Want to smuggle immigrants across the border?
Well, there's an app for that.
It's a game called "Smuggle Truck: Operation Immigration" and it's causing outrage. Developed by a Boston-based tech company, the game allows users to drive a truck full of immigrants across the U.S.-Mexican border and through the desert, all the while trying to keep the human cargo from falling off. Scores are calculated by the number of immigrants helped crossing the border.
The most careful drivers are awarded a "Green Card" for saving passengers' lives. On the other hand, the "Smugglers Run" award goes to “pedal-to-the-medal reckless speed-run driving, with a minimum of one safe passenger.”
The proposed iPhone and iPad app was created by Owlchemy (OWL'-cheh-mee) Labs and is set to be released in March if Apple approves. Developer Alex Schwartz said the idea for what the company calls "the premiere smuggling game on the App Store" came out frustration friends felt while trying to immigrate to the U.S.
'Smuggle Truck' is not the first game to hit hot button political issues and cause controversy.
On the Owlchemy site, in a section called "The Story Behind Smuggle Truck," developers gave insight into the background of the game.
"As we lived through a painful 12 months of our friend struggling through the absurd legal minefield that surrounds U.S. immigration, we felt that we should create a game that touches on the issue."
The statement adds that the company "maintained a meticulous eye to avoid depicting stereotype and specific locales."
Regardless of Owlchemy's effort to steer away from stereotypes, some are just not laughing.
"This 'game' pokes fun and trivializes the harsh reality of our current immigration policy that leads to people putting their lives at stake and embarking on dangerous border crossings," Thanu Yakupitiyage of the New York Immigration Coalition told the New York Daily News in an interview about the game.
Venture onto the company's Facebook page and you'll find similar outrage.
"Smuggle Truck = Racist. It's nice to know that you think people dying while crossing the border is something to 'play.' Do you really think you are going to get away with this garbage?" wrote Milo M. Alvarez on the fan page.
Still, Owlchemy stands by its product, citing their testing and feedback operations that "worked to represent the game in a more abstracted form."
"With a satirical angle on a real issue, we want to create a game that is fun to play but also stirs up discussion on ways to improve the problematic immigration system in the United States."
And some on Facebook do see it that way. Wrote Elisabeth Beinke on Facebook: "I took it as .... you (as the driver of the ...truck) are 'helping' this group of people make it to a new place with better opportunities and trying to save as many children as you can along the way, but maybe that's because I'm an optimist."
Contact Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.