ElectricNoir recently announced the launch of their new mobile-first "found phone" interactive crime drama, Dead Man's Phone. We got the opportunity to chat to the game's lead star Tafari Golding, all about the important issues raised in the game and more...
Can you tell us a little bit about Dead Man's Phone and the character, Jerome, that you play?
I played the character of 16-year-old Jerome Jacobs, who is pushed to his death from the balcony of a tower block in Peckham. The story of Dead Man’s Phone is centred around finding out who pushed him, and solving his murder from the perspective of a Scotland Yard homicide detective.
You’re given Jerome’s phone at the start of the game, and it’s up to you to solve the case with the information available on it. You can search through his personal messages and photos with his friends and family, and even have access to his social media profiles. Your investigation team will also look into pieces of evidence for you, and conduct video interrogations with key suspects.
Jerome is deeply loved by his community, and his loss hits them hard. By diving into the contents of his phone, you develop an understanding of the relationships with his friends and family intimately, and that’s what makes the game powerful and haunting in equal measure.
Whilst this is a video game, it's very much rooted in reality. What sort of issues and topics should we expect to see confronted in Dead Man's Phone?
Dead Man’s Phone doesn’t shy away from some of the more controversial issues in modern society; tackling things like racism, police profiling and gang-related violence head on.
The founders of ElectricNoir, the interactive entertainment studio that created Dead Man’s Phone, actually started working on the script before the Black Lives Matter surge in 2020. But this, and the all too frequent murders of those from BAME communities across the world, only highlighted the need to push this conversation far beyond what people were reading in the news.
Dead Man’s Phone puts you in the shoes of someone who’s been oppressed, and it aims to challenge the assumption that gang-related violence is the only cause of death in BAME communities. I’m born and bred in South London, so it was interesting to see these issues highlighted in such a unique way as they typically haven’t been captured in mobile games before. I hope this will be the catalyst to change that.
I know you were heavily involved in shaping this game, so what can you tell us about that whole experience and working with the team to make this project become a reality?
Being a part of the Dead Man’s Phone project has been a dream come true. I got on really well with the team and I was heavily involved in shaping the project from the very beginning, from sharing my personal insight into the language used in the script to making sure we told the story that we’re all human. ElectricNoir wanted to capture authentic slang used by modern South London teenagers, so my friends and I helped them to create this as some of the existing script was quite outdated. Like any language, slang changes much faster than most people realise.
Alongside my involvement in the development of the script, I was also heavily involved in the creation of the photos and videos that you find on Jerome’s phone. In order to make these as authentic as possible, ElectricNoir basically gave us a phone for the day and told us to go about our daily lives and capture everything. This meant that the scenes looked natural, and the friendship that you see in those images is genuine. That’s what makes the story even more powerful, because you see that Jerome is just a normal teenager enjoying life with his friends, before that’s all taken away from him.
What are you personally hoping players take away from Dead Man's Phone?
I want everyone to better understand the issues that BAME communities face on a daily basis with unfair racial stigmas, and really think about what they could be doing themselves to make a difference. I truly believe that we’re all equal, regardless of our skin colour, and I hope that people play Dead Man’s Phone and come away thinking the same way.
As a white journalist I know I'm unqualified to talk about the experiences of Black people and minority ethnics; so what can us white journalists and writers do to make sure we're maximising our worth to those minority communities?
I’d encourage you to talk about these issues as much as you can and read, learn and educate yourself about the history of racism. As a starter, a book I would recommend is Akala’s Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire. It covers everything from the police, stop and search, education and identity and speaks directly to British denial when it comes to confronting issues of race and class.
I’d also recommend that you attend talks, peaceful protests and sign up to charities or bodies who are fighting this injustice.
Are we seeing progress in the world now when it comes to fighting for equality amongst all races? What more needs to be done?
I think in some ways we have progressed, but there’s still a lot more work that needs to be done. It’s positive, for example, that Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd after less than a day of deliberation. This is a great and necessary statement for the world. We’re in testing times, but the more we fight for justice in regard to mistreated individuals the better. I see that happening more and it gives me a lot of hope.
Within the video game world, are you hoping to get more roles within this field?
I’ve always dreamt of working on a script for a game, and maybe working as a voice actor. Dead Man’s Phone has been a great start for me and has given me some much needed experience in this field of work.
What's the dream role for you as an actor?
I’m a big fan of animated TV series. Something like DC would be cool.
Can you tell us a little bit about your experience through the pandemic; have you picked up any new hobbies?
I was one of the lucky ones in the pandemic, I was able to keep my job before leaving for university so I was able to get on fine. But it’s affected us all in many ways. Like most, I learnt recipes which were fun and found myself channeling my creativity in new and interesting ways. More writing, more music, that sort of thing.
Finally, are there any projects you've got in the pipeline you can share some details about?
I’m working on some creative writing ideas at the moment, graphic novels and general fantasy,but nothing concrete. I’ve written a few other things which are crime-related but it’s all a work in progress, and I hope to share it with the world and all of you, some day.
Dead Man's Phone Season 1 is free to play and available now on iOS and Android.
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