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Serious Games Supporting The Study of Immigration And Labor Movement In American History

City of Immigrants, a gold medal winner of the 2015 International Serious Play Awards, is the fourth interactive experience in the award-winning Mission US series of free, digital role-playing games created to engage middle and high school students in the exploration and understanding of U.S. history.

In each mission, players step into the shoes of a peer from the past, interacting with historical and fictional characters, witnessing key events, and making decisions that impact their character’s outcome.

The City of Immigrants supports the study of immigration, the labor movement, and cultural identity in the American History curriculum. The game put players in the role of Lena Brodsky, a 14-year-old Russian Jewish teen who has recently immigrated to New York City in 1907. As Lena makes the Lower East Side her home, she struggles to support her family and becomes part of the growing labor movement.

As young people play City of Immigrants, they gain important insights into the struggle for safe working conditions, fair wages, and the right to bargain collectively. At the same time, they experience the challenges of cultural differences, assimilation, and prejudice.

Players will interact with a variety of characters, from factory supervisors to family and religious leaders, who all had roles in creating America’s labor movement and strong communities in New York. As they assume the role of Lena, players must decide: Does she dare speak up and stand up for workers’ rights? Can she continue to support her family? Players will make choices and experience the consequences of those choices – the same choices immigrants grappled with as they made their way in the “land of opportunity.”

Mission US is aligned with national learning standards and the website includes a vast suite of free classroom support materials including lesson plans, document-based questions, primary source documents, vocabulary activities, background on historical figures, and writing prompts.

Mission US is produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET. THIRTEEN worked with Electric Funstuff, an educational software company that specializes in using gaming approaches and multimedia techniques to create effective learning experiences, to design, develop, and produce the game. Formative research was conducted by Education Development Center’s Center for Children and Technology.

The content for City of Immigrants was developed by a team of historians and educators at the American Social History Project (ASHP)/Center for Media & Learning, a research center at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, in partnership with the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which consulted on historical content for the game and development of educators materials. The Museum building and its artifacts also served as models for design of the game’s locations, costumes, and props.

For educators, the game is accompanied by a collection of educator-developed resources. These materials, like the game itself, are available at no cost and include document-based questions, primary sources (including maps, personal narratives, cultural artifacts and more), class activities, vocabulary builders, standards alignment, writing prompts and visual aids. Professional development videos help teachers integrate this and the other Mission US games into the curriculum successfully.

The game and educator support materials are all available for free at

For more on Mission US, visit