Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Game Over

According to the Associated Press, the NYU College Republicans are planning a "game" tomorrow called "find the illegal immigrant" in which fun-loving conservatives with college IDs can play immigration inspectors for the afternoon and earn a gift certificate once they've cornered a undocumented alien of their own. The group's Facebook page, which is archived here, suggests that their "rally" is intended to be both "serious" and "not serious" in its aims. The image for the event is a traffic sign that shows the silhouettes of a running father, mother, and child holding her mother's hand. As someone who has seen panicked immigrants of all ages darting across the freeway where these signs appear in Southern California, I don't find the image very funny.

Although it may incorporate some elements of performance and emergent behavior from the group's dynamics, I'd consider it quite unlike the favorite games of supercool alternate reality game designer Jane McGonigal.

When it comes to playing games about life and death issues like illegal immigration, I much prefer the game that writer Maxine Hong Kingston played with our students during her visit last week to U.C. Irvine. She asked them to guess which of the stories about her father coming to America in her fictionalized memoir of ancestry China Men was true: the story of the legal father or the story of the illegal one. For some reason, students wanted to believe that this august author had parents with legitimated citizenship and voted overwhelmingly for the more prosaic story of fully documented naturalization. After tallying the hands in the air Kingston laughed, "Wow! I fooled you!"

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