By Victor Carpe & Catherine Thorbecke
Is the Syrian refugee crisis a topic we can joke and play games about? This is exactly what happens in an increasingly popular video game where a Mario-like refugee attempts to run and hop over obstacles such as smugglers and border patrol or maneuver shaky rafts to get across the sea. Parodying a refugee’s journey to safety through a lighthearted video game may seem a bit misguided and insensitive, given the dangerous reality of the plight of most refugees. However, does this video-game become less offensive if you learn that it was made by a refugee himself—a Syrian man who moved from Homs to Turkey following the onset of the 2011 conflict?
By equating the hardships of a refugee to the plight of Super Mario, this refugee that goes by the pseudonym of Samir Al-Mufti is perhaps trying to reveal an important truth, something usually not depicted by the mainstream media that covers the Syria crisis. Samir not only shows us his personal ability to remain positive in the face of such a nightmarish reality, but also attempts to illuminate the utter absurdity of refugees’ situations in an upbeat way. Most people will never understand the journey that many migrants undertake in order to find peace and safety, except for when they are a character in a video game. People become desensitized to the plight of refugees when they see it reported on their daily news.
Samir has a seemingly unsuitable yet completely novel approach at depicting what many refugees have gone through. It also simulates the plight for those who have never experienced it, and makes us realize how unutterably wrong it is for anyone to have to through so many obstacles in order to find peace and safety in real life. When we see the imagery of this video game juxtaposed with such a serious subject, we cannot help but react. The absurdity of the parody unveils the absurdity of the situation itself. Visual media are so much part of our lives that being shown the reality sadly may not be enough. Instead it may be necessary to use unconventional means to strike home and see what our fellow humans have to go through to obtain what we take for granted.
Thanks to William Mawhinney
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9mzktB3LN0