It All Begins with a Goodbye…

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”

…and continues on a phone

Bury me, my Love is a reality-inspired video game designed for mobile phones.

We imagined its core mechanics with two main references in mind: WhatsApp and Lifeline.

You and your virtual counterpart Majd will be able to communicate with Nour and follow her journey, just as if you were chatting with her via WhatsApp. You will text each other and exchange emojis, pics and selfies, relevant links…

You will also be asked to make important choices – as you are required to do in the Lifeline series and other interactive stories. Nour will regularly seek help and ask for your advice. The happy unfolding of her journey is in your hands. She won’t systematically do as you say though, and sometimes she might also hide things from you. You’ll have to deal with that, as she is the one risking her life.

Communications will occur in pseudo real-time. If Nour is supposed to do something that will take her a couple hours, there will be no way for you to reach her during that time lapse. Once she is back online, you receive a notification that she’s available – and perhaps needs you. How will you best help?

A messaging app interactive fiction…

Contrary to lots of other interactive fictions, the player’s choices in Bury me, my Love really have an impact on the story. This is, for us, a very efficient way to render the complex situations migrants are in, and the weigh their choices often have. Our three core game mechanics aim at reflecting this reality.

Time (and money)

The voyage from Syria to Europe does not have a predefined length. It might be done in a few days only, but also take months, sometimes years. The game will make sure to keep track of time, and signal every new day to the player, as if it were the beginning of a new chapter.

Nour may report a temporary closed border, she may complain that someone she was supposed to meet is nowhere to be seen, she might be cheated by a smuggler… In those cases, what would the best advice be? Should she wait and wait again, or change her mind and rethink her plans? With every passing day the risk of going bankrupt grows…

Roads

Nour leaves Homs with an ideal itinerary on her mind, but things quickly become complicated. Soon after her departure, she begins to hear lots of rumors on the ground – hearsay that is often contradictory. She is going to have to improvise, and seek possible ways to continue her trip once she reaches a destination.

Should you advise her to do so, Nour might eavesdrop for precious knowledge: new means of transportation, places where, according to rumors, a trustworthy smuggler might be found… Reacting to Nour’s reports, Majd will then automatically post maps of new possible destinations in the discussion thread, thus allowing the couple – and the player – to make the best next decision available.

Nour’s variables

Nour will obviously be affected by the events that are happening to her on the road. But this process will also work the other way around: she may or may not be able, or be forced to perform some actions depending on her state of mind at a specific time. Nour’s profile will be determined by four different variables:

  • Her MORALE
  • Her RELATIONSHIP level with Majd
  • Her BUDGET
  • The presence or absence of specific objects in her INVENTORY

…based on true stories.

In Arabic, “Bury me, my Love” is an expression that means “Take care”, “Don’t even think about dying before I do”. You might say it to a loved one, before going separate ways. They are the last words Dana’s mother told her to wish her good luck, as the young Syrian girl left her country. It was on September the 19th, 2015, when Dana had decided she would reach Germany at any cost.

Our game does not tell the story of Dana’s travels. Thanks to Lucie Soullier, a journalist at lemonde. fr, and to her article, “Le Voyage d’une migrante Syrienne à travers son fil WhatsApp” (“The Journey of a Syrian Migrant, as Told by her WhatsApp Messages”), we know Dana’s story. But even though both women are part of our editorial team, Bury me, my Love isn’t biographical.

Our two main characters, Nour and Majd, are fictional. They do not exist, or rather, they exist collectively. They are a multitude of men, women and children: Dana, her mother, her brother-in-law… as well as thousands of others who flee their country – or watch their relatives flee – all in hopes of finding a better life in Europe.

This game is about those who achieve that goal. It is about those who don’t. It is about those who die trying. It is a game about the world around us. A game which we hope will lead the player to keep pondering after it is over.

— Estimated release date on iOS and Android : October 2017 —

— A game by The Pixel Hunt,  Figs and ARTE France