“Parachute Kids” game a finalist for Deadline Club Award


Just discovered today that a journalism game I helped create for The Hechinger Report this past summer is a finalist for a Deadline Club Award for Digital Innovation!

Although the winner won’t be announced until the club’s dinner reception on May 22, I’m humbled that the project was recognized by the judges and in competition with the bad ass ProPublica and a project collaboration between ABC News and Marvel.

The game, built in Unity, supplements a long-form piece written by Tiffany Lew that explores how international students, usually in their teen years, come to the USA with at times little to no parental supervision in order to better prepare themselves for entry into the US education system. Current and former “parachute kids” described both the opportunities the move provided, as well as the hardships endured being so far away from their families and what is familiar.

In the game, you play as a teenager who is coming to Arcadia, CA for the first time in order to enter the US public education system. Your goal is to get accepted into prestige university, such as UC Berkeley, and you do this by attempting to balance your happiness, which is affected by things like culture shock and loneliness, with gaining proficiency in the English language and ultimately your GPA.

The stories and challenges found in the game come from current and former “parachute kids” in order to provide an accurate experience for the player. For myself, I believe games are a great way to tell complex stories and, at times, place the player in the shoes of a character who faces real-world challenges.

Regardless of whether we win the award, I’m stoked that the judges recognized the value of using games to tell stories, and I look forward to having more opportunities to create fun projects like this.