Life: Immigration Game


Immigration tends to be viewed as an issue of undocumented workers where one either defends their plight, or accuses them of stealing jobs. According to the Migration Policy Institute, there were “42.4 million foreign born residents in the United States in 2014, of which 47 percent were naturalized U.S. citizens. The remaining 53 percent included lawful permanent residents, unauthorized immigrants (an estimated 11.4 million), and legal residents on temporary visas (such as students and temporary workers).” On the same website, it is stated that “In 2014, 29 percent of immigrants ages 25 and older had a bachelor's degree or higher” which is very comparable to the 30 percent of native-born adults.

The goal of the Game of Life, Immigration Edition, is to educate native-born Americans about what it is like to be an immigrant: what it is like to leave one's home, family, and cultural references behind, and come to a foreign place where not only language can be a barrier, but where xenophobia and fear of the unknown can alter relationships. The game tiles is based on my own experience of coming to America: missing weddings, births and funerals because it is too expensive to travel; misunderstanding jokes and cultural references; having to put up with daily micro-aggressions such as one's co-workers and in-laws making stereotypical jokes of my country's food, language, and political past; having parents and family members disapprove of one's choice of friends, mates, professions, as one is becoming “Americanized”. I also conducted informal interviews and talks with friends and strangers who have immigrated by a variety of means and for a variety of reasons, and used their stories as a basis for replacement tiles. I want to show facets of being an immigrant that are not necessarily obvious, as well as some of the known and well documented hardships that are inherent to being a foreigner.

The game is not meant to be a new stand-alone game that can be a commercial venture. It is meant to be a subversive political artwork that reaches the American leisure class who may not be aware of immigration issues, and who may not be interested in those issues in the first place. The game wants to educate and record the average American's reactions to seeing the world through the eyes of an immigrant.

The Wagner LARP Version

In the Spring of 2018, I was invited to participate in the IMPACT Summit on the Wagner campus, and I ran a Life: Immigration Game event with a group of Wagner students. Dr. Sarah Scott, who was then the Chair of the Art Department, suggested we make a live version of the game. A few brainstorming meetings later, we had a plan to involve my Public Art students, and make the game part of the Fall 2018 curriculum.

As part of the class, the students learned about socially-engaged public art, visited the Tenement Museum in New York City, and played the game. The students then took some of their favorite game tiles, and made them into “playable” events; events that would educate their fellow students about immigration, by walking into the shoes of an immigrant. They also experienced putting a large-scale public art project together from start to finish.

I am thankful for all the work the students have done, and would like to acknowledge the AR291-01 - Public Art class: Safiya Burton, Anna Carrion Barea, Cassandra DeFina, Natalie Del Ponte, Kasey Dorney, Margaret Gregory, Lulu Grant, Maria Henwood, Toniann Lamirata, Ilana Levich, Annalisa Molinaro, Madeline Romanoff, Kristen Saczynski, Kathryn Scarfo, Ferdos Sililo-Simon, Robert Taiani, Hallie Tiburzi, Jessica Trieste, Allyssa Turner, and Mikaela Wells.

I would also like to extend my gratitude toward the following students from my Sculpture class whose help and enthusiasm always brought me joy: Leila Akana, Jessica Dau, Hannah Lewis, and God-Dumar Valencia. A very big thank you to Dr. Scott, and Andrew Needle from the Art Department, Caitlin Miller who made getting all the room reservations a breeze, and Dr. Bernadette Ludwig for her support. I am deeply grateful to Wagner College for making immigration an issue at the heart of the education on campus, and making today's event possible.

You can see images from the event on 12/4/18 in the Gallery.

About the Artist

I work in mixed media, using feminine crafts such as crochet and lace with recycled plastic shopping bags, making large-scale installations and drawing on community-engagement. I am originally from France, having immigrated to the US in 1984 when I was 17. The move, which was supposed to be temporary, has informed my adult life and my choice of themes and materials in my artwork.

You can see my work at


I am currently looking to put the game into more Game Cafes.
If you are interested in getting the game for your cafe, social club or school, please contact me at

About the 3D buildings

I worked as a digital artist in the 90's for the video game industry, so took advantage of the free/open source software Blender to make new models for the game. I used a wonderful 3D printing service, Auxetic, in Brooklyn, which I highly recommend if you need 3D printing. Christopher, who has been my contact there, has been so incredibly helpful and patient with me, as I learn about this new technology. Their contact is below: or email at