZ

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    nd thy dnt vd gttng ssstnc. thy jst pp t fw nchr bbs nd rk t n. v lvd thr. v sn t. my grlfrnd ws mggd by th lwlfs tsd f r prtmnt n mn strt t 10m, tsd f tw crwdd bsnsss. thy wr llgls wtng fr th pckp trck t drp by. gss thy dcdd tht mggng my 19 yr ld 100 pnd grlfrnd. n n hlpd bcs thy wnt d nythng t ch thr.

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  35. The worst part of this “game” is the way it slowly scrolls its propaganda past you while the game is “loading”, and stops the scrolling and the loading if the game window loses focus (so you can’t do anything else while you wait).

    And then the idea that if you just stay out of trouble and “do the right thing”, you will magically become a citizen, seems fatuous.

  36. A quarter of the US was stolen from Mexico. The border is an artificial construct which is destined to fail. The southwestern US is a Latin American country. Beat your head against the wall until you’re unconscious, but it won’t change that fundamental fact of US life. I, for one, am grateful to get away from the Anglo-Teutonic culture that dominates so much of the US.

  37. @49: one could summarize your response by saying, “If you’re not born in US territory, you’re not a US citizen.” Congratulations, you grasp the concept of nationality.

    Let us move to dissolve national borders and become the United States of Earth.

  38. @59,

    I think what he’s saying is that the standards foreigners are held to are arbitrary and oftentimes ridiculous.

  39. Why isn’t there a game where you can also travel from Mexico to US and become cheap labour at McDonald’s? That’s “human rights” for ya!

  40. “Hollywood is just like El Salvador; it’s full of Mexicans!”

    …Thank you for your insight, GlassMusic.

  41. A little history about the California and TX sections of USA:

    The Gadsden Purchase was intended to allow for the construction of a southern route for a transcontinental railroad. On December 30, 1853, U.S. Minister to Mexico James Gadsden and Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna agreed on the price of $10 million for the Gadsden land, which valued the included territory at around $340 per square mile ($130/km²) or about 53 cents per acre.

    Mexico’s cession of Alta California and Nuevo México and its recognition of U.S. sovereignty over all of Texas north of the Rio Grande formalized the addition of 3.1 million km² (1.2 million mi2) of territory to the United States. In return the United States agreed to pay $15 million and assumed the claims of its citizens against Mexico.

    I do believe that the debit from Mexico to the USA was forgiven as well. Considering that we paid $25 Million (roughly $750 million modern money) for a mostly worthless section of land that required tons of money to become worth anything, they got a decent deal for losing a war. Still Crying about war loses over a hundred years ago is just downright sad.

  42. roughly $750 million modern money

    You mean the price of five acres of land in downtown LA?

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