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A fascinating look at video games' impact on Iraqi youth
A fascinating look at video games' impact on Iraqi youth
November 14, 2013 | By Kris Graft

November 14, 2013 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

Simon Parkin is one of the most talented journalists writing about video games today. In his latest piece, published in The New Yorker, Parkin takes a fascinating look at how video games have changed the lives -- even saved the lives -- of young Iraqis.

As violent as the streets of Iraq can be, many young Iraqis find solace in militaristic first-person shooters. "We have been through so much because of terror," said one 25-year-old interviewee. "Shooting terrorists in a game is cathartic. We can have our revenge in some small way."

Read the rest of Parkin's article on The New Yorker.

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Michael Joseph
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One could read that article titled "The Video-Game Invasion of Iraq" and conclude "If you live in a war zone or completely dysfunctional society, the benefits of playing games may finally clearly outweigh any potential harm."

I noticed that the article didn't describe how many hours per week he plays. It must be a ton because he's apparently got "forty-two thousand kills to his name." How's he doing in school? Does he even go to school?

Despite assurances to the contrary, the article paints video games in Iraq as pacifiers, diversions, social life replacements, friend substitutes like volleyballs named Wilson or companion cubes.

The availability of substitutes for real life social interaction is good, but their necessity is not.

I'm also skeptical about the benefits of western cultural dissemination through combat and war games. I doubt we can even be sure how young people like Yousif Mohammed _really_ feel about playing as American soldiers in video games with levels that feature cities, towns, and villages that resemble ones in their country. Eleven years is a long time to be living in heavily destabilized society. Yousif is fortunate to come from a middle class family, but I hope he doesn't squander whatever opportunities he has by trying to double his virtual kill count. Maybe Yousif will become a video game developer someday and help grow the gamedev community there.

Rather than hopeful, I found the New Yorker article to be profoundly sad and a bit tone deaf.

Click the "play" button at the bottom of the graph. You can check the boxes for each country that you want the name to be rendered. Iraq has been mostly stagnant over the last 60 years with respect to it's rank amongst other countries.

Haseeb Anwer
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And you pretty much said what I thought after reading the post. War isn't pretty and its side effects are commutatively destructive at the same time.

Christiaan Moleman
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I thought it was a good article. I read it as a ray of light in an otherwise bleak situation (especially the bit about empathy for other cultures via play), but what do I know?