the game

Refugee Journey

Babylon workshop and game development

BabylonGameDevelopmentFor the past two weeks some of the Babylon team has been working in Burlington at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. Together with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP), Sandglass is developing an interactive game and workshop that will help participants to understand actual stories, challenges and obstacles that refugees face in fleeing war and violence. Refugee Journey is a board game/role play game that gives players the empathetic experience of a refugee’s path from home, across borders, through the resettlement process in a camp, and finally to the airport. The game is unfair and only 1% ever makes it, as is the case in refugee resettlement.

As players navigate their family (some are single travelers, others have multiple family members in IMG_4605their group) through the terrain, they are
faced with choices, possibilities
to help each other, and a clearly unequal allotment of odds. The game also extends into face-to-face confrontation that leaves the game board. The Babylon actors assume roles such as Border Guard, Doctors Without Borders, US Security Officials, etc. and are able to throw twists into the game at any time. They may play favorites, they may interview a player to see if they qualify for refugee status, and they may simply not let the player pass over the border. Perhaps a bribe might help the situation? Or perhaps a bribe would land them in the jail overnight.

The game aims to demonstrate stories that reflect more collectivist cultures, and the players draw cards, which unfold their own refugee story turn by turn. Each card is read aloud in the first person.

The richness of knowledge and stories that Laurie Stavrand and Amila Merdzanovic and other members of VRRP contribute to this game development is essential to keeping us accountable and truthful. They have been generous and gracious in their time, support and envisioning of this project. Stories come straight out of interviews they have collected with resettled refugees in Vermont. Laurie Stavrand began using an early version of this game in her work through VRRP. We are all excited for the opportunity to officially develop it further.

IMG_4608Sandglass’ Jana Zeller is designing the game board with graphic design assistance from Kirk Murphy and Jay Gelter. The cast is being trained in facilitating the game and we will have a first version to play by the time Babylon begins its first residency at Landmark College at the end of October.

Many thanks to The National Performance Network, Fourth Fund for its support of the Refugee Journey.

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