New Media – SOS_Slaves – Game for Sands of Silence


This week I had the opportunity to give what little insight I had on a gaming project for the documentary Sands of Silence, produced by activist film-maker Chelo Alvarez-Stehle.

It is a first-person role-playing game where the gamer assumes the character of a girl from either Africa, Nepal or Mexico and is taken through the whole experience of trafficking. The point is to engage the gamer beyond just empathy and encourage action from a community—high school and university students—that may otherwise not know much about the issue.

Going into the project, my primary concern was with trivializing the experiences of sexual trafficking victims. There is absolutely no way to ever simulate the lived experiences of these young adolescents so I am quite ambivalent about the prospects of building genuine empathy through ‘gaming.’

There’s Fashion Wars and then there is Fashion the movie. Fashion Wars is all about seeing whose pose has more style, getting the biatches to gain more cash, and expanding a fashion empire. Fashion the movie takes one behind the camera to see the ugliness of glitz and glamour, into a world that demarcates women as cheap objects for show and sale. They were certainly not meant to be complimentary but how can we bridge the gap between the two platforms in a manner that is both sensitive and engaging?

The concern was somewhat alleviated with knowledge that the producer was an activist film-maker and that the stories in the gameplay were based on real life experiences. And then there was the voice in the back of my head saying if I could excuse and actually appreciate BreakThrough for ICED that simulated the experiences of undocumented immigrants in this country, I had no right to place objections over something I had not experienced or undergone.

The next problem I had was with the complete absence of boys from the gameplay. All the major characters were women. For the first time, I was irked by the absence of men and that awareness came from a queer perspective. We cannot ignore that boys are also sexually trafficked and that there is yet another community that we can reach by including that particular narrative. In our efforts to make women’s experiences more mainstream, let us not marginalize a population that is already afraid to speak out about abuse. De-stigmatize. Make relevant to as many people as possible.

My third concern dealt with how to draw attention to this game. Why would a teenager or university student play this game? I was told that inner-city youth in New York could relate to the project and could react with empathy that these horrendous things happened with their peers. Yet, it simply is not enough of a selling point for me as a gamer. We mostly play games to escape reality; not relive our pains and misfortunes. There has to be a ‘oh cool!’ factor to attract youth to this game and I hope whoever is given charge to market it can come up with the right catchphrase.

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English Proficiency Test? Stop this Insanity.

“Someone told me I should have put English as my first language when I registered for school,” Phanachone said. “But I refused. I will not deny who I am. And I will not disrespect my culture or my mother.”

An Iowa high school student who speaks and understands English perfectly has been declared ‘illiterate’ as she refuses to take the English proficiency test at her school. The Sioux City Journal reports:

Lori Phanachone is a member of the National Honor Society, has a 3.9 grade point average and ranks seventh in the senior class of about 119 at Storm Lake High School.

But school officials have told her she is considered to be illiterate based on her refusal to satisfactorily complete the English Language Development Assessment, a test she says is demeaning and racist.

Well, of course it is demeaning and racist. Phanachone was born and bred in the United States. She is being targeted to sit the ELDA because she indicated on a form that English was not the first language spoken in her household and her parents spoke very little English.

Obviously, English is not the first language spoken in most immigrant households but that does not correlate with an inability to speak English. There are white American kids who can barely spell, let alone speak English. Maybe the wrong person is being asked to sit an ELDA.

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Donate-a-book – Children in Fiji Need Our Help

Ok, this is my little way of helping the underprivileged children in Fiji — I am sort of limited in what I can do for now but hopefully that changes in 3-5 years.

I went to the best schools while I grew up in Fiji so the fact that some students did not have access to books was not something that I spent time thinking about (It’s generally not what children spend time thinking about either unless they are in that situation).

From Dec 1 to Dec 15, the Fiji Children’s Trust is holding a book drive for Daku Village school. The facebook event is here.

Donate a book for xmas and help a school build their new library!

Please contact us if you are in Fiji or post your books to the school.
Daku Village School
P.O.Box 400

I am sure a lot of us (especially the college students) have books to spare that would be of good use to these children. Think age group 4-10.

Join Books for Fiji on facebook to keep up to date with these and other similar efforts.

Casting Your Answer Sheet as a 'Ballot' for Rejection doesn't Work

What am I talking about?

This question propped up during one of my torturous LSAT review sessions:

Q: In order to avoid causing inadvertent harm to their neighbors, householders ought to evade politely or refuse to answer a stranger’s questions unless the stranger provides some proof of being a government official pursuing official inquiries, in which the questions should be answered truthfully.

In which one of the following situations does Mary act in accordance with the principle above?

An INCORRECT Answer Choice
(D) Immigration officers, showing valid identification and asserting that they were on official business, asked Mary whether a neighbor who belonged to a local church that offered sanctuary to refugees lacking visas had sheltered any such refugees. Mary gave an evasive answer and warned her neighbor.

I wonder how a student who has undergone the experience of la migra showing up at her or his doorstep, or taking and deporting her/his family or friends would react to this answer choice and even question. Not positively for sure. It’s an answer choice that should have been avoided given the current climate — The LSAT is smart about these things at most times; heck, they even use gender neutral names (of course there have been times I have had to cringe and just assume that Sheila is a biological woman), but there are an overwhelming number of pro-environment, pro-diversity, even anti-government passages so this one came as a shocker. Anyway, mad props to Mary!

My hands were TWITCHING to pick this answer choice just to record my objection. Of course, on the real test, that means missing a point. Is it worth it? Have you ever picked a wrong answer knowingly as a conscientious objector?

Yeah, alright, I am going back to studying.

In a mad world, only the mad are sane” – Akira Kurosawa.

Border No Boundary for Some Students

Students from a school in the Roma Independent School District cross the Miquel Aleman Bridge from Mexico into the United States.

Students from a school in the Roma Independent School District cross the Miquel Aleman Bridge from Mexico into the United States.

The Monitor photos by Gabe Hernandez  A student walks across the Miguel Aleman Bridge from Mexico to the United States with her guardian to attend a school in the Roma Independent School District.

The Monitor photos by Gabe Hernandez A student walks across the Miguel Aleman Bridge from Mexico to the United States with her guardian to attend a school in the Roma Independent School District.

A quick glance at all the border-binary related news for the week brought this amazing story to my attention.

“In so many families, the community is not divided by a border like the land,” said Elaine Hampton, a University of Texas-El Paso professor who has studied educational systems on both sides of the border. “It makes it hard to peg exactly where you live. What constitutes a permanent address?”

I think that is a critical question. There is no permanent and stable ‘identity’ and moreover, life in itself is not ‘permanent’ so how can anyone have a ‘permanent address?’ More people than ever before work, study and live outside countries where they were born and the numbers are likely to go up.

Coming back to the story, I am often amazed at the lengths that some parents go for their children, to provide them with a better future (or what they deem a better future). The presence of these students in schools across the border most probably enriches the classroom and provides for a greater cultural experience for everyone.

Of course, the nativists–devoid of any sense of history and borderlands culture–are going to express another round of outrage i.e. “Look they are sending their illegal kids to our schools, committing crimes by lying on public documents, overcrowding them, and decreasing standardized scores all at our expense!”

Look beyond the imaginary lines on a map. These kids know how to do that and challenge those arbitrary boundaries every school day. Why can’t everyone else?