How can you buy a console game that is brand new for a little over $1? Well it could be some crazy sale to offload some inventory, or it could be the company selling these allegedly new games is engaging in piracy - or at the bare minimum allowing a third-party reseller to do so while it looks the other way. That's the case over at Kaymu.PK, an online store owned by Rocket Internet, an international Internet service provider in over 31 countries.
Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada is asking for feedback on the next title in Namco Bandai's long-running fighting game series. In a Facebook post Harada showed off some early designs for a "Arab" character.
A British advocacy group is criticizing games on Google Play and Facebook that glorify or minimize the tragedies surrounding the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The group, Council for Arab British Understanding, said in a statement to the BBC that these games glorify violence and normalize the conflict.
An interestting news story from The National details the great lengths that French publisher Ubisoft is going to in order to better serve the video games market in the Middle East. Through efforts at its Abu Dhabi office - which was opened in 2011 - Ubisoft hopes to learn more about the culture and apply it to some of its top titles.
The Taliban apparently doesn't like England's Prince Harry. Big shock there, right? But the group accused of various attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and other activities in Pakistan says that Prince Harry has a mental illness. Prince Harry returned from a four-month deployment in Afghanistan Monday, and has been conducting a series of interviews with the British press.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Medal of Honor: Warfighter have been banned in Pakistan by the All Pakistan CD, DVD, Audio Cassette Traders and Manufacturers Association (APCDACTM). The group issued a boycott of the games because they depict Pakistan and the country’s intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence, as supporting terrorist group l Qaeda and jihadist organizations.
The circular handed out to shop owner members reads:
Apparently Israel Defence Forces have decided to "gamify" their website to encourage viewers to promote the content, using a virtual game that awards visitors with badges and points for sharing pages through other social media sites. The gamification of the site actually happened way back in July but had a spotlight shined upon it today in this GameSpot Australia report.
The Xbox 360 will finally launch in Israel on Nov. 21, according to an announcement made by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in Tel Aviv. Ballmer was there to promote the new Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 almost seven years ago in North America, Japan and Europe in 2005 before releasing to the rest of the world between 2006 - 2008. Microsoft made the decision to not release the console in parts of the Middle East.
The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Modern Warfare 3 map, Favela has been yanked from multiplayer playlists, according to this The Escapist report and the reason for it being is removed is supposedly because of "Muslim gamers" objecting to it.
The Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) issued a brief statement expressing their sorrow for the loss of U.S. foreign service officer Sean Smith, who died when the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by an angry mob protesting a film that negatively portrayed the Prophet Mohammad.
Talking Points Memo has an interesting article on how the news broke of Sean Smith’s death in Benghazi, Libya. The foreign service officer was an avid EVE Online player who went by the name "Vile Rat" in-game. It was within that community that news of Smith's death first surfaced.
The Gaming Alliance Middle East (which is made up of Microsoft Xbox Gulf, Sony Gulf - PlayStation Division, Pluto Games and Red Entertainment Distribution, among others) announced this week that its fifth annual GAMES event will take place in Dubai on September 20 at the Dubai Festival City. Admission for the event is free.
We ignore the taboo of the number 13 to present you with Episode 13 of the Super Podcast Action Committee. We have no fear in us. This week Andrew Eisen and E. Zachary Knight talk about Gamers Against Bigotry, GameStop's plans for selling used digital games in Europe, the Humble Music Bundle, and Gamasutra's article about developers working in war-torn countries.
IGN Entertainment and Middle Eastern media company T-Break Media have launched IGN Middle East, a website dedicated to gaming that will serve up game and entertainment content to an estimated audience of 340 million people in 15 countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, and Morocco.
According to this Techland report, Pakistan’s military is building its own homegrown version of the iPad. The project is apparently a joint effort by the military using Pakistani engineering and Chinese hardware to be sold to consumers in the country. The device is being developed at an air force base in Kamra in northern Pakistan, alongside defense projects.
Persian Gulf-based Red Stallion Interactive officially announced its existence this week and detailed its plan to target Middle-Eastern markets with game content for mobile platforms and PC. The company's plan is to create original content and games based on original IP's that is tailored to the Arab culture.
As part of the Game Developers Conference Localization Summit, Corbomite Games CEO Oded Sharon will discuss the challenges and benefits of working in the Middle East games market. Another unnamed speaker from the region will join Sharon.
Since the Middle East spans over 23 countries with more than 75 million internet users it is a growing and significant market untapped by most game developers. With localized titles selling significantly more in the region, it makes sense that the key to breaking into the Middle East is about catering to the local dialect.
A columnist for the United Arab Emirates-based Khaleej Times has penned an opinion piece examining the subject of how Western made games impact (and depict) Middle Easterners.
Aijaz Zaka Syed begins by noting that his son’s favorite games are of a violent nature, and typically originate “in the land of the free." Such games are shaped by “the simplistic, With-Us or-Against-Us doctrine propounded by, you know who.”
The author tries to remind his son that the action happening on the screen is “just a game,” and that “things are not what they seem to be in the movies and videogames,” but he worries about the impression the games might be having on his off spring.
