The Trouble with the Arab Gaming Community

by onMay 1, 2013

Yesterday I published a video that exposed two of the things that frustrated me most about the videogame industry in the Arab world: The need to compete, and the fact that you are not deemed an Arab if you do not speak in Arabic. The video is the first of a new feature that I am working on entitled Sparkisodes and that I will be utilizing to express my thoughts and opinions as a gamer working in the industry who has seen his share of shady and unexplained things. Most of my topics, granted, will be of a controversial nature, but that is only because there are things that need to be pointed out for the rest of you who are thinking of diving in to the industry.

Your dreams of playing free games and attending gaming events free of any burdens and stress can stop now. Before you know it, the politics will become a mandatory element for you to deal with on the daily: Do I play this awesome game I just received and review it, or should I generate content for this other game that I’ve had for a week now but haven’t had the energy to pull through? If I do the former I may sadden the PR representative / distributor of the latter. Should I attend that boring event? If I don’t, I would have covered more events for those other guys, forcing these guys to consider not invite me to their next event.

There are many talented individuals in the region, and so much untapped potential it hurts me to think about it.

Regardless, and to get myself back on track, yesterday’s video was me, as I explained on my social media, at my rawest and most fearless. I was aware that people will be divided and hate will ensue as a result/byproduct of its content, but I truly believe that it’s time to be honest and break the layer of diplomacy that I have been forced down. There are a lot of great things that the regional industry provides, including an open field of experimentation as it establishes itself and a plethora of great ideas that are being birthed due to years of global media exposure, but just like green grass, there is a lot of crap lying in its roots.

I myself started off writing the occasional blog entry and generating content for a Lebanese videogame website that was trying to make  money and fame in the fastest way possible. I have no problem with that at all as I believe everything ultimately needs to be monetized, but when you offer mostly mindless and juvenile content just to get a ‘like’ on a facebook post or a retweet, I start equating the initiative with that of the countless facebook pages that offer drivel at the expense of content. I’m not saying ALL their content is tripe, but it just lacks flare to keep up with a growing industry. Soon enough, more people will rise up to the challenge and just being popular does not grant you the cake you are aiming for. How many articles from Polygon have you read in relation to the number of articles you’ve read from the likes of Kotaku & IGN? They, in my opinion are the new and focused industry leaders, and not those other two.

Saving itself from complete damnation, that Lebanese site recently pulled a 180 and embraced the collaboration with multiple members of the industry, citing the ambition to launch a new website as their main goal. Their choice of collaborators is obvious, they are still targeting the same audience, and they will probably generate the same content, but they are open for collaboration and that’s where it all matters. I think.

Competition is a thing of the past and attempting to rule the Savannah on your own these days is wasteful

Competition is a thing of the past and attempting to rule the Savannah on your own these days is wasteful and will get you nowhere. There are many talented individuals in the region, and so much untapped potential it hurts me to think about it. As opposed to pulling it off for ourselves, why not involve the community? Why not collaborate with as many people as is possible and grow as an entity that generates more force than a mecha-fart? Tasteless, I know, but it serves the purpose. We as Region 2 have extended our arms and are more than ready to offer a platform for gamers and curious folk to dip their hands in to the industry without having to go through the trouble and stress that we went through to set ourselves up. Interested in reviewing a game? Jump on board. Excellent at writing and were looking to attend and cover a certain event? We’ll make it happen for you. There are virtually no limits to what ideas we can come up with and perfect together.

Arabic Xbox 360 Controller

For example, Region 2 is in the process of partnering up with ArabicGamers.com who offer awesome journalistic content in Arabic & English  in the same way that we offer awesome and unique entertainment content. Instead of generating our own stories all the time and them attempting to focus on entertainment, we join hands and become stronger together. We cover events for them here, and they do the same for us in the UK. That is what the industry should be about.

The second point I focused on in my video was that of language and our choice to focus on English content vs Arabic content. Many still believe that we opted to go for English as a means to follow a trend, but they fail to see the benefits such a change offers us. First of all, we are not able to generate original written content in Arabic which slowed us down, specially in regards to running our website. Second of all, we have a weekly videogame radio show that broadcasts in English; try to explain ‘that’ to our growing numbers of Arabic-only speaking followers. Speaking of those followers, most of them understand English as much as you and I, but insist that Arabic is the language for Arabs, and even though they watch their movies in English and play their games in English, they refuse to give you an ear for speaking in English.

Viewpoints have differed around that subject and there are fans and followers who still complain that we should go back to generating Arabic content, but none have offered a justified reason for the frustration and their arguments always end up being micro-rants. On the flip-side  a viewer posted something this morning that captured my attention and lay down the first brick towards understanding the essence of the problem:

When you a speak a language that is not our native language you will reach our minds,but when you speak our native language you will reach our hearts.

That, right there, was the single most inspirational thing I have read since this whole fiasco started two or more months ago. Instead of hating and lashing out about my content matter or throwing judgement blindly, this man had me stop what I was doing and consider the alternative. For a second, at least.

Y’see, even if I wanted to generate content in Arabic, I can’t. I just don’t have the written skill to do so, and for someone who’s all about the message and the experience, I would rather utilize a language I am most comfortable in as opposed to sacrifice content for style. Look at Thabit Al Muwaly. Is he any less of an Arab because he generates his content in English? No, he’s just more comfortable pulling it off in English, regardless of his reasons.

Do watch the video (above) if you haven’t already and let me know how you feel towards it.

Embrace change. That is ultimately all I am trying to say.


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