By far, my favorite talk of Games for Change so far was The Arab World and Its Digital Now. Honestly, we rarely get to hear much about the Arab world in the “geek world.” Sure, there have always been some stereotypical, token characters, but how many really brought out a true representation? Often, these narratives are shaped by non-Arab voices and misrepresent a distant, complex culture.
“Not me, not the Arab world.”
His Highness Prince Fahad Al-Saud of Saudia Arabia spoke with a beautiful eloquence and passion about the changing perceptions of the Arab world, particularly the stereotypes and digital presence. He calls the changes of the Arab digital presence an “artistic renaissance.” HH Prince Fahad Al-Saud wants to reclaim their identity from “the other.”
It is tick mark in a box that describes a person. For most, those tick marks are nothing more than a single glance. But, what happens when you are described not even as white or black, not even as Hispanic or Pacific Islander, but other. You are relegated to a tertiary status, a merely “other.” HH Prince Fahad Al-Saud is changing this idea and taking “the other” and making it into a living breathing culture through NA3M Games. “There is no value in attaching the label of ‘other’ when all are seeking progress.”
Abeer is the eye of the storm in this “artistic renaissance.” She is a normal woman with normal dreams. She wanted to be a game developer. Now, in the US, this might not be strange, but in the Middle East this is something extraordinary. Her dreams broke away from the cultural norms, they defied her parents, and they became real. She, like so many others, is the heart of NA3M’s message. Yes.
NA3M (New Arab Media) means yes in Arabic; a testament to their belief that “yes, you can do anything you want.” Their mission is to break down stereotypes and rebuild them into positive cultural aspects. By doing this they want to empower people and give them “an opportunity to share their voice, their truth.” NA3M is creating mobile games which share that Arabic voice. Their games have taken common stereotypes and tropes and turned them on their head. They are breaking down the stereotypes and making them into games which embrace and teach Arab culture with localized humor.
“A lack of diversity is dangerous. Seek balance, empowerment, and authenticity in storytelling.”
Saudi Girls Revolution (SGR) is NA3M’s next big project. A game set in a post-apocalyptic Arab world. Women and girls are sent to concentration camps. You play as a girl who has escaped and is fighting against the powers—what will you do?
Quotes are from @ HH Prince Fahad Al-Saud