Digital Dragons Indie Spotlight: We. The Refugees

Ned Jordan
In Short
A conversation with Act Zero's Jedrzej Napiecek at the Digital Dragons 2023 Indie Zone about the studio's narrative adventure game, We. The Refugees: Ticket to Europe.
We the Refugees

At Digital Dragons 2023 I had the chance to meet-up with Jedrzej Napiecek of Act Zero to talk about their game, We. The Refugees: Ticket to Europe, a PC-based story-driven narrative RPG.

When the developers decided to make a game about refugees they immediately realized that they needed to speak to refugees if they were to have any understanding of their experience. They spent time visiting the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, speaking to refugees and listening to their stories. They returned from the experience to create a game that cast you in the role of a refugee. However, when they showed an early build to refugees, they soon learned that they weren’t able to capture an authentic experience. In spite of their research, the developers were still outsiders to the experience. This is when they realized that the game would best be played from the perspective of someone from the outside. The game was reworked to put the player in the role of an ambitious young journalist looking to make a name for themself by reporting on the plight of North African and Middle Eastern refugees trying to make their way to Europe. They took the stories they had gathered from speaking to the refugees and used them to create about 20 different fictional characters that represent the refugee experience.

The game is played through conversations and encounters in which you must make a lot of difficult choices. The game’s narrative is extensive – there are over 300,000 words of dialog in the game – and your choices will lead you along one of the 150 narrative paths in the game. Your choices will also determine what type of journalist and person you will become after the experience. Many of them will have ethical or moral consequences, and the game will monitor your choices on three tracks – empathy, neutrality, and cynicism. The path you forge along these lines will affect the path ahead of you in the game.

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There are also things to find in the game to collect in your notebook. These notes are not just for completionists, but will be taken into account, along with your choices, at the end of the game when you are evaluated on your final report of your investigations. The game has multiple endings, and is designed to provide a completely different experience on three full playthroughs – so you completionists will get to experience a different story as you try to track down all of the notes through multiple playthroughs. And, yes, it’s possible to end the game in death if you make some poor decisions.

The game is now available on Steam and I encourage you to have a look at it. It not only tells a compelling story about an ongoing humanitarian crisis; it also has a unique graphic novel art style. If you do choose to purchase it, you’ll be helping the refugees as Act Zero is donating 5% of its profits to refugee relief organizations. We’ll be playing the game, too, and will post our review soon.

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Transmitted: 6/4/2023 12:05:09 PM