ICED Video Game Imitates Immigrant’s Life

By Tracy Kronzak Feb 28, 2008

Today I spent some time playing Breakthrough’s ICED video game. I’m not much of a gamer as I am a maven for technology and its uses. But ICED is one of the best uses of the myriad of open-source gaming engines I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s simple, to the point, and abundantly clear that when you’re playing ICED, even when you win, you lose. ICED plays from the point of view of several characters whose stories frame the game play. In your first challenge, you move through the city picking up points for civic duties, such as cleaning a graffiti-covered wall or donating blood. Correctly answering questions based on immigration facts and myths also helps you gain points, and you lose points for making “bad” choices (which aren’t as evident as they might seem). When you reach a set number of points, you’re granted legal status – but here’s the rub: reaching the required number of points is stymied by the fact that the longer you play, the more ICE agents enter the board and are out to catch you. And, conceivably, if you’ve made too many “bad” choices, you might not actually reach the required number of points meaning that you’ll spend the rest of your time just dodging ICE agents. If you’re (inevitably) caught by ICE, it doesn’t matter how many points you have. I was Ms. Goody Two Shoes every time I started, and was sent to detention every time. Detention makes accumulating points even harder because the good choices become less clear and the amount of points you need increases. Again, Ms. Goody Two Shoes was deported every time. I was determined to “win” at ICED, and after two hours of playing the same game, I gave up. I actually did earn citizenship at one point, but getting there wasn’t easy and was more the result of being at the right place at the right time. It’s a simple and dramatic premise: play until you’ve “won,” but you’ll be exhausted, frustrated, confused and angry. And for folks who have never studied U.S. immigration practice and law, triply so. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because Breakthrough’s ICED game isn’t art imitating life, it is a simplified illustration of the life that millions in the United States face every day. Kudos to Breakthrough for making ICED – it educates the mind and the soul of the player.