"Bury me, my love": computer games that put you in the shoes of a refugee/migrant
Since our "Politics of Virtual Reality" event last year in Brighton, we have been interested in the role of interactive technologies as ways to put a citizen "in the shoes of others". That is, to feel the experience of, or temporarily identify with, the position of someone in a social or political situation far from your own.
Well before the current hype on VR and AR, the serious games movement has been trying to use video games in this activist, empathetic way for nearly two decades now. It's great to see this latest example, which lives in the smartphone world of "causal" gaming, and couldn't be more urgently timed.
"Bury me, my love" - see the trailer video above, and visit the download page here - is about "Nour’s story as she flees Syria and tries to reach Europe. But why did the young woman decide to leave?" You experience this as game by taking the role of her husband, and others, on your mobile phone. You're given a choice of answers to her question, each of which (in the classic game style) triggers its own cascade of consequences.
As it fits with our own everyday experience of smartphone life so well, the game is very engaging, even moving, pulling the user through Nour's difficult choices. See from the blurb:
Bombs have been falling for years on Homs, Syria, tearing the city to pieces and spreading death. So when her younger sister is added to the list of casualties, Nour can’t take it anymore. She decides to leave for Europe, with hopes of a better life.
Her husband, Majd, can’t come with her. He recently lost his father, too, but his mother and grandfather are still alive – if he goes, they won’t be able to make it without him.
So together, Nour and Majd prepare her trip as well as possible. They study the maps, make a list of items she could use, gather their meager savings and buy two smartphones to keep in touch. They’re both frightened and restless.
And one morning, Nour hops on a truck with her backpack on her shoulder. Before she leaves, Majd hugs her like never before, kisses her on the forehead and whispers a Syrian farewell saying:
“Bury me, my Love”
There have been quite a few examples of game makers rising to the challenge of engaging people in the migrant/refugee crisis, with Syria a particular inspiration. See the wide variety of approaches below: