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The West Bank has its first game developer
The West Bank has its first game developer
August 26, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

August 26, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
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    7 comments
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Business/Marketing



"I truly believe that Palestinians are very innovative and out-of-the-box thinkers. It’s something that is required in our day-to-day life, and I’m certain that, when given the chance, this makes our games different."
- Khaled Abu Al Kheir, developer at PinchPoint

Game developers can develop games everywhere -- even war-torn, disputed territories. In a new New Yorker profile, Simon Parkin speaks to PinchPoint, the development studio behind Spermania, a cartoony (if slightly ribald) new mobile game.

The article tells the tale of game fans who grew up to be game developers -- nothing special about that, except perhaps the circumstances. The studio is in the West Bank, a territory that is disputed between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the first venture-backed, Palestinian game studio, according to CEO Khaled Abu Al Kheir.

Thanks to tensions with Israel during his childhood, says Kheir, "I played more video games thereafter because I had so much more free time. School was often shut, and there were widespread curfews. It kept me indoors, and I became a much more dedicated game player."

The story is, thus, a rare look at the first blossoming of a game industry amidst turmoil -- but it's not truly unique. Two years ago, Gamasutra took a closer look at studios in Syria, Lebanon, El Salvador, and Egypt.


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Comments


taylor brown
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really, "disputed" territories? The High Court of Israel, the US State Department, and a mountain of UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions (eg the rest of the world) confirms and affirms that the territory is occupied, not disputed. So does the International Committee of the Red Cross and the American Society of International Law. The term "occupation" is not a political position or an accusation, it's a legal description of fact regardless of whatever colloquial connotations it may have. It's definition is found in Article 42 of the Hague Regulations which states that a “territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army”. Kheir's comments above that he has been forced to stay inside under curfew clearly demonstrates who the authority is in the WB. The only political entity in the world that denies the existence of the occupation is the government of Israel. You are either dishonest or uninformed, Mr. Nutt.

Terry Matthes
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I don't think Christian Nutt is dishonest or uninformed. You took issue with a single sentence in a short article because you are obviously hyper aware of the issues between Israel and Palestine. Your post is even informative, but the polarized tone in the last sentence is unwarranted. This is not The Globe and Mail, it's an online publication trying to share some game development stories.

taylor brown
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I still think Mr. Nutt should change his language. What I said was that the WB is occupied not "disputed territory". This is a simple fact conveyed in a single sentence. I'd hardly call this being "hyper aware". The New Yorker article explicitly mentions the "Israeli occupation" by the way. If Mr. Nutt wants to write an article about the nascent Palestinian video game industry, then he ought to be aware of simple facts that pertain to the Palestinian society/economy and show respect for the subject matter by not belittling the Palestinians by denying that Israeli's oppressive occupation doesn't exist, forget not even mentioning that this occupation has something to do with the belated development of a video games industry in Palestine. If you think I'm being "polarizing" or an "unwarranted tone", maybe so, but lets give the devs at PinchPoint an email and ask them how they feel about Mr. Nutt writing an article about their game but referring to the Israeli occupation as a territorial dispute.

Michael Joseph
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“We are used to daily struggles and have a keen awareness of life’s fragility. That brings with it a resolution to make things work in the face of adversity, to persevere and triumph, even against the most overwhelming odds. ”
--
I wonder if that statement was intentionally designed to parallel the journey of their game's protagonist.

Joe: What do you think Doctor Freud?

Doctor Freud: Vell... clearly zer ist an emotional duality between ze determination unt resolve to persevere against all odds to reach an ultimate goal unt between ze fear of death, destruction and total annihilation zat may be ze price of zer relentless pursuit. But for ze sperm, no risk is too great unt no price is too high.

Joe: I see. Fortunately human beings aren't like the single minded sperm.

Doctor Freud: Sometimes I vonder. Lot's of folks are still getting shtupped.

Kenneth Blaney
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Snark aside, there might be a chicken/egg thing going on here. Did they say that because of the game, or did they make the game because that's what they think?

Michael Joseph
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I figured if one is going to attempt armchair psychoanalysis, it's best to just turn it into a joke. It still gets people thinking about this peculiar analogy they made themselves. And a game about sperm gives a free excuse to not behave seriously.

taylor brown
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I just want to point out something interesting that I imagine a good number of people missed when reading the full New Yorker article by Simon Parkin. Mr. Kheir, says that

“The irony is that I played more video games thereafter because I had so much more free time. School was often shut, and there were widespread curfews. It kept me indoors, and I became a much more dedicated game player.”

Note how the curfews "kept [him] indoors" and thus he "became" a game player. E.g. something in his life changed because of the curfew regime. Compare this to what the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights B'Tselem says about curfews:

"Prolonged curfew affects all areas of life. The major effects are destruction to the economic infrastructure, loss of sources of income, malnutrition, stress from confinement to home, and grave harm to the education, health, and welfare systems." ( http://www.btselem.org/freedom_of_movement/curfew )

You see, this is the point of curfews, it is designed to obstruct and change your daily life. Also these curfews are often imposed on the entirety of a population of almost 2 million Palestinians by military force. Imagine soldiers walking down your street with tanks and jeeps arresting and occasionally killing anyone (19 Palestinians as of 2002) that leaves their home. That's what a military curfew is. Here ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNWq8mvmU3k ) you can listen to former Israeli Defence soldiers talking about their duties when conducting curfews in the West Bank or instead watch the curfew in action ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbRtf8_kin8 ). I'm sorry if this is not the place to bring this to light, but people seriously need to wake up here and start paying attention to what's happening in Palestine. I think Mr. Nutt deserves credit for at least bringing up the topic of WB on Gamasutra.


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