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Apple Rejects Immigration Game

April 29, 2011

Do we have any readers who are into video games? I would love to get some commentary on games that deal in a positive (or negative) way with issues of immigration, refugees, human rights, and so on. I’m doing this post in hopes of kicking off that discussion: 

Apple Rejects Immigrant
Smuggling Video Game

In today’s Boston Globe, Hiawatha Bray reports that “Smuggle Truck,” a video game produced by local game developer Owlchemy Labs has been rejected by Apple Computer as an app for the iPhone. Players of the game take the role of a truck driver trying to smuggle cartoon “immigrants” into the U.S. past various obstacles. As the newspaper’s editors commented when it first came out, “The developers…deserve the leeway to comment, even in a simplistic way, on an important policy matter. And simplistic it is…”

Because border smuggling is a real-life phenomenon — and people die because of it — Smuggle Truck may be disturbing in a way that the typical sci-fi shooter game is not. It’s no wonder one local immigrant-advocacy leader has called it a “tasteless and horrible joke.’’  (Boston Globe editorial)

Reacting to Apple’s decision to reject the game, Jorge-Mario Cabrera, of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, told the Globe that “Smuggle Truck” trivialized the sufferings of the thousands who seek to cross the U.S. border every year. “I think it’s distasteful,” he said. “I think it’s offensive.’’

Not one to pass up the chance to make a buck, Owlchemy quickly repositioned their handiwork as “Snuggle Truck,” changing the migrants to cute little forest animals. The goal of the game is now to get them from the wilderness “to the comfort of a zoo.” Apple is apparently OK with the change. Perhaps the Wilderness Society will want to weigh in on the relative comforts of the forest vs. the zoo.

At least one product review site feels that the problems of cartoon immigrants are more “fun” than cuddly animals, and reminded readers that for a couple of  bucks more they can still get “Smuggle Truck” for their computers.

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