What is Immigration

By Maddie Kim, Andrew Mikofalvy, and Kenny Friedman

The Set Up

unnamed-2Life as a refugee is often extremely difficult, from having to leave your friends and relatives, to fear of persecution. Many factors that should not matter to the successful application to this country do make a difference on the likelihood of making it to the United States. As we’ve seen in the past, the US has more than enough resources to increase the number of refugees that it accepts. However, recent legislation is attempting to do the opposite. The Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee recently introduced an act to place further restrictions on refugees, making fewer resources available and lowering the annual accepted number of people.

unnamedWith this game, we hope to demonstrate the difficulty of refugees trying entering this country , and display how much harder it would be if this bill is passed. The game will be played outside of the Massachusetts State Capitol Building. Our audience is US citizens living in the Boston Area. We want people from around the area to see the game being played in close proximity to the offices of the representatives. Our call to action is to have players and observers call their local representatives and ask them to vote no on the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act. We also suggest the audience should alert their public officials of the current biases in refugee acceptance, and request updated anti-discrimination legislation. We begin the exhibition in Boston because we are local, however this game could easily be played in a similar manner in many cities around the country.

The Game

unnamed-1The objective of the game is to win by successfully applying for refuge to the United States. To begin the game, everyone stands in a line, a certain distance (scaled based on the size of the playing area) from the goal line. Each person is assigned a character, with a unique backstory (the backstory is written on a player card that they are handed). Then, the moderator asks the players a series of questions. Based on the answer to those questions, the player steps forward (closer to the goal line) or backward (further). After the questions have been asked, players fold their “player card” into a paper airplane. Players have 45 seconds to fold their paper airplane. Once the time is up, they must throw their airplane toward the goal line. Players whose plane passed the goal line “won” (a metaphor for successfully being allowed into the United States). Players whose plane did not pass the line lost the game (a metaphor for their application being rejected).

Game Metaphors / Evaluation

Every part of the of the game is a metaphor for the actual process. The characters are a distribution of people with different backgrounds that are looking to get into the country. The questions asked make it more or less difficult (based on the player background) for them to be successful. These questions are based on the biases that can be seen by looking at the admissions data for immigrants & refugees (see sources, below). The goal line represents an application that has been successfully processed, which allows the character to enter the country. The limited time to make the paper airplane is representative of the rushed feeling of quickly having to do something (such as leave your homeland).

Future Additions / Improvements

Future additions could have more questions and more players. However the current version does have all of the basic game mechanics needed to clearly get the message across. It would be interesting to play in a larger space, as well as involve the audience in the process in a more substantial manner.


The basic game mechanic (of stepping forward or backward based on questions), is based on a Buzzfeed video What is Privilege. The content, however, is quite different. And we’ve made significant additions to the actual game play.

In terms of the data, we focused our attention on the Homeland Security’s Immigration Statistics for 2013, the most recent year for which data is available.

Link to presentation