Friday, January 30, 2009

Syrian Game to Teach Us About the Middle East

According to the Christian Science Monitor (via GamePolitics), Syrian developer Afkar Media is making an Age of Empires-style game titled Al-Quraysh.

Why is this news? Because of the tall order Al-Quraysh is expected to fill. Radwan Kasmiya, an Afkar Media exec, said:

“Al-Quraysh is going to help people in the West better understand the people who are living in the East. We want to show that this civilization was a sort of practical and almost heavenly civilization.”

Okay, Mr. Kasmiya, so you want us to know a bit more about your region’s history than we do now (aka nothing). Nothing wrong with that. I’m also a fan of this comment:

“Most video games on the market are anti-Arab and anti-Islam. Arab gamers are playing games that attack their culture, their beliefs, and their way of life. The youth who are playing the foreign games are feeling guilt... But we also don't want to do [a game] about Arabs killing Westerners.”

Obviously not all games coming out of the US are anti-Arab/Islam, but we have seen a rise in war games that use a fictional or unnamed Middle-Eastern territory as their theater (Call of Duty 4, Full Spectrum Warrior). I applaud your commitment to not perpetuating a cycle of simulated violence.

My (albeit slightly winking) worry is the culture-pride agenda of the game. My advice: make a good game, then worry about the cultural impact. If it’s worth playing, we’ll take notice. Remember the last time someone made something they said carried the hopes and dreams of their culture and it was awful?