Monday, April 09, 2007

Wikipedia of Gaming

Warning -- some might find this blog post politically charged and perhaps controversial. If the muslim/christian middle-east/west conflict is sensitive for you, you might want to skip this one...

A few days ago I was reading the Globe And Mail and an article on Syrian video game developer -- Afkar Media -- caught my attention. The article spoke about how Afkar Media's games were top sellers throughout the middle east and dealt with subject matter of particular impact for people suffering through the strife of the region. Their most popular title right now is called 'UnderSiege' and "focuses on the lives of a Palestinian family between 1999-2002 during the second Intifada". From their site:
When you live in middle-east you can’t avoid being part of the image, as a development company we believe that we had to do our share of responsibility in telling the story behind this conflict and targeting youngsters who depend on video games and movies (which always tell the counter side) to build their acknowledgment about the world.
I wasn't necessarily drawn to play the game but was very excited by the fact that such a game was being made because, I believe, videogames need the perspective that comes from global collaborators in order to break through some of the limitations that currently plague the industry.

Very few of my friends are still satisfied getting their news from a single source. CNN and the CBC have been replaced in our bookmarks by Google News and Wikipedia. One simply cannot be truly informed about current affairs while limited by the biases and perspectives of a particular news corporation/editor/journalist. Wikipedia gives a less biased view on current events encouraging the democracy of events reporting (still not perfect, but certainly a far deal more fair then Fox News) and google news pulls from so many sources that one can easily cover multiple angles on any given story.

While searching for a link to the Globe and Mail article, I came across an excellent piece on 1up from last September entitled 'Looking for videogames in the Muslim World'. The piece does an excellent job of summarizing the history Islamogaming, videogames developed with a middle-east perspective sharing a common goal: subvert the typical gaming stereotype of Arabs as bad guys by replacing the typical American or European action hero with a recognizably Muslim protagonist.
If videogames are the next Hollywood then we need to be aware of what sort of influence the messages we inject into our games can have on consumers who may be easily manipulated and disassociate their entertainment from fact. I don't think any of us want to see Muslims turned into the one-dimensional token enemy from so many past hollywood movies (thanks to my lovely wife Danielle for the link).

I am not a political person by nature and I'm certainly not one to preach. This topic is much too controversial or complicated for me to change anyone's opinions on through a simple blog post but I very much like the fact that there are those who understand the value of videogames for a communication platform to help spread their own point of view. I especially like it when the message focuses on the dual-sided nature of the conflict at hand and how difficult resolution truly is.

As more 'Game 3.0' services launch and we give more power of expression and authorship to players, we are likely to see more and more instances of both conflict and education within these worlds.

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