Among the giants of gaming with their colossal booths was a haven for the indie crowd at E3 2017 in the form of Indiecade. The goal of Indiecade is to give indies the spotlight–a great juxtaposition considering the commercial, triple-A nature of E3. One such game being showcased was called Borders.
Borders has its players navigate as an immigrant trying to cross the U.S./Mexico border with many dangerous obstacles in between. At its core, the game is simple in both its controls and graphics, but it's the message behind it that makes it a powerful piece. The 2D side-scroller intends to not only demonstrate the storytelling prowess of video games but also hopes to shed light on the risks facing illegal immigrants.
Developer Gonzalo Alvarez (artist, creative director, art direction, and animator) created the game alongside Jon DiGiacomo (engineer, level designer) and Genaro Vallejo Reyes (game, level, and sound designer) after they met each other at another Indiecade event. Development of the game spanned a seven-day game jam with Reyes being the only team member with prior game development experience.
Alvarez's inspiration came from his own parent's stories of crossing the border. "They get excited to see all of the little things," Alvarez said standing beside a demo of the game on the E3 show floor speaking about his parent's reaction to the game.
In Borders, players have one goal: get to the border. In between there and the starting point, though, are plenty of border patrol and a constant risk for dehydration. Again, the experience is straightforward (you run and duck into the occasional bush) but it is very addicting. Borders is still a game, and it can be easy to get sucked up into the standard gaming goals: dodge the enemy, make it to the end. But the landscape is littered with constant reminders of its political purpose.
Skeletons are left in wake of the players failed attempts symbolizing the sometimes fatal nature of crossing the border for immigrants.
This feature was even more startling in the E3 demo since everyone who had played the game and died had their markers piled up along the path. Needless to say, there were a lot of skeletons.
Borders gained attention after an art exhibit showcased it in arcade cabinet form earlier this year. Major news outlets covered the game, and long story short, the attention earned it a featured spot at E3.
"It is surreal," said Alvarez about being at E3, "if it wasn't for Indiecade I probably wouldn't be a game developer."
The game is available now on Windows, Mac and Android marketplace. Depending on the platform, Borders is either $.99 or name your own price.
The three devs formed a game company called Macua Studios and are currently working on a non-political game called Paleo Hunter.