It seems every so often, some developer comes along with the need to produce a mobile app that makes you say, “Dear God, what is wrong with our society?” Enter Smuggle Truck, a proposed gaming app for the iOS and Android platforms which the goal is to smuggle as many illegal immigrants over the US-Mexico border as possible, without killing them.
The app pushes just about every possible stereotype possible: images of a rickety truck packed with people speeding across the desert countryside. Better watch out: drive too recklessly and people may be ejected from the truck bed –maybe even a newborn baby.
You’ll get a Green Card for completing your mission and getting people across the border safely, although the game gives the “Smuggler’s Run” award for the most reckless driving that still gets a minimum of one individual across. The Boston-based Owlchemy Labs describes the game as “hilarious physics-based driving gameplay while trying to transport your cargo over the border.” Is the company serious?
While developer Alex Schwartz argues the app was built out of frustration with the US immigration system through his friend’s own experiences, I question how appropriate it is to create a game making fun of a serious subject in this country right now. As the New York Immigration Coalition points out, 170 people died crossing the border illegally last year.
The NYIC and others have criticized Owlchemy for creating what they find as a racist and tasteless app. Some commenters to the developers Facebook page are a little more blunt. “Apparently the cre(h)ators of smuggle truck think entire families and babies being wiped out makes for ‘entertainment’ and is worthy of being satirized,” Milo Alvarez wrote.
The ball is now in the court of the app store gatekeepers like Apple. Will they allow this one through too, just as they left the equally digusting “Baby Shaker” app through, and several others over the past few years? I guess we’ll find out. I do think the line needs to be drawn on what is satire and what is in bad taste–and Smuggle Truck is just a step too far.