“Bury me, My Love”… it a common saying of well wishes to loved ones in Arabic culture.
Imagine, after witnessing her sisters’ critical injury due to a bombing, your wife has decided that she is going to leave your home in Syria in hopes to reach Germany and start a new life away from war. You cannot go because you have family that needs your care, and so all you can do is help her prepare, pack, wish her well and hope that everything will be okay. The only way you will know where she is and what is happening is the constant text message conversation with her on your cell phone….a conversation that you hope will only end in a story of success.
Bury Me, My Love, is a new mobile game from studios The Pixel Hunt and Figs with associated French-German TV channel ARTE, which takes you on the journey based on the real stories of Syrian refugees. A lot of things can go horribly wrong within the thousands of miles it takes to flee to safety in Europe, and this game gives you an up close look at the decisions, struggles and endurance that millions of refugees have had to go through – via the relationship of a fictional couple, Nour and Majd.
In the game, you play as Majd, and see the texting conversations between Nour and him on a general chat screen, spelling out the storyline as Nour makes her journey to Europe. There are texts about everything from border patrols, to falafels, to important decisions on what Nour should do.
You have access to a mapping system that can track Nour’s journey and give you some historical information about the location.
Most of the time you are just reading their conversation typing freely on your screen back and forth, but at pre-determined moments, you can choose from a selection of answers that Majd can give. You will advise Nour on practical topics, such as how she should utilize her money, whether she should buy a life-jacket or find one on a boat, if she should try to steal/lie to progress further or even if she should get involve and help. It is tough to make certain decisions because you don’t get enough information beforehand and sometimes even both options feel like they come with a sense of danger. Even more, situations can change quickly – a trip across a river can be delayed by weather, a border is suddenly closed. At times; Nour will turn to you not for advice but moral support as life is brutal and lonely on the road. It will be up to you to determine when to comfort her and when to encourage her strength.
Sometimes they won’t agree, Majd would rather that Nour keep her resources to herself while Nour wants to help others, or else their will be a disagreement on religion. It is easy to see that once Nour has made up her mind on what she is going to do, there is no way to sway her from her decision. This sadly at times can end up causing more harm than good for Nour. Trying to cross borders or the ocean itself is not a situation I would want to go into hot headed and stubborn.
The game is designed to work exactly like a normal chat, wherein she will be away from the phone (Busy) at times, and will text you to initiate a conversation. These texts with appear in your phone as push notifications, like any other text. Sometimes you will have to wait longer than usual as she occasionally needs to purchase a new SIM card as she goes through countries, or her battery is dead. This adds a dynamic layer to the realism of the game as you start to look forward to her texts, or even fear of not receiving another text due to the worst case scenario.
Luckily if you are like me and don’t want to wait on Nour, the game has an option to both speed up the rate of texts (no busy or waiting for the next event to happen) and how long it takes for each text to type. Taking out the real time aspect will sometimes make the story confusing because Nour’s messages will continue as if there was a time gap and the only time you will know that there should have been a gap in time is the time stamping on the messages. I played through once on real time mode and it took quite awhile to get through the story, but each gamer enjoys the experience differently.
While spending time reading the conversation back and forth is slightly time consuming and sounds a bit boring, the conversations between Nour and Majd are comfortable and familiar to any other conversation you with have with a friend or family member. They banter about everything, poke fun, send funny selfies, gossip…but most importantly try to keep each others spirits up as neither of them have it easy. Through their conversation, you quickly gain an understanding of their unique personalities. Majd is a history nerd and loves to sneak educational banter into their conversations, while Nour appears to be sassy and high on life. The connection you gain from the love between Nour and Majd heightens the constant state of danger. You want Nour to make it out of situations safely, which makes it even more heartbreaking when horrible things happen.
The story will continue on along the pre-determined path based on your decisions via Majd’s advice to Nour, and the only way you will know when the game has ended is that Nour will send you a short (30 sec – 1.5 min) playable audio file. This is the final statements from Nour to Majd. As the game has 19 possible endings, it can sometimes be uncomfortable to listen to this audio file, especially if Nour was in a dangerous situation prior to the audio file popping up.
The first time I played through, Nour had stolen a ladies I.D. and ticket to Italy, and since everything seemed to be ok, Majd advised her to just get on the boat and go… she hadn’t had issues with police before. Then that audio clip popped up and on it Nour says that she has been put in jail but she has no idea where she is and that she is hiding her cell phone while sending the message. The message ends with her screaming and then the line goes dead. Sadly I think Nour did not survive.
The second time was so much more delightful as Nour was able to successfully cross the ocean in a boat of refugees (but not before Majd had to call the coastguard to save her after she sent her coordinates of her capsized boat) and made it safely to Austria where she sent an audio file indicating that she was in a comfortable women’s shelter and that she was being called to breakfast. That was such a warm feeling to know she achieved her dream.
Because this game is so addictive as you want to know more about Nour and Majd, I played through for a third time, but it was that play through that shook me to the core. Nour had found some people who were there to help refugees in the camps, and since she was a doctor in Syria, she gladly assisted with them. After spending a great deal of time in the camp, she agreed to go across the ocean with a family of refugees in a small inflatable boat. After days of no contact, Majd gets messages from Nour that almost make no sense. Her boat capsized and she made it to shore but there is no one around and she is freezing to death…she is scared. I saw as Majd texted in fear for her, and then that audio file popped up. It was scary to listen to it as you hear Nour short on breath, feeling hopeless and then you hear her die.
This impacted me so much that I currently am so afraid to play the game again because of this is only 3 of the 19 endings, it’s possible that this gets worse. But imagine that I’m scared to play a game about the refugees, but yet it’s a reality for thousands.
Every time the game ends, you are encouraged to replay the game and attempt to change Nour’s fate. Depending on how your last journey with Nour went, in the back of your mind it keeps you wondering whether one decision could have changed everything. The only downside is that you restart the game from square one, so you have to go through the conversations again. Luckily, since there are many ways for Nour to travel on her way to Europe, a lot of the dialogue will vary between play throughs.
Currently Bury Me, My Love is available on Android and IOS for $3.99 (CAD) and you can play the prologue for free on the game’s official website: http://burymemylove.arte.tv/
I played through the prologue myself to get more information about Nour and why she made the choice to leave her life and her husband behind in Syria. I highly recommend that you play it before purchasing the game as it will give you a sense of if you like how the game is played/format and if the story is intriguing enough for you.
This game invokes deep emotion and draws you in as a human being, but due to the content I do not recommend this game being played by anyone under the age of 16 as it deals with some intense issues that may cause confusion or terror for young gamers.
My heart goes out to all those who are still in Syria fighting for their country and holding onto hope for their families who left, for those refugees who have made the travel and succeeded and especially those who traveled but did not make it.