Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead!
It was a normal day at the office (My current job as a management consultant).
I had been playing a text message based game about refugees for a few days now, and I was really into it.
The game is called Bury Me, My Love and is a story of a couple. The player (i.e me) plays as the husband who is staying back in a war torn Syria, while his wife Nour (AKA my wife) is on her way to a better safer life. The reality of the game hits hard from the get go. But it is really the realness of the characters, their text messages, their couple arguments, sarcasm, use of emojis and their very real love for each other that gets to you.
You see, it's a game based on a refugees. And unlike most games, you barely have any control over what seems to be happening to you or around you, which really resonates, I guess, with being a displaced person.
That being said, your minimal choices do effect the progression of the game and there are many possibilities of endings. I got a few myself, and on my first playthrough I was playing the real time version, where you get periodic texts as you would from a real person. Sometimes Nour (my wife) goes to sleep, sometimes she doesn't have access to the phone. This particular time, my last conversation with her was right before she stepped on a flimsy boat to cross the ocean to get into Europe. It was now a waiting game, and it had been a few hours since her message.
So here I was, at work, working away, when all of a sudden, my phone vibrated. It was a notification from the game that Nour had sent me a message. I was excited, hoping to see a selfie on a Greek Island where she had reached safely. Instead I was faced with this, an audio message: (You may need to turn the volume up, and if you hate spoilers then don't watch it)
So there I was, in my office, overwhelmed with emotion. I must say the voice-over actress is brilliant. And knowing all of this, that it was just an actress, it is just a "game", I was still overcome with grief of having lost a loved one. Tears streamed down my face, and I had to run to the washroom to:
1. Let it all out
2. Compose myself, because how would I explain this to my colleagues?
Thankfully no one saw me, but it is fascinating to me that an entertainment art form, like a video game can have such an effect. This just confirms my belief that video games can be used to incite empathy in humans. I felt the helplessness, I felt the despair, the grief, the loss of control, the worry. I felt it all, and it made me want to do something about this situation that over 20 million people in the world are in.
So I'm going to do what I am good at. Telling a story myself, to inspire even more empathy, and perhaps even some positive action.
My game Musa-a brother's story will tell the tale of younger refugees, the children of this global world crisis.
By the way, about that, we are getting closer every day to get funded to make our game. Did you know that we won a startup competition in Bahrain to compete in the finals f