Often, the language barrier is one of the most significant hurdles for new immigrants. More than a matter of assimilation, failure to properly learn the native language severely impacts job prospects, which in turn, relegates families into poor financial health and few opportunities for parents to climb up the job ladder. Despite his fluency in understanding English (and years of learning), my father struggles when asked to speak it.
The game hopes to simulate the slow process of decoding a foreign language, and the impact that slow process has on concrete matters (like paying the bills). I chose to structure the game as a two-player, cooperative iPad game, having players pass the iPad back and forth while trying to rack up points.
How to Play:
Players begin as a newly arrived immigrant, having to choose a job to interview for. Each job has a difficulty rating (level of communication skills required), harder jobs paying out larger potential salaries. Upon selecting a job ad, the interview begins.
Interviews are conducted in turns, while players sit across from each other. On the first turn, player 1 listens to the interviewer’s question (spoken aloud by the iPad), while player 2 (holding the iPad) has access to select translations. When the turn advances, player 2 hands the iPad to player 1, and player 1 is tasked with recreating the previously spoken question from a word bank. The words in the word bank, however, are written in a strange, foreign language. Meanwhile, player 2 is listening to the interviewer’s next question. As before, select translations are available on the iPad’s screen (which happens to be in player 1’s hands), forcing player 2 to seek player 1’s help.
The interview continues, alternating as described. The effect is as follows: each player must translate a spoken phrase into a gibberish-language, then reenter that phrases while simultaneously helping their partner translate their own phrase.
Upon completing the interview, the player’s salary for that month is determined by their performance. Then, living essentials (rent, electricity, etc) are deducted from the player’s earnings and savings. At the end of the month, the player fails to hold the job and must conduct another interview.
As I play tested the game, my wife and I began committing the gibberish language to memory, allowing us to risk more difficult interviews. We began to strategically assign words for each other to remember in an effort to cut down on the cognitive load required. However, it became clear that knowledge in the language wasn’t our limiting factor: the sheer number of words in the word bank means that we loose valuable time searching for the right word, even if we already know what it is.