Book Project on Video Games and Gaming Communities in the Middle East
The Middle East is quickly becoming one of the most robust gaming markets in the world. As more regional developers seek to create video and computer games grounded in local histories and cultures, gaming and gaming communities represent important yet under-researched sites for theoretical and empirical inquiry into how citizens and governments are negotiating the pressures of globalization within the context of national identities and norms. This monograph (in progress) will engage gamers, educators, designers and producers through fieldwork in Lebanon, Qatar, Jordan, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia in order to explore how video and computer games mediate issues of sociality, economy, gender and politics in the region.
This interdisciplinary research project has three specific goals. The first is to analyze and evaluate the political economy of gaming in the Middle East through an evaluation of gaming markets, gaming conventions, and local distribution, and how these dynamics are affected by state participation, labor relations, and capital flows. The second is to consider how video games and computer simulations are being incorporated into national institutional programs, particularly in the areas of security and education. Here I am interested in the development of digital game-based learning that adapts serious games to support police training and public awareness campaigns, as well as how game-based learning in national educational contexts inspires particular kinds of student engagements with and experiences of national and global community. The third goal is to understand how players and developers use video games as expressive social and cultural artifacts to construct their worlds in and through the practice of gaming. I am particularly interested in how women’s participation in gaming communities has implications for thinking about how new media and digital technologies are affecting gender dynamics in these countries beyond conventional understandings of social movements, and am drawn to what I see as a connection between the rising popularity of gaming and gaming communities as spaces of leisure and professional development for women, and women’s strong presence in STEM and computer science-related fields in the Gulf. The focus on the Gulf is also important for theorizing the use of gaming in state-led projects on a global scale, as these countries are emerging as innovators in the incorporation of games into a range of national agendas from pre-school education to the monitoring of health conditions of foreign laborers.
Through this research I hope to develop a greater understanding of the impact of gaming in a regional context, and also explore new inquiries into cross-regional and cross-cultural media practices, as online gaming communities and the influence of international gaming markets make video and computer games a distinctly transnational medium.
The project is currently under consideration for a Fulbright research award.