Why Do They (Virtually) Hate Us?


If you're a Muslim gamer, and the best shooters on the market (not counting the WWII games) all pit heroic Americans against the swarthy Middle Eastern Other, what do you do? Suck it up and play the games? Or design a game with your kind of heroes?

"UnderAsh," released by Afkar Media in 2002, views the first intifada from the eyes of Ahmad, a Palestinian teenager resisting the Israeli occupation. Last year a sequel was released. A teaser to "UnderSiege," which tells the stories of five Palestinian families during the second intifada, shows a Palestinian teenager being shot on the street; an Israeli soldier appears to pound him with a concrete block seconds later. "Our games are not propaganda," Kasmiya says. "Our games are a reflection of our history—past or present. The fact is, most movies, most TV shows, most video games put Muslims in a bad light, so we have to try to tell our side of the story."

"UnderAsh" is just the least jarring game in a survey of Islamic games with violent themes—other hits include "Quest for Bush," "Jihad Growing Up," "Americans' Hell" and "Bush Hunted Like a Rat." (Jose Antonio Vargas' not-at-all-phoned-in description of the game: "In the final stage, you fight Bush.") Those explicitly anti-Bush games got some "get me my handkerchief" coverage last month, but games like "UnderAsh" are inherently more interesting—they're the creations of fed-up Muslim nerds, not propagandizing Islamists. They've got more in common with Mecca Cola than "Ethnic Cleansing." That is, they're organic expressions of frustration from nerds with a lot of free time, and they're the mirror images of Saddam and Osama-slaughtering games profiled later in the Post's roundup.

Back in 2005, Ronald Bailey offered some thoughts on video violence.