Serious games can be a great way to intrigue and engage your students by using flow and fiero while they are still utilizing important strategies and skills. The game I decided to play and blog about is called The Migrant Trail which is based off of the documentary The Undocumented by Marco Williams on PBS.
THE MIGRANT TRAIL presents a first-person journey through Arizona’s desert borderlands. Play as an undocumented immigrant attempting to cross the Arizona desert and/or a border patrol agent attempting to secure the border. Playing the game offers an alternative platform to further engage conversation, investigation and inquiry, into the themes and questions raised by the documentary.
Migrant Mode Intro: Every year an unknown number of migrants cross through the harsh Sonoran desert from Mexico into Arizona. They pay $1500-$2500 to join a crossing party, that is led by for hire guides referred to as Coyotes. If one cannot keep up, twists ankle or runs out of water, he or she is left behind and many die. On average, the remains of 200 dead migrants are found each year. It’s not known how many are never found.
Border Patrol Mode Intro: Every day U.S. Border Patrol agents patrol the Sonoran Desert along the Arizona-Mexico border. Their job is to apprehend undocumented border crossers, provide first aid to the injured, and locate the remains of dead migrants.
After gathering background knowledge about the documentary and the game I played the game four times; two time as Patrol officer Anderson (because when I returned to the game it didn't save my progress) and two times as a Migrant (once as Diego and once as Adriana).
First I played as the patrol officer Anderson. The first thing you hear is some haunting music which really sets the tone for the game. When you click on your character it gives a back story about the officer using prologue as seen above. You are given 5 hours on patrol (5 minutes). You drive around a car using a similar method to the Escape the Room Games. While you are pointing and clicking you are looking for foot prints which will go out of sight once the car moves past them. Then once you see a foot print and have to click on it quickly (this game is much easier with a mouse). Once you click on the foot prints you will see a dialogue box which you must respond to. Sometimes you will follow the foot prints to a dead body, sometimes you have to chase them, sometimes you will find them and have to administer first aid or you can just bring them in sick in which case they have a higher chance of dying but it also wastes a lot of your time. The best part is that you get to make the choice, choose the direction you want to go in or if you even want to click on the footprints. At the end you will get a total of migrants apprehended, died, applied first aid, miles traveled. At first you feel good about saving people because you administered first aid and were careful about clicking all of the footprint but then upon seeing the other statistics you then realize how many died and you feel like you should have been able to save them.
Then I played as a migrant. First you are given a back story with a prologue similar to the patrol officer. Your objective is to cross the desert and meet with your coyote so you can see your family again. With the migrant you first need to go shopping with only $100 to get you through the trip; you need to plan strategically so you have enough supplies but are not overloaded. Then you are on your way and it's a constant struggle. You are always eating and drinking things to keep up your hydration and energy but they keep going down. Sometimes you will have popups and you need to decide if you want to take them or not because they will effect your health. You also have to be aware of patrol cars but they are mostly unavoidable. It's such a relief when you arrive to the safe point but it's so scary at the same time because I only had one jug of water left.
There are so many language learning objectives that can be met by watching the documentary and then playing the game. I think an important standard being met would be Standard-ESL3: Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation. To meet this standard students must use English to express their opinions and judgement on experiences, messages, ideas, information, and issues from a variety of perspectives. This game makes meeting this standard very easy! After watching the documentary students can write their own opinion of the migrants trying to cross the boarder. Then the students can play the games as a patrol officer and a migrant and compare and contrast their varying view points.
Students can complete these objectives through Kyle Mawer's task types. Problem solving: Analyzing actions & consequences of the game sequence as well as discussing game strategy. Personal: Describing personal preferences/ opinions of the migrant trail. Storytelling: narrating the story of the patrol officers and the migrants through their points of view.