Florent Maurin, a journalist and a game designer who specializes in serious games believes in the power of interactive storytelling and in transmitting information via gaming. He is also the president of ThePixelHunt, a company that produces various online formats, from webdocs to mobile applications and has also co-created serious games and interactive experiences such as Planète Corps for Arte, Anarchy for France TV, or Jeu d’Influences.

Florent started out as a journalist at a children’s press and soon started experimenting with video games. “I thought that videogames can be a good tool for transmitting information to children and adults too. I decided to submit a proposal for a news game about the French Left’s primary elections in 2011. It was a strategy game where you had to find ways to be elected. It was quite successful and many people contributed in improving it”, says Florent on our interview via Skype.

In 2014 Florent and his company created and produced Re-building Haiti an interactive, non-linear news game about Haiti’s reconstruction after the destructive earthquake, financed by the European Journalism Center, which was then published on the Rue 89 platform. It is a mixture of longform journalism, multimedia and gaming elements to help readers understand the problems facing Haiti. “We started from what has happening there and tried to imagine different solutions and how it could go differently”.

Florent’s latest project is a story-driven interactive fiction titled Bury me my love which in Syrian it roughly means “Take care, and don’t even think about dying before I do”. It is an adventure game in the form of a text messaging application, telling the story of Nour, a Syrian woman who is trying to get to Germany after the last member of her family died in a bombing. It is a proper videogame with 19 different endings and every choice the player makes, has an impact on Nour’s journey.

The game is based on a true story that appeared in Le Monde about a Syrian woman who left her country and stayed in touch with her family via the WhatsApp app during her long journey between Syria and Germany. “I was impressed with this story, decided to contact her and she agreed to be our editorial adviser on the project”, explains Florent. The application was developed by The Pixel Hunt and Figs and co-produced with ARTE.

“It was well received by the public because they discovered another dimension, a more intimate one to the classic refugee stories. When we talk about migrants, we often talk about numbers, but this game offers a personal story. Of course we had some negative reactions from extreme right-wing people, which is to be expected. However, there were some people who although they said they were against migrants, they played the game and in the end they were touched by the story. So, it did have a small impact”.

Can serious game affect change?

Florent insists that serious games are not the solution to end all social problems. “Things can really change through education and concrete solutions” he explains. “The politics of social diversity and better integration can change mentalities. Immigration is an intimate subject, people have the impression that it threatens their intimacy. Cultural production can also help, but it is not enough as it must fit into a larger paradigm”.

Florent is passionate about what he does and wants to continue developing real games. “The interaction, the game design, the video game language speak to me. It’s part of my cultural identity as a gameplayer and I want to do the same as others who created games before me that have affected me deeply”.