Media firm Rubicon Group Holding has partnered with Modern Electronics Co. Ltd., the sole distributor of Sony products in Saudi Arabia, in order to localize content appearing on various Sony platforms for Middle East users.
United Arab Emirates publication The National (thanks The Escapist) details the plans, which will include dubbing "certain games” into Arabic, adding Arabian characters and eliminating scenes that could run afoul of censors. Rubicon Executive Director Ghassan Ayoubi explained, “Those games that are extra-violent, or have sensitive issues for the region, will be edited for content.”
GamesLatest series of articles on game development in the Middle East previously focused on Syria. The latest installment takes us on a tour of game makers in Lebanon and Jordan.
One of the first Lebanese-developed games was 2003’s Special Force, which focused on the fight between Hezbollah and Israel over occupying forces in Lebanon. The article claims that Hezbollah was taken with the game, and adopted it as its own, eventually merging it into its propaganda machine. While Hezbollah’s adoption of the game caused it to be banned in some Middle East countries, it did call attention the game, allowing the developers to create a sequel.
Syria is a country of approximately 22.0 million people, but it’s not often thought of as a center of game development.
While the country’s origins in game development are only about a dozen years old, the country has produced its fair share of videogames, the history of which are detailed in an article on GamesLatest, penned by Syrian game developer Radwan Kasmiya.
Kasmiya pins the delay in Syrian game development taking off on “serious” Arab developers generally gravitating towards creating corporate applications in order to make ends meet. This situation, in turn, helped to foster Syria’s independent gaming community, of which Kasmiya was a member—he released a game called War 73 in 1999, which centered on the Arab-Israeli conflicts.
Protests held in virtual spaces such as Second Life have real-world political value, according to international projects lobbysist Max Burns, who pens an op-ed for Foreign Policy in Focus.
Paying particular attention to SL demonstrations against the Iranian government's post-election crackdown against opponents of the Ahmadinejad regime, Burns writes:
The active Iranian protest community in Second Life is more than a curiosity, and downplaying the importance of virtual societies in our political and social lives... understates the power of synthetic worlds in creating viable social movements...
Authoritarian governments that repress real-world demonstrations have difficulty doing the same in the synthetic world. Virtual rallies are so hard to shut off because the mechanics of virtual protest are fluid...
Indeed, the efforts of real-world governments to restrict the Internet usage of virtual protesters appears to strengthen the rallies as the online community responds to what it views as an offense against expression. So, for instance, Second Life's virtual protests continued — and even increased in scale — after real-world Iranians started to mysteriously disappear from the synthetic world...
Bruce on Games takes a look at the video game as propaganda.
While blogger Bruce Everiss concludes that games have generally been ignored for propaganda purposes, he argues this is because government officials are basically old school types:
The reason we have been left alone is quite obvious. Games are just another media, albeit a technically superior media. But the people with all the power, the politicians and journalists, don’t realise this because mostly they just don’t understand video games at all. We see this in the way they blame video games for violence in society when the opposite is true. And now that ignorance is protecting video game players from propaganda.
GP: we're not so sure we agree, given that a new issue-oriented Flash game pops up about once a week on the web.
At any rate, Bruce has identified a list of propaganda games. Among others they include several PC mods produced by Islamic extremists, the Religious Right's Left Behind, and the Defense Department's controversial America's Army, of which Bruce is clearly not a fan:
America’s Army is the big one. A series of games designed to foster the American Army view of the world on an unsuspecting public and also to work as a recruitment tool. This has been a remarkable success at promoting gung ho American militarism.
The PlayStation 3 may be struggling in major consumer markets, but Middle Eastern gamers apparently love Sony's Blu-Ray equipped console.
Emirates Business 24/7 reports that the Middle East enjoys the highest level of PS3 sales among developing countries. SCEE exec Jim Ryan commented:
The PS3... has a strong market in the Middle East. The sales have been disproportionately strong in the Middle East and Africa... and parts of Asia, especially in the May-June-July period.
At least 20,000 to 25,000 PS3s have been sold in developing countries this year and 80 per cent of that was in the Middle East... In other emerging countries such as Iran and Africa it's entry-level machines like the PS2 which... are moving fast.
The high summer temperatures, combined with the economic downturn, have encouraged [Middle Eastern] users to stay at home, which is another major driver of sales.
Despite the PS3's relative success, gamers in the Middle Eastern market shouldn't expect much in the way of culturally familiar games on the system, Ryan said:
Without too much of Arabic content in games, sales figures are positive. Unless gaming companies see big returns from the localisation or Arabisation of content there will be no investment made on that front.
Emirates Business 24/7 reports that the total Middle Eastern gaming market for systems and software is $750,000 million, with at least a third of that amount controlled by Sony.
The post-election tumult in Iran has taken a toll in Second Life, where Iranian members have been notably absent in recent day, reports New World Notes:
When the widespread protest... erupted last weekend, I went searching Second Life for Residents who lived in that country. According to Linden demographic stats published last year... there were over a hundred of them then, logging into Second Life on a regular basis...
