Certain mainstream media has often gone out of their way to villainize refugees and the persecution they face. Developer Act Zero and publisher Polyslash want to challenge this narrative with We The Refugees: Ticket to Europe, an interactive fiction adventure game about refugees, set in contemporary Europe and North Africa.
Set in the year 2020, players take on the role of a male amateur journalist in their 30s from Warsaw who wants to make something out of himself. In your mind’s eye, you want to amaze the world and show off your knowledge with a book about refugees escaping from Africa into Europe, one that you hope will inspire crowds, expand minds, and ultimately? Change the world. However, the only way to gather notes for a story is to smuggle yourself aboard and pretend to be a refugee.
If you’re reading this and raising your eyebrows at the audacity of white men, Act Zero says that’s the point. “The game deliberately plays on the cliché of “a white male’s journey to an exoticized world” and subverts it” through gameplay and perspective. The protagonist spends 2 months with refugees and knows that it isn’t enough time to even scratch the surface of their lives, and what they’ve been through. However, they face a moral dilemma. Do they make up the information to make their book a better read, or do they make do with what they’ve been given? What the protagonist does with that information is up to the player.
To prepare for developing We The Refugees, the writers team visited the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. There they spoke to a number of refugees to learn about their stories, and presented the prototype of the game to refugees and volunteers. The script was also reviewed by experts from relevant NGOs and consultants.
Each refugee the player meets has a unique story about their journey. The developer has stated here at Gayming that each refugee has reasons for fleeing to escape persecution. This could be because of war or something else entirely – each character you encounter has their own struggle and will talk to you about it. For example, a character who is gay and finds it hard to live with their sexual orientation in countries that do not accept the LGBTQ+ community.
Act Zero has also stated that the game features a very interesting African tradition, in which two women – under certain conditions – can get married, and it is socially acceptable. The tradition is called “Numba ntobhu.” It is a marriage of convenience but is not sexual in nature.
Most importantly, We The Refugees doesn’t want to be seen entirely as a soul-crushing game, and there will be some joy to be found. Even though the refugees you talk to are fleeing and looking for safe harbor, they still laugh and love, strike up friendships, and ultimately want to live a normal life.
Players interested can expect up to 10 hours of gameplay for one playthrough, with around 30 hours of content overall due to 3 unique paths you can take, a script comprising nearly 300,000 words and well over 1000 different dialogue choices.
We The Refugees: Ticket to Europe will release on May 1 for PC via Steam. 5% of profits from the game will be donated to charities helping refugees, with 2.5% going to the Hope Project and the other half will go to an organization chosen by the dev team and community.