Culture March 16, 2017
Lamar University student Gonzalo Alvarez used his father’s dangerous journey crossing the border from Mexico to inspire a video game, “Borders.”
The Texas college student designed the game to put players in the shoes of migrants, while they make the challenging trek from Mexico to the United States.
Players must avoid Border Patrol agents – commonly known by migrants as “los moscos” or mosquitos – cacti and more, while collecting water jugs to stay hydrated.
Whenever a player dies in the difficult, arcade-style game, a skeleton pops up on screen, marking their place of death. It remains there for all other players afterwards, a reminder of how many skeletons remain in the Mexican desert. Old clothes and teddy bears also litter the terrain.
When a player dies, there is no prompt for them to leave behind their name, since in reality, many bodies in the Mexican desert are never identified. Alvarez told The Star that there are “over 600 skeletons in the game” at this point, saying it “helps push the message of just how many unnamed skeletons there are in the Mexican desert.”
More than 6,915 migrants have died along the U.S.-Mexico border since 1998, according to U.S. Border Patrol Statistics. Alvarez’s father made the journey in 1987. He was able to stay and become a citizen thanks to an amnesty program, but when he tried to bring his wife over three years later they were separated along the way and Border Patrol agents sent her back to Mexico. She has since made it to the U.S. and become a permanent resident.
Players who make it to the end of the game will see the vista of a city, which Alvarez admitted looks a lot like his home, Port Arthur, Texas. Players will also finally be given the chance to write down their name, documenting their safe arrival into the United States.
The resonant video game is on display at Lamar University’s Sol Gallery this month, but can be downloaded online as well.
It has been well-received online, with one commenter saying it reminded him of his own mother’s difficult journey across the border. Commenter JersonMartinez wrote, “My mom told me about this game, and I really like it. She actually has passed the border. She tells me her stories on crossing the border. This is the best free game I have played on pc!”
Alvarez hopes the game will make people “more sympathetic” to the immigrant experience. And, having tried it out, it certainly depicts the danger inherent in the journey.
With stressful music and an ominous terrain, “Borders” players will be on edge from the get-go. Seeing the remains of fellow travelers as you try to hide from Border Patrol makes for a memorable experience as well. And… after multiple attempts, I have yet to see that Texan vista.
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