2018 Excellence in Visual Digital Storytelling, Large Newsroom finalist

The Waiting Game


About the Project

Based on the real case files of five asylum seekers from five countries and interviews with the medical and legal professionals who evaluate and represent them, The Waiting Game is an immersive newsgame (with full background music and sound effects) that lets you walk in the shoes of an asylum seeker, from the moment they choose to come to the United States to the final hearing before an immigration judge. You experience their life, literally day by day, click by click.

To accurately represent their stories, the reporting for this project asked for an entirely new level of detail from our sources, including the smallest memories and records of what happened on their journey to the U.S. and their stay here afterward, including in detention centers. Many if not all of these details made it into the game, either literally in the text, or as clear guidance in the illustrations and audio.

However, in order to make these experiences playable as a game, we also added some minor details. For instance, to portray events that in the real world took a long time, we’ve made many screens the user must proceed through, including scenic details such as daily weather conditions that we can’t know. None of these details change the underlying facts of a story. No characters are made up, and very importantly, none of the people in these stories are composites. What happens to them and the consequences of their choices are not speculation. They are reality.

We used a game to tell this story because games can help readers understand a complex issue by giving them a more personal and emotional experience — a more immersive experience. Readers told us again and again, that playing the game made them feel “humdrum and horror” or “monotony” paired with “danger” and “anxiety” even as nothing happened.

After playing, readers also have the ability to check out the entire package, which has three parts: a newsgame that lets you live the life of an asylum seeker, an explainer on how the asylum process works and where it breaks down, and a radio piece that shows how unwelcoming America can be, even after being granted asylum. All three pieces in the package were created and designed together and are interlinked throughout.