Darakhshan's Story - PlayStation of It All!

A Gamer Story by Darakhshan Roohi

I can still here ‘EA sports to the game’ when I think of gaming. Gaming was an enormous, almost engulfing, part of my childhood. I now know that the phrase is ‘EA Sports, it’s in the game’ but only because I just googled it. I always thought that the phrase was ‘EA sports to the game’, because I heard it as a foreign speaker of the English language.

Back then, we didn’t know what the term ‘gamer’ was or the gaming community. It was the nineties and the internet was not readily available. In fact, internet came to South Asia and Middle East in the early 2000s. We got our internet connection in 2002; after 9/11!

Shahrukh Khan, the gracefully aging hero of South Asia, did this TED talk a while back that was all the rage. He talked about simpler times when immigration and all in between was easy and warm. Me and my parents moved to Saudi Arabia in ’96 and stayed there for twenty years. All I am and all I will ever be came from the land that never thought of us as one of their own. I do not hate them one bit; I don’t think we have the right to. They were fair to us in wages and treatment as possible, and we were full to the brim with hope and happiness of our own. If they didn’t want us there, they made a law out of that and not a slogan. We never even knew the kind of hatred that exists now could even be. We were happy and well fed, and a little too plump, and over obsessed with things that deserved no obsessing at all!

At the top of those things was Play Station for my brother. He loved Fifa, like all other boys of his time; he didn’t have any clue or care about the corruption that apparently runs in the organization. I was a huge fan of Need for Speed and I still am. I am talking about the Need for Speed Four, when it used to be about the glorious Ferrari Monarelos - which is, as I now know, spelled as 550 Maranello ‘thank you Google’! Again, car chases and police encounters were barely even known let alone celebrated back then.

NAS Daily is a page on Facebook where a Harvard graduate Nuseir Yassin makes a one-minute video every day on any topic of his choosing. He recently did a video on gaming and how it is wrongly perceived as vice in the American culture. Fun thing is I never knew it could be perceived as an unhealthy habit. In our part of the world parents are more worried about their kids going outside and falling under bad influences. They would rather keep their kids in front of their eyes and allow them to hang out with their friends at home. All the parents in the neighborhood would keep in touch and all the kids would hang out mostly at one of the houses.

Gaming meant you could, first of all, afford to buy a console. So that easily puts you in middle or upper middle class of my ecosystem. Then, the better you were at gaming, the more intelligent you were perceived. Children who used to win at gaming tournaments were at least mildly celebrated by their parents as skillful and tenacious. It was considered a helpful tool in education as games were all in English. Simply playing these games would improve your English and would also give you a reservoir of general knowledge in a fun way. For example, if you are playing Fifa, then you are getting to become more interested in all the countries around the world. It will make you better at world history and geography. If you are interested in Need for Speed, you are gaining knowledge in cars and race tracks around the world! I know it’s a childish notion, but our parents were diligently trying to expose us to as much knowledge as humanly possible at that time.

In terms of gender equality, I think the one place where third world was astonishingly gender neutral was gaming. Girls were told to stay indoors but were still cared for, so gaming was the easiest solution. All of us have grown up on console games, though I was more of a book person. But many of my friends throughout life have elaborate memories of gaming with vivid details of games to share.

No one considered a gamer girl an eccentricity. No one who loved a console also thought they need to dye their hair pink and have eccentric dressing sense. It was never considered a challenge to the conventional norms to like and enjoy games at all.  Many individuals now want to dye their hair pink because it looks pretty. When any given trend reaches the third world country, it evolves to a three-sixty-degree angle and becomes completely reverse. It is because it is being exposed to a completely different cultural perspective that will give it an entirely new life.

Gaming is a grown industry now with various strong cultural and social affiliations, but when we look back all we think of is the way we grew up.