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Bury Me, My Love
Pros: The game's smartphone-style texting offers an interesting, accessible way into a difficult topic.
Cons: Eventually, it seems like player choices don't really matter for success.
Bottom Line: It effectively connects students with the harrowing journey of a Syrian refugee, even though some of the interactive elements are underwhelming.
Bury Me, My Love would fit well in a unit on the refugee crisis, and is especially important at a time when the U.S. and other countries are clamping down on immigration, often dehumanizing those seeking safety from war or economic turmoil. To counter this view, Bury Me, My Love portrays refugees as regular people, treating the main character, Nour, and the player's character, Majd, believably -- with quirks, hopes, dreams, foibles, and humor.
It's probably best assigned out of class, as the real-time nature of play means a single game will take days to complete. Since the interactions are familiar to anyone who has used a smartphone, students will likely find it interesting and easy to get into. In terms of implementation, have students write entries in a companion gameplay diary, where they can reflect on the story and predict where the narrative will go between sessions. Students could compare stories and choices on a daily basis, and the whole class could compare their decisions and choices along the way. Unfortunately, the actual decision outcomes are pretty arbitrary and rarely ask players to make strategic or moral choices, but students will still likely have a deep emotional reaction to the events. Afterward, students will benefit from digging deeper by watching documentaries on the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis, or reading and discussing newspaper or magazine articles with more current reportage and stories. Teachers might also offer students options for making their voice heard about this crisis.
Bury Me, My Love is a mobile game that simulates real-time texting between loved ones in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis. The game follows the journey of Nour, a woman attempting to find asylum in Europe from war-torn Syria. In doing so, she leaves behind her husband, Majd, the person she texts with. Play takes place in a simulated messaging app like iMessage or WhatsApp. Players periodically receive messages that advance the story along. Some of these messages involve choosing from a list of possible responses. In addition to plain text, Nour and Majd sometimes trade photos (lovely hand-drawn illustrations) or audio attachments. Players can also bring up a map of the Middle East and Europe that displays a history of where Nour travels.
Bury Me, My Love can be a shared experience students can use to better understand the Syrian refugee crisis and the people living through it. As students play, they'll gain a lot from regular reflective writing assignments and in-class discussions.
The game valuably juxtaposes mundane daily life with dangerous situations. Nour demystifies Syrian refugees for students in that she's portrayed as a regular woman familiar with modern tech. Players build empathy for the character as they trade emojis, text each other constantly, and joke about KFC and Burger King. This helps ground the story and the lives of refugees, as well as make the impact of the increasingly difficult events more resonant, but some students will need help to see the significance of these more ordinary parts of the story.
The experience hinges on players wanting Nour to succeed on her journey, and on that point it's successful. It's not perfect, though. Choosing a response happens too infrequently, leaving the player to read a predetermined dialogue between Nour and Majd. Moreover, many of these choices don’t have immediate impact, but they can eventually lead to Nour's death. This makes for a harrowing, worrying experience full of uncertainty: Are the choices you're making right or wrong? Ultimately, it doesn't appear to matter. While this seems to make a point about the danger and chaos of the refugee journey, it ends up sacrificing opportunities to have the player more involved and potentially more affected by the story. With that said, this trade-off between the story as the storytellers want to tell it, and the player's involvement in that story, can make for great classroom discussion about how and why the game represents the refugee experience in the ways it does.