In February, I organized a team of four college students to come up with a game design that would address this challenge, hosted by Games for Change:
“The integration of migrant populations has always been an important issue faced by many countries all around the world. Integration is a two-way street, with native-born and immigrant populations both experiencing significant change, challenges and opportunity. How can a game help people understand and work through concerns over perceived job competition and changes in the cultural fabric while recognizing the economic, linguistic, and cultural benefits that can accrue to the broader society when immigrants can also succeed? How can a game experience emphasize community engagement to help migrants and their neighbors improve their understanding of each other?”
Although our game didn’t win, we came up with what I still think is a pretty cool idea for a game. I’m sharing the backstory of our game below. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it! Maybe one day, we’ll be able to make the game that we envision…
This game is about two people. In an alternate universe not so far away, these two people struggle to find their identity. In their universe, everyone believes in The One — a spiritual deity or god, but not in the anthropomorphic way that we would imagine a deity or a god.
The One is the thread that ties all communities within the universe together. Pockets of life in the universe erupted vibrantly, beautifully, seemingly out of nowhere. People say that the beginning of life was the One’s doing, a blessing from those who created the universe. As long as anyone has known, every community has cherished the One as the giver of life. People made long and arduous journeys to meet people from other communities, and returned with stories of the miraculous and beautiful people they saw from the other communities. The thread of life, the One, united everyone.
Gradually, though, this changed. As communities developed, every community became more insular, as people became satisfied with the life they had. Over time, some people even said that their way of life was the correct way of life. The pilgrimages that people had made in the past were gone, and the shrines erected to welcome travelers became worn and cracked with lack of care.
One day, one of the communities, a community very similar to our own (think of the USA or modern West), started to notice that the life around their region was dying. Alarmed, they contacted all the other communities, held emergency meetings to figure out what was wrong, hunted fruitlessly for a solution to their problems. But it was no use. Plants and animals withered. People died. Meanwhile, the shrine remained unvisited.
Out of panic, people started to flee this community, trying desperately to enter other communities. But as the virulence began to spread, other communities closed their doors to this one community, called B.
“Clearly, The One has abandoned them!” They all said. “We can’t risk The One abandoning us too! They’re a forsaken peoples, and would pose too much of a threat to us if we were to let them in. What if our people start dying as well? Shouldn’t we worry about ourselves first?”
Thus, all communities, except one, which we’ll call A, closed their doors to Community B. Community A, though, only reluctantly let Community B people in.
At this point in the game, Community A and Community B have reached a crisis with each other. Community A no longer wants to accept people, because they believe the threat from Community B is too big. Community B people feel that their lives have been uprooted, for no tangible reason. No one knows why The One abandoned them, and there is resentment at their unfair treatment.
Throughout the game, you will figure out this backstory, and you will figure out that the reason why communities started to die was because they forgot the link they had between them in the first place. The only way to save the lives of the people in this universe is to re-establish travel and connection between each community, restoring the shrines, restoring goodwill between nations, restoring the common link of humanity between every person.