Research on immigration by New York University historians serves as the scholarly component for the Facebook game America 2049, created by the global human rights organization Breakthrough and recently nominated for two awards.
America 2049 drops players into an alternate reality America of the near future, sends them to track a mysterious fugitive, and asks them, as they go through the game, to make decisions about the future of rights and democracy in this country. Released in April, the game has been nominated for a 2011 Games for Change Award in the “Transmedia” category and a Katerva Award in the category of “Behavioral Change”.
America 2049 combines social networking with videos, voice-overs, graphics, historical artifacts, offline events, its own “search engine of the future,” and an educational curriculum in talk-show format.
“The goal of the game is to provide an entertaining, accessible way for even those who don’t consider themselves ‘gamers’—or activists—to engage with the pressing issues of our time and be inspired to work together for a brighter future,” said Breakthrough President and CEO Mallika Dutt in announcing its the award nominations.
Breakthrough selected NYU historian Hasia Diner and a team of graduate students, David Samuel Koffmann, Lara Rabinovitch, and Shira Kohn, to find a variety of historical artifacts about immigration to the United States, representing numerous national groups, periods of immigration, and types of culture. These included photographs, song lyrics, poetry, and recipes, among other documents. Their research yielded more than 100 public-domain artifacts that are essential to all levels of the game: the narrative, the strategy, the experience, and the mission.
“The artifacts served as both as creative seeds for the narrative framework, as well as evidence of our shared migration history,” said Heidi Boisvert, Breakthrough’s multimedia director and co-lead game designer. “The game integrates past, current, and fabricated future artifacts that tell stories about the many waves and types of migration into the U.S. and our country’s attitude toward them. The artifacts show players historical continuity from past to present to potential future and call on them to help our country change course.”
The game also features lead roles played by Harold Perrineau (“Lost”), Victor Garber (“Alias”), Cherry Jones (“24”), Anthony Rapp (“Rent”), and comedian/actor Margaret Cho, who donated their time to help Breakthrough put a face on complex issues.
Diner, a professor in NYU’s Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and its Department of History, has authored: We Remember With Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence After the Holocaust, 1945-1962; The Jews of the United States, 1645 to 2000; Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration; and The Lower East Side Memories: The Jewish Place in America, among other works. She is the director of the Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History at NYU.
For more information about Breakthrough, contact Lynn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.868.6500, ext. 308.