A ‘House of the Dragon’ Star Made a Video Game to Grieve His Father | Gaming

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A decade ago, Abubakar Salim lost his father. That grief lives within him. An actor by trade, with credits in Raised by Wolves and House of the Dragon’s upcoming season, he searched for years for the right medium to work through the hurt. A film. A TV show. Nothing did it justice—until he tried to make a video game. “If you’re really depicting grief in a truthful and honest way, it is so open and chaotic that actually, you can kind of gamify it,” he says.

Salim is the CEO and creative director of Surgent Studios, the developer behind the upcoming Metroidvania game Tales of Kenzera: Zau. The game, set to launch April 23, follows a young shaman, Zau, who has made a deal with the god of death to bring his father back to life in exchange for three great spirits. Its story is a reflection of coping with loss—even its premise is built on bargaining, a common stage for someone dealing with death. The button-mashing, the mask-switching—these are all, Salim says, representative of the madness people can experience.

Games about grief reflect those feelings in many ways. Platformer Gris turns the stages of grief into literal ones as its heroine silently navigates a world that uses color and music to express emotion. What Remains of Edith Finch explores the death of a family by sifting through their things, alongside vignettes dedicated to those lost.

Kenzera has its own methods. Throughout the game, Zau takes time to pause and talk about his feelings. That’s the result of Salim and the game’s developers trying to figure out how the character would be able to restore his health. The solution wound up being quite…

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