Development of Technology and Video Games in the Middle East
By: Anthony Bayyouk / Arab America Contributing Writer
Video games and social media have become very popular across the Arab World. Technology saw a huge influx during the Arab Spring when it was used to organize protests and show the world what was happening in the Middle East. With the rise of technology and video games, there has also been some backfire. Governments have put regulations on the internet, and citizens are forced to use proxies.
A famous Persian-American has created video games that were very popular in Iran. Iran saw the games as a negative portrait of the nation. Other problems have also delayed the Arab World’s involvement in video games. Piracy is a big reason corporations avoid the Arab World. 59% of video games sold in the Arab World are illegal copies.
The use of the internet and social media has created many civil rights issues. Saudi Arabia has been controlling the internet for decades and has put pressure on journalists to only write positively about the Kingdom. In Egypt, when the Mubarak regime turned off the internet, Egyptians took it as a direct attack to their freedom. Social media has also brought attention to civil rights issues. Blogs in the MENA have attracted attention to the Middle East conflict.
Gaming is popular among Arab nations, specifically Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf states. The UAE hosted its first gaming expo in 2007, where over a hundred companies and 50 nations attended. The expo introduced new video games and technology and brought investors from all over the world. The gaming market in the Middle East is exceeding growth rates and is expected to hit 4.4 billion by 2022. Many video game companies want to sell their products in the MENA, but issues involving piracy have scared them away. In 2009, 600,000 copies of FIFA were sold in the Arab World; of those 600,000 copies, only 9,000 were legal. In an attempt to shame nations for piracy. The US released a list of nations across the world that fail to prevent intellectual theft.
Governments across the Arab World have a hard time adjusting to the power of the internet. Saudi Arabia is most famous for limiting its citizens’ access to the internet. Saudi Arabia started to patrol and surveillance the internet in 1998, and by 2010, they had blocked 400,00 websites ranging from pornography to politics. To access blocked sites, people use a proxy.
During the Arab Spring, the internet was used to organize and spread information about the protest. The Egyptians were most famous for organizing protests over Facebook and Whatsapp. The Mubarak regime thought turning off the internet would stop the protest. Before Mubarak turned off the internet around 20,000 people would attend the protest, the day he turned it off 200,000 people went to the streets to protest, leading to the end of his presidency.
The internet has also been used negatively. Terrorist groups have used the internet to scare the world. ISIS has uploaded killings on the internet. Chat rooms have been created to teach people how to make bombs and carry out attacks.
The development of technology has created a moral dilemma among Lebanese Muslim teens. Muslim teens constantly come face to face with things that are socially acceptable but not accepted religiously. Muslims also have different viewpoints on what is forbidden. For example, One Muslim may say it is okay to go to a bar as long as they don’t drink, and other Muslims may say it is forbidden to go to a bar in the first place.
Beirut is seen as a very polarized city. The city is split into Muslim and Christian communities and further split by Shia and Sunni. Teens in Dahiya, a southern neighborhood of Beirut are facing a moral dilemma with pop culture, specifically music. Hezbollah’s influence on Dahiya is more prevalent compared to other parts of Lebanon. Hezbollah itself does not enforce any regulations on Dahiya.
Technology and Middle East globalization are directly related to the power of social media. Arabs have been able to document and share major events with the world. The internet was a shield for the Arabs during the Arab Spring. Palestinians use social media every day to share the harsh treatment they face under Israeli Occupation.
The gaming industry was not surprising to read about. Arabs have all the same materialistic items westerners have; it’s just a matter of affording it. The UAE hosting a gaming expo is genius because it’s an unproblematic way to globalize the Middle East. Overall the Middle East has adapted to technology pretty well, but there are still restrictions on the government level that need to be fixed.
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