How video games open the door to friendship during lockdown

How video games open the door to friendship during lockdown
To some Saudis, playing online video games is a way of building meaningful friendships. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 14 May 2020

How video games open the door to friendship during lockdown

How video games open the door to friendship during lockdown
  • Saudi gamers who consider the virtual world a wholesome place to socialize

JEDDAH: For years, video games have been a great way to pass one’s time and keep people connected. Now, amid global coronavirus restrictions, online gaming is helping millions of people stuck at home to maintain and build relations.

With most of the world forced to maintain social distancing, the inherently borderless nature of gaming is giving new meaning to the term “socializing.”

Gaming is often viewed as anti-social but is quite the opposite for many Saudi gamers who consider the virtual world a wholesome place to socialize and build meaningful friendships through video games.

Fatemah Khalil, 23, a Saudi game developer, said that her online friendships started helping other players through games.

“I love massively multiplayer online role-playing games because they are varied and have an almost open world,” she told Arab News.

“I got to know people from Japan and some Arab cities. It started by helping each other in the game and now they are my friends. Some of them I talk to daily outside the game and some have become my best friends.”

Khalil agrees that she now has more time to communicate with online friends and try out new games, while e-meeting new people as well.

The connections and friendships created in the gaming world have helped the young game developer who has learned a lot from her experience during the lockdown.

 “I see it as a chance to study and play together. It is easier for me to learn ideas and aspects of the game preferred by many players,” she added.

Ibrahim Al-Khudayri, a 27-year-old Saudi who works as a freelancer, said that he had made good friends on VRChat during the lockdown.

“When it comes down to how we become friends on video games, it’s always random, so either I send the other person a friend request or I’ll be the one who receives it,” he said.

Saudi software developer Shahad Al-Sayari, 23, said that she met “kind and helpful” gamers who allowed her to share their server during the lockdown.

Video games are not only a good way to stay entertained, but also can be a great group activity since communication is key, especially in cooperative games.

“Recently, I made a number of friendships with people from Ukraine, whom I met for the first time in the game ARK: Survival Evolved,” she said.

“I can say that they are more than wonderful friends, beginning with the fact that they let me play on their server without charge because the game system requires players to participate in a server and with a monthly fee. I play for free and nothing was asked of me, and even when I asked to pay the shared fee, they didn’t allow me to.”

Al-Sayari and her new online friends watch over each other’s online properties when one is offline.

She added: “They are all well versed in the game and always give me advice, rare weapons and equipment.”


Post revolution, Sudanese cinema struggles to find recognition at home

Post revolution, Sudanese cinema struggles to find recognition at home
Talal Afifi, director of the Khartoum-based Sudan Film Factory program. (Supplied)
Updated 35 min 35 sec ago

Post revolution, Sudanese cinema struggles to find recognition at home

Post revolution, Sudanese cinema struggles to find recognition at home
  • Bashir’s government aborted all cultural and artistic initiatives and fought ... diversity and freedom of opinion, says Talal Afifi, director of the Khartoum-based Sudan Film Factory program

CAIRO: Sudanese filmmakers who celebrated the end of stifling restrictions following the ouster of autocrat Omar Bashir have won multiple international awards but are yet to enjoy the same recognition at home.
Cinema languished in the North African country through three decades of authoritarian rule by Bashir.
But Sudanese took to the streets to demand freedom, peace and social justice, and Bashir’s ironfisted rule came to an end in a palace coup by the army in April 2019.
“We started realizing how much our society needs our dreams,” said director Amjad Abou Alala.
His 2019 film “You Will Die at Twenty” was both Sudan’s first Oscar entry and the first Sudanese film broadcast on Netflix, winning prizes at international film festivals including Italy’s Venice and Egypt’s El Gouna.
The film tells the story of a young man a mystic predicts will die at age 20. As Sudan undergoes a precarious political transition, the country’s filmmakers have found more space to operate, Alala said.
Young filmmakers act “without the complexes, the lack of self-confidence or the frustration that we suffered in previous generations,” he added.
Talal Afifi, director of the Khartoum-based Sudan Film Factory program, has trained hundreds of young people in filmmaking.
Bashir’s government “aborted all cultural and artistic initiatives and fought ... diversity and freedom of opinion, through policies of alleged Islamization and Arabization,” he said.
Afifi began work long before the 2019 revolution, with advances in digital camera technology making filmmaking far more accessible.
The filmmaker attended a 2008 short film festival in Munich, where the winning film — an Iraqi documentary shot on a handy-cam — inspired him to return home and set up a training center and production house.
In the past decades, the Film Factory has organized some 30 screenwriting, directing and editing workshops — and produced more than 60 short films, honored in international festivals from Brazil to Japan.
Afifi says the roots of Sudan’s innovative cinema was born from the “hard work dating from before” Bashir’s overthrow, when many cinemas were closed.
Today, cinemas are allowed — big-budget Hollywood films, as well as Indian and Egyptian movies are popular — but moves to reopen them have been frustrated by restrictions to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Sudanese National Museum organized screenings of films, including “You Will Die at Twenty,” but they were not screened in large theaters.
Filmmakers still face challenges. Hajjooj Kuka, director of the acclaimed 2014 “Beats of the Antonov” was jailed for two months last year for causing a “public nuisance” — for what he said was an acting workshop.
Other Sudanese films have also garnered international attention, including the 2019 documentary “Talking About Trees” by Suhaib Gasmelbari, which tells the story of four elderly Sudanese filmmakers with a passion for movies.
The quartet and their “Sudanese Film Club” work to reopen an open-air cinema in Omdurman, the city across the Nile from the capital Khartoum.