x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

An alternative reality

A new generation of Arab designers are creating video games with a very Middle-Eastern flavour

Video games are very popular among young Arabs. Boys and girls - and those much older - can spend hours in their homes or in internet cafes playing computer games, some designed for consoles, some played across the internet. The market for games in the Middle East could be worth as much as US$2bn annually.

Many of the games, however, are designed by western or Japanese companies and some do not reflect Islamic values or they represent the Arab world negatively. One popular game, Call of Duty, was amended by the company after controversy emerged at Quranic writing depicted hanging in a bathroom. Arab designers are responding by creating their own content, such as Knights of Glory, a massive online game set during the Arab conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries.

In the UAE, where the video game industry is growing at a rapid pace, the first class of computer-game design graduates will finish their training in twofour54's Gaming Academy in few weeks. And the country will be hosting a large electronic football games competition this Ramadan. Creating video games can be empowering for Arab youth considering how powerful these games can be in changing attitudes. And the new generation of Arabs seem to understand this very well.