Linden spokesman Peter Linden confirmed to me last night, "[W]e've not seen any log-ins from Iran." ...the utter lack of Iranian log-ins in the last few days suggests that Second Life is being blocked, or that Internet connectivity has become so degraded in that country, it's shut down by default...
For the moment, however, it is probably better that Iranians' Internet activity center on Twitter and other such tools.
Here at GamePolitics we lay no claim to understanding the complexities of Lebanese politics.
But we do note that Lebanon-based WixelStudios has launched what it says is the first use of games for a political campaign in the troubled nation. From the company's website:
For the first time in Lebanon, games are used as an election propaganda! ...
Wixel Studios produced an interactive animated documentary for the Liberty Front... in addition to the documentaries you will find four games accompanying to the stories.
The four browser-based mini-games, which are nicely varied in presentation, involve themes in which the player does battle with Syrian forces. Based on its Wikipedia entry, Lebanon's dealings with Syria is a prime concern of the Liberty Front.
Check out the games here.
A new first-person shooter which its publisher describes as "hysterical" and "outrageous" drops players into a fight with virtual Iranian forces; its ultimate mission is a face-off with Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Durka 3D: Quest for Ahmadinejad takes its name from the faux Farsi spoken by the puppet characters of the 2004 comedy film Team America: World Police. A press release from Petrilla Entertainment describes the downloadable PC game:
Durka 3D: The Fall of Ahmadinejad is a full-fledged fast-action shooter that lets the player hunt down the Iranian dictator...
Scenes include bunkers filled with crates labeled "Not a crate destined for Iraqi insurgents," or missiles that say "Made in Russia," as well as battles where the enemy hurls insults at you in gibberish...
Designer Jesse Petrilla's last effort was Quest for Saddam, an FPS hunt for the late Iraqi dictator. Islamic radicals subsequently used the Quest for Saddam engine to create a video game riposte, Night of Bush Capturing, which was widely criticized in the West. Given the history, it seems likely that Durka 3D will spark criticism from Iran, if not another instance of turnabout.
Commenting on his game via press release, Petrilla said:
Durka 3D goes beyond the politics surrounding the conflict. I created Durka 3D to attack a tyrant with Saturday Night Live type satire to relieve some of the stress many of us share.
GameCulture has more.
With an increasing emphasis on fantasy entertainment provided by mobile phone games, comic books and TV, there is some hope that radicalism will become a less attractive path for Islamic youth.
Wael El-Zanaty, an exec with the Egyptian firm behind cell phone game Bab el-Hara, told the Associated Press:
The best thing about this game is that this is something that Arabs can relate to. It’s about part of [Arab] history — the resistance to the French occupation [of Syria]... We wanted something that reflected our culture... developed with an Arab perspective.
The AP explains:
The Arab world’s private sector is leading a push to provide Muslim and Arab youth with homegrown heroes, as a bulwark against the trend toward radical Islam throughout the Middle East.
Clearly, superheroes won’t offset all the problems that stoke radicalism — anger at corrupt Arab regimes and at Israel over its treatment of Palestinians — but El-Zanaty said he hoped these pop culture characters could give young people a positive image of themselves as Arabs.
Meanwhile, Naif al-Mutawa, publisher of The 99 comic book superhero series, offered his view on how media can help deliver positive role models for Arab youth:
Our [Islamic] story has become [more] about what not to do, than about what to do. I wanted to … go back to the same sources others have pulled out a lot of negative ideas from, and pull out positive, tolerant, multicultural, accepting ideas.
I’m not trying to sell religion here. I’m trying to sell the idea that at the values level, we’re all the same...’ I really think that we [Arabs] limit ourselves with this catastrophic thinking that the world is controlled by others and there is nothing we can do. I think this is rubbish.
Mobile phone apps may be the ideal platform upon which to deliver the message, said Ayman Shoukry of the Good News Group:
[In Egypt alone] there are 40 million mobiles. We don’t have 40 million [other types of] devices anywhere in Egypt."
In a 2006 interview with Kuwait TV, an Islamic religious leader issued a call for computer games which require players to "slaughter Jews."
We don't have the exact air date of the video at left, although a Washington Post article from September of 2006 references the video.
We're presenting it now because this is the first time that GP has located the actual footage. Among Imam Nabil Al Awadi's remarks:
As their games corrupt our morals, now they are making games with their current wars.
Their wars, that are not Islamic, in Islamic countries have turned into a computer games. When the child plays, he adopts a character that is not Islamic, that kills Muslims.
Why, gentlemen, should it not be the opposite? Why can't we produce a few games like these? Why can't we make games that instead of teaching children how to slaughter the Muslims, they can teach them how to free the Al-Aqsa mosque. The child will play and slaughter Jews and others.
Not only children, but adults too, will kill heretics and free the Al Aqsa mosque. There are games with pit battles, it's nice!
Along with Al Awadi's comments, a narrator shows clips and explains Islamic-themed battle games.
GP: While the clip is somewhat dated, it shows the extent to which video games are seen by some as a vehicle to politicize - and militarize - youth.