Adventure Gamers Awards
Initially I began playing the text-based narrative adventure Bury me, my Love with a real lack of awareness, and some trepidation. As an Australian I am, geographically speaking, far removed from people who have left, and continue to leave, their homes in Syria to escape the nearly eight year long civil war that is still ongoing. Because of this, and a noticeable absence of Syrian refugee voices in the media, it was not until I played this game that I realised what I did know about their lives was very little at all. If the developer’s aim was to rid me of some of my ignorance, then this they have certainly accomplished. BMML is far more than just an important story and lesson in cultural understanding, however. It is an excellent game in its own right, with nearly twenty potential endings and a large number of branching storylines to keep your interest much longer than the few hours it takes to complete the first, probably imperfect, playthrough.
Bury me, my Love sees you take on the role of Majd, a shopkeeper from Homs (a Syrian city) who uses a text message app to communicate with his wife Nour throughout her perilous journey to Europe for asylum. Majd offers both advice and support to Nour on her quest, and it is through clickable text options that you choose how he responds to her. The suggestions you make often have profound and weighty consequences, including the path Nour takes and where she ultimately settles, making it unlikely that two different players will experience events the same way or achieve the same outcome. If there is one thing that is constant in BMML, however, it is the powerful connection between Nour and Majd. As the young couple communicates with expressive love hearts, kissing face emojis, and abbreviated text slang like “Ttyl,” they are easy to relate to regardless of their circumstances. Majd stays in Homs throughout the game and as the distance between them grows, so too does our concern and determination to lead them through their hardship to a place where they can be reunited in a land free from war.
These themes of migration, asylum, love and war are all explored. In one possible journey, Nour finds a moment of respite in an Austrian hotel and texts Majd to talk about how she is beginning to notice the absence of noise there, saying that it scares her. She confides in him her realization that she has become so used to the sounds of engines, protesters and bombs that she has forgotten how to feel comfortable with silence, with peace. Majd never fails to support his stoic wife, reassuring her as best he can that such things will come back to her in time, but Nour wonders if this is true, and if she will ever find comfort now that there is no place left that to call home.
The player must also learn to be comfortable with silence. Aside from the constant peaceful blipping of Nour’s messages, most of the experience is without audio in the traditional narrative style. When music is played, it is usually brief and used to signal a change in Nour’s situation. A positive turn of events may result in a few pleasant moments of soothing acoustic guitar, or in less ideal circumstances the foreboding sound of bass strings solemnly thrumming. When issues do become evident, the atmosphere can become quite palpable and there are moments when we fear not only for Nour, but also for Majd, who is powerless to protect his wife in cases of great danger.
Hope, no matter how wishful, is ever-present. At one stage I felt very optimistic when Nour planned to cross into Croatia using a map of supposedly unguarded areas along the border. But this hope soon gave way to tense concern when Majd recognized the map as one depicting places where landmines had been laid along the border in the early ‘90s. It’s too late though: Nour is already in the field and responds to his horror with, “Like I said: Where they’re not guarding the border.” Luckily, it seems that no matter how misguided or ill-informed, your decisions cannot result in Nour’s death. Make no mistake though, a few errors of judgement are enough to see her robbed or hospitalised, and I’m sure there are many other dire events that I have not unearthed even after my fourth time through.
Even with its perils, Bury me, my Love still endeavours to be light-hearted at times, and Nour’s journey is frequently broken up with short interludes of heartfelt, good-humoured banter with Majd. These moments, such as when Nour frequently misspells the word “Flippant” as “Flip-Flop” as a result of her phone’s auto-correct, are very endearing. At another point Majd, who is livid with Nour for putting herself in danger, illustrates that he is not as skilled as her with technology when he struggles to vent his frustration using a large number of emojis.
Advising Nour is always a dilemma, and rarely do you receive enough information to feel confident that your choices will lead to a better outcome than any other alternative. Because Majd is never with Nour to get a real feel for her situation, he (and you) are forever partly in the dark. In truth, we see nothing of Nour’s situation bar the occasional photo message, creating a system where the blind lead the blind in making choices that, in reality, would carry monumental risks. It is hard to believe, for example, that having Nour walk through a minefield is a better option than crossing the Mediterranean by boat. Other choices are morally simpler but nonetheless as challenging. Should Nour hide her money in her clothes or her shoes? The decision requires a great deal of thought if you haven’t yet formed a picture of what you believe Nour’s journey will involve.
Matters of trust are also real conundrums. Though Majd is a fountain of wisdom when it comes to geopolitics and history, he never actually meets anyone Nour talks to. And yet despite this he is often asked for his opinion about whether to trust others in her vicinity. At one stage Nour inquired whether she should go with someone who claimed he could sell a fake but convincing French passport. Soon after I was asked whether she should give a heap of money to a man who promised to release it to his smuggler friend only after the smuggler delivers her safely to the Greece-Bulgaria border. Scenarios such as these made me very reluctant to trust anyone Nour met, oddly enough even those she was willing to put her faith in. Although a considerable amount of caution for Nour’s safety is without doubt healthy and warranted, it is also the case that too little trust will lead to an arduous journey, making it nigh impossible to get her out of the dangerous positions she is almost invariably in.Continued on the next page...