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Arabs Got Game–And A Global Launch From Sony

Between the genius that created 1,001 Nights and the ignorance that pictures the Arab World as one big desert is a vast imagination gap that Quirkat is working to fill—and the game design company’s CEO says it’s high time others joined in.

Every civilization in the world expresses itself through its culture as manifested in movies, music, and games,” exclaims CEO Mahmoud Khasawneh. “We’re one of the richest places in the world for stories and fantasy—and the only one that hasn’t fully expressed itself through gaming.”

Since its founding in 2004, Quirkat has excelled at this mission, racking up a string of firsts. Its debut PC game, Arabian Lords, made a big splash for being from the Middle East, for Arab gamers.

A Nintendo licensed developer, Quirkat is also the first Arab team to be published by Sony Computer Entertainment: its game Word Blocked made the global launch lineup of Sony’s PlayStation Mobile and its PS3 title, Pro Foosball, went live across Sony’s American and European territories in 2013 and was nominated for Game Of The Year by TIGA.

But to match the gaming empires of Japan, the US, and other industry leaders, Khasawneh says more designers and investors must enter the field—or get left on the sidelines. For him the key is shifting focus from consumption to creation. “The Arab world is very sophisticated in terms of usage. In the games business, it tends to guzzle up products much faster that it creates them.”

Like Hollywood, the video game business runs on “hits”, so if investors want to make it big, they must invest more in regional start-ups’ creative potential. With this “runway” for experimentation and growth in place, he affirms, “they will export our beautiful culture to the world”.

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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