Some Thoughts on Smuggle Truck

February 10th, 2011 · 2 Comments

By Melissa Beatriz Skolnick

At first glance, the iPhone/iPad application teaser for the new game “Smuggle Truck” looks like any other video game.  When I took a closer look though, the cacti and barbed wire raised some suspicion.

Many of the characters featured bouncing around in the back of a truck are without a doubt people of color.  And why does a baby fall out of the back of the truck while en route?

Although the game’s teaser does not go into detail of the game, other sources do.  The game’s homepage,, for example, which is run by Owlchemy Labs, tells us a bit more.  It turns out that the full title of the app is Smuggle Truck: Operation Immigration.  Is this for real?!

Without even looking into it further, my first thought is that this is just some type of sick joke.  In the midst of high tension due to unresolved issues surrounding comprehensive immigration reform and documented deaths of people trying to enter the United States through the desert, why would anybody create a game such as this, which would only spark even more ignorance and misguided conversations?

Yet, the description of the actual game tells a tale of how challenging it can be to immigrate to the U.S. An excerpt from the description reads:

‘In Smuggle Truck, players are driving a truck with passengers in the back, bringing them over a fictitional border.  This idea originated as a result of learning that the process of legal immigration was not as straightforward as we had assumed.  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 comment was thrown around that “it’s so tough to legally immigrate to the U.S., it’s almost easier to smuggle yourself over the border,” and thus Smuggle Truck was born.’

The creators highlight how they 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,” yet somehow this seems counterproductive.

Just the other day I saw a child playing with an iPhone in the backseat of a car.  Children play these games, and they are the ones who will be most affected by the messages these games send.  Video games have the propensity to greatly influence young minds, and a game such as this is sending the message that it is okay to joke about immigrants trying to “smuggle” themselves over the border and that having to leave one’s homeland and cross the border illegally to provide for one’s family is fun or trivial.

In addition, the mere idea of Smuggle Truck as a game is just downright ignorant.  Immigration, and all of the implications that surround this topic, is not something that should be joked about and used as a theme for a game that will be readily available to society.

Check out the game’s site for yourself, as well as this recent NPR story to form your own opinion on the matter.

Melissa Beatriz Skolnick is currently a graduate student attaining her Master’s in Social Work in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She strives to merge social work and journalism together in order to bring more awareness to various underrepresented communities, as well as to bring light to societal inconsistencies. In addition, she hopes to one day impact society through endeavors such as policy-making, writing through a widespread medium, and speaking to those who are willing to listen.

Tags: Immigration

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chicano future tense // Feb 11, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    thanks for digging deep and bringing this issue out into the light of day.
    These type of race hating video games while appearing harmless and innocuous to many are in reality potentially very dangerous and harmful to Mexicans and immigrants.
    From shooting and killing Mexicans on a video screen to shooting and killing them on the streets or on the border is not that remote of a possibility these days.
    Unstable,ignorant,hate filled minds are susceptible to such underlying sublimated messages being sent by the game to the player-that murdering Mexicans is OK..they are animals less than human so it’s acceptable to hunt,shoot or injure them like rabbits.
    And more than anything..IT’S FUN!!

    White supremacist groups understand this clearly and in fact have for a long time pioneered the design and creation of racist hate video games which advocate ethnic cleansing and genocide.
    We Latinos should and can oppose these violent hate video games on many different levels be it as consumers,concerned citizens,human, civil rights,social justice,religious activists..

    While we applaud folks like Melissa and others for doing the research and bringing forth these many different issues,we should not expect the few to do most of the work most of the time-the heavy mental lifting demanded for justice and change.
    There are way too many Latinos ,Latino youth,apathetic,distracted-standing on the sidelines who have little if any commitment to the Latino struggle.We need to urge them to do more ,to get involved in the movement.
    After all,whether they like it or not it is their life, future and well being at stake ..
    …you can run,but you cannot hide forever.

  • 2 Beatdown // Feb 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    This game wasn’t the 1st of its kind. It was JOSE COMES TO USA, and for the looks of it, JOSE COMES TO USA, had more decency with the whole aspect.

    I think this game has no taste whatsoever. Classless is more like it, if you ask me. I cant believe this Boston company is making money with this issue and on top of that hope that everything is OK and fine with groups and Hispanics all around.

Leave a Comment