ICED

By Ned Donovan on September 25th, 2013

Although ICED (“I Can End Deportation”) masquerades as a game, it has very little entertainment value outside of the incredibly realistic character models it boasts, which seem to stare directly into your soul reminding you of the injustice done to them. Obviously lobbies don’t have massive development budgets, but releasing something akin to a Nintendo 64 game in 2013 is a bit worrying.

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ICED, free to play online and downloadable for Mac and PC at breakthrough.tv

ICED is an example of a “serious game”, one created by charities and corporations to highlight issues they consider important. Some of these are actually quite good, such as Oregon Trail or Foldit.

Both of those games have value; the former educated a generation about history, the latter assists with research into cures that could revolutionise medicine. ICED, on the other hand, aims to educate but in the end simply patronises.

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You start by selecting one of the presented illegal immigrants and you hear their story. You then play as this person for the entire game, which involves fleeing from immigration officers, surviving in prison and your eventual trial. For the review, I chose Suki, a student who had forgotten to register for enough classes and had his visa revoked.

Suki is a former Cornell science student who now spends her time wandering around a New York-style city, presumably lazing around on the steps of a Brooklyn brownstone all day.

What happened next confused me in a manner that can only be accomplished by a game that is supposed to be ending prejudice against illegal immigrants.

You gain points by completing good deeds such as planting trees or removing graffiti. However, you gain police attention by taking part in controversial activities such as registering to vote, tagging a wall, or picking up a gun. When you try a different character, it’s the same scenario.

You literally cannot win this at this game. The game places every illegal immigrant in the same situation and less-than-subtly suggests that every immigrant will turn to a life of crime. Eventually, you get sent to a detention centre, and then solitary confinement and finally your trial. Which you will lose.

After this you are sent back to “New York” and have to try to gain citizenship.

win

You cannot beat ICED. Instead the game beats you, and once you quit, it presents you with an online survey on immigration to complete.

Papers Please, which we recently reviewed, was about stamps and was neither this confusing nor this boring.