PopChange Salon Series: Stories of Displacement in Video Games

Can video games change our understanding of what it means to be a refugee?

With displacement as a guiding theme, this will be an exploratory conversation looking at different ways in which video games can diversify our understanding of refugee experiences. The discussants will each be talking about some of their own projects — including the popular text-based game Bury Me, My Love — while exploring the values and challenges of bringing lived experience into game development, platforms for experimentation and cross-sector collaboration, and opportunities with interactive forms such as AR/VR. This will be an inspiring conversation for game designers, storytellers, art-ivists and narrative change-makers.

The discussion will be facilitated by Jennifer Estaris, Game Director of ustwo games (known for Monument Valley and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure) in conversation with: 

  • Sindi Breshani – Co-founder of Episod Studio which is currently developing ‘Race for the Arctic’, a documentary-game built with indigenous communities.
  • Florent Maurin (via live feed) – Founder of The Pixel Hunt – a games design studio focused on reality-inspired games, including Bury Me, My Love, produced in collaboration with a Syrian refugee.
  • Malath Abbas (via lived feed) – Founder of Biome Collective, and currently producing ‘Hope’, a playful experience that documents his own journey as a refugee to the UK.

This event is presented by Counterpoints Arts as part of its PopChange Salon Series in collaboration with Now Play This (8-10 April 2022) — a festival of experimental game design held at Somerset House. This year’s theme explores the relationship between game design and democracy.

Sunday, 10th April, 2022

11am to 12pm BST

In person @ Somerset House (and live-streamed to Twitch)


Image: Bury Me My Love screenshot © The Pixel Hunt


The PopChange Salon Series — presented by Counterpoints Arts’ Popchange initiative — are curated exchanges with change makers, storytellers and the entertainment industry to explore opportunities for harnessing pop culture for real social change. The Salon Series focuses on areas with momentum for narrative change in the UK — TV/film, gaming and comedy — with particular reference to themes of racial justice, migration and displacement.

Florent Maurin graduated from journalism school in 2002 and worked for Bayard Presse for ten years, as a reporter & editorial manager for Bayam, the group’s online offer for kids. He then created The Pixel Hunt, a video games studio with a focus on reality-inspired games. The Pixel Hunt works for media (Lemonde.fr, France Télévisions) and public institutions (the Mucem, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France). In 2017, The Pixel Hunt launched its first independent game, the critically acclaimed Bury me, my Love.

Jennifer Estaris (she/her) is a game director at ustwo games, a B Corp studio known for Monument Valley and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure. She has worked in the game industry for the past 15 years at SYBO, Nickelodeon, and Disney, among others, and has spoken at a number of conferences about social impact in games. Jennifer is an active member of UNEP’s Playing for the Planet and the IGDA Climate SIG, and a mom to a free-spirited 8 year old!

Malath Abbas is a game designer, artist and creative producer working on experimental and meaningful games and experiences in Scotland. Malath is a founding member of Biome Collective, a creative studio, community and digital space for people to create, collaborate and explore new frontiers in game design, digital art and technology. With over 10 years working in games and arts in Scotland, Malath has created a diverse portfolio of work and has exhibited internationally. Malath is currently creating a playful experience titled ‘Hope’ that documents his journey as a refugee that settled in the UK. The interactive experience explores different aspects of identity using a unique middle eastern futurism visual and sonic aesthetic.

Sindi Breshani is a multidisciplinary designer and writer based in London. Her projects have been shown at Tate Britain, Somerset House, V&A Museum of Childhood, IndieCade Festival, and featured on the LA Times. Her first paper “Inside a game: Using games to deconstruct reality” was published by SERRC. Sindi is a cofounder of Episod, a digital production studio that develops games based on true stories. The studio is currently developing “Race for the Arctic”, a documentary-game set across the next fifty years in the Arctic, and built with scientists and indigenous communities.