THIRTEEN’s Award-Winning Game Series Mission US Brings Pivotal Moment in History to Life for Teens with “Prisoner in My Homeland,”
Sixth mission provides valuable tool for at-home and in-school history learning, letting students experience life from the perspective of a Japanese American teen during World War II
NEW YORK — THIRTEEN announces the launch of “Prisoner in My Homeland,” the sixth role-playing game in the multi-award-winning Mission US series, debuting at mission-us.org on September 14, 2020. The newest game in the free interactive educational series gives middle and high school students the chance to see life through the eyes of a Japanese American teenager during World War II as they encounter diverse perspectives, witness key events, make difficult choices – and experience the resulting consequences in a scenario from this pivotal, difficult moment in history.
In “Prisoner in My Homeland,” students step into the role of Henry Tanaka, a 16-year-old Japanese American boy whose family is forced to leave their home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, for a prison camp in Manzanar, California. Players must make decisions that reflect broader strategies of survival and resistance: will they help their community, focus on family, support the war effort, resist injustice? Like all the games in the critically-acclaimed Mission US series, “Prisoner in My Homeland” is designed to increase young people’s knowledge and understanding of our nation’s past by immersing them in a critical moment in U.S. history. The game also features period music by Japanese American artists, including a song composed and recorded by Mary Nomura, also known as the “Songbird of Manzanar,” while she was incarcerated at Manzanar.
The Mission US team collaborated closely with humanities advisors and members of the Japanese American community to develop “Prisoner in My Homeland.” Densho, a digital archive that preserves oral histories and other primary source materials on the incarceration, consulted on content development for the game and its supporting educator curriculum guide. An advisory board of leading scholars and researchers of the history of the incarceration guided development of the game’s historical content, including Martha Nakagawa, author and researcher at the UCLA Jack and Aiko Herzig Collection and Eji Suyama Endowment project; Tetsuden Kashima, Professor of American Ethnic Studies at University of Washington and author, Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II; Roger Daniels, Charles Phelps Taft Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Cincinnati and author, Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese Americans in World War II and American Concentration Camps: A Documentary History of the Relocation and Incarceration of Japanese Americans, 1941-1945; and Allan Austin, Professor of History and Government at Misericordia University and author, From Concentration Camp to Campus: Japanese American Students and World War II. In addition, the project was developed with input from the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community and the Manzanar Committee, who both provided feedback on game development.
“Densho has been excited to support WNET on the development of this carefully researched interactive experience,” said Tom Ikeda, executive director of Densho. “Mission US takes an innovative approach to teaching Japanese American incarceration history by giving students the chance to imagine themselves into the world of the characters. This approach opens up new opportunities for engaged learning and deeper understanding of a dark chapter in American history.”
“My hope is that this new Mission US game gives players a more nuanced understanding of the past, while offering educators a valuable, easily accessible tool for deepening history learning both in the classroom and at home,” said Sandra Sheppard, Executive-in-Charge of Mission US and WNET Director of Kids’ Media and Education.
Research has shown that by assuming the roles of peers from the past, students playing Mission US develop a more personal, memorable and meaningful connection with complex historical content and context. As of June 1, 2020, Mission US games have been played by 3 million registered users, including 98,000 teachers, in all 50 states. The Mission US website includes six games and comprehensive companion classroom guides that include document-based history activities, primary sources, vocabulary builders, standards alignments, writing prompts, visual aids and professional development videos. The website also includes tips for parents and educators seeking to use Mission US as a resource for at-home history learning.
Other Mission US games include “For Crown or Colony?,” which puts players in the role of a 14-year-old printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston; “Flight to Freedom,” which follows the journey of a 14-year-old enslaved young woman who escapes to the North in 1848; “A Cheyenne Odyssey,” in which players get a window into the life of Little Fox, a fictional member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe during the westward expansion in 1866; “City of Immigrants,” in which players, as 14-year-old Russian Jewish immigrant Lena Brodsky, find their way in 1907 New York City; and “Up from the Dust,” where players step into the shoes of Ginny and Frank, 14-year-old twins struggling to help save their family farm in Texas during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Mission US has earned multiple Parents’ Choice Awards, the Games for Change Award for “Most Significant Impact,” the Japan Prize for Educational Media, multiple Gold Medals from the International Serious Play Awards, the Common Sense Media ON for Learning Award, and a Webby Award Official Honoree designation.
Mission US is produced by THIRTEEN Productions LLC in association with WNET. The team includes historians at the American Social History Project/Center for Media & Learning at CUNY; researchers from Education Development Center; and game developer Electric Funstuff. Sandra Sheppard, is executive-in charge. Jill Peters is executive producer. Michelle Chen is senior producer.
“Prisoner in My Homeland” is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, with additional support from the Page and Otto Marx., Jr. Foundation, Estate of Bhagwant Gill, and Helena Rubinstein Foundation. Funding for Mission US is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Fund, The Page and Otto Marx, Jr., Foundation, and Atran Foundation.
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.