Confronting the limits of refugees’ choices through interactive digital fiction

A lecture on role-playing gamification of refugee experiences.

This public, online lecture by Dr Andrea Macrae, Principal Lecturer in Student Experience and Stylistics (Oxford Brookes University) reflects on a reality-inspired, interactive fiction for mobile phones (‘Bury me, my love’, a Syrian farewell saying meaning ‘I hope I die before you do’), designed to draw attention to and provoke thought about the plight of refugees.

The reader plays the role of Majd, the husband left behind in Syria as his wife, Nour, travels across Europe. ‘Bury me, my love’ (The Pixel Hunt/ARTE, 2017) is told entirely through their phone messages; the reader, as Majd, must choose how to respond to Nour’s texts – her humorous chat, her questions, her conundrums and her crises - as she picks her treacherous path across borders and seas.

This lecture explores the reader experiences created by ‘Bury me, my love’. It introduces and uses selected narratological theories and concepts, including small stories research (Bamberg and Georgakopoulou 2008) and ontological resonance (Bell 2021), to analyse the text’s mechanics and multimodal and pragmatic features, investigating how they contribute to its poignant manipulations of agency, immersion, temporality, and 'tellability'.

This lecture reviews ‘Bury me, my love’ as a case study through which to consider the potential empathy-inducing and awareness-raising effects, and the broader ethical implications, of fictional representation and role-playing gamification of refugee experiences.

This event is part of the Dialogue in Migration and Refugee Studies lecture and seminar series hosted by the Migration and Refugees Research Network at Oxford Brookes University. It has received funding from Jean Monnet Actions, run under Erasmus+ by the European Union.

The programme will continue running this semester with talks including History, Sociology, English Literature and a special session by an NGO practitioner.

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Esteban Devis-Amaya