Lamar art student Gonzalo Alvarez talks about his video game "Borders" at the CICE Center, Oct. 20. Alvarez's game is drawing international attention for its theme of Mexican immigration. UP photo by Hannah LeTulle

Lamar art student Gonzalo Alvarez talks about his video game “Borders” at the CICE Center, Oct. 20. Alvarez’s game is drawing international attention for its theme of Mexican immigration. UP photo by Hannah LeTulle

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Lamar University art student Gonzalo Alvarez spoke about his internationally-recognized video game, “Borders,” in the CICE Center, Oct. 20.

“A lot of people can start things, not a lot of people can finish things,” Alvarez, a studio arts major with an emphasis in drawing, said. “We gave ourselves what we call a game jam, and we made the online game in just seven days.”

Alvarez said he was helped by programmers Geharo Vallejo Reyes and John Digiacomo.

The Borders” game features illegal immigrants embarking on a long, hard and deadly journey to cross the border of the United States.

“My purpose for making the game was for people to experience and sympathize for what people go through,” Alvarez said. “I first played a game called ‘Papers Please,’ where immigrants were seen as bad, and right then I decided to make a game from an immigrant’s point of view.”

Stephanie Chadwick, assistant professor of art history, said, the game puts the spotlight on a serious issue.

“It shows the reality of things, and it’s a creative solution to the problem by making people relate to it,” she said.

Alvarez said he hopes people will play “Borders” and experience what it was like.

“(I hope people) sympathize with those that have to take the journey, for others to be able to understand it, so they don’t have so much hate,” he said.

Alvarez said he received many different types of feedback from the game, much of it negative. He showed screen shots of social media posts that were physically threatening and laced with profanity. However, Alvarez said he takes note of it but is undaunted.

“I just want to be successful,” he said.

Alvarez said he wanted his game to be unique. When the player dies in the game, he leaves a skeleton in the desert. That skeleton becomes part of the game’s landscape.

“The reason I incorporated the skeleton is because of the stories my parents told me growing up,” he said, “My dad, he actually saw a human skeleton on the way here.”

Chadwick said the skeleton helps make reality tangible.

“It helps people see what’s happening in the real world, these are experiences of real people, real people dying,” she said.

Art department chair Donna Meeks said the skeleton is compelling, as well as the idea of the characters having to find water to survive.

“The thing that touched me was the idea of the water, people being chased and the idea of the skeletons makes it really powerful,” she said.

The skelton makes the reality real because one is actually a part of it, Alvarez said.

“Maybe it will help people realize the reality of the game — this is a reality, and it a reality most people don’t know about,” said Alvarez.

Sophomore Jessica Mayo said it is an addicting game.

“He did a really great job, it is difficult and very attaching,” she said.

Gonzalo has also been contacted by major news sources such as Fox News, Despierta America and the Washington Post.

Meeks said she is impressed that an undergraduate student has got so much attention.

“It says something about where he’s going,” she said. “It’s not often that a student gets all this attention.”

Alvarez said he is proud of the doors he’s opening.

“It feels great,” he said. “All the hard work I have done had paid off. More importantly, I’ve created another entry way for me to be a voice for others.”

“Borders” can be found online at gonzzink.com. For more information, email gonzaloalvarez@gmail.com.

Dominique Leh, UP contributor

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu

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