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The Almighty Buck Games

How the Syrian Games Industry Crumbled Under Sanctions and Violence 141

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-games-no-peace dept.
Fluffeh writes "Syria's games industry now looks like just another collateral casualty of dictator Bashar Al-Assad's struggle to hold power. 'Life for Syrian game developers has never been better,' joked Falafel Games founder Radwan Kasmiya, 'You can test the action on the streets and get back to your desktop to script it on your keyboard.' Any momentum Syria may have been building as a regional game development hub slowed considerably in 2004, when then-US President George W. Bush levied economic sanctions against the country. Under the sanctions, Syria's game developers found themselves cut off from investment money they needed to grow, as well as from other relationships that were just as important as cash. 'Any [closure of opportunity] is devastating to a budding games company as global partnerships are completely hindered,' said Rawan Sha'ban of the Jordanian game development company Quirkat. 'Even at the simplest infrastructure level, game development engines [from the US] cannot be purchased in a sanctioned country.'"
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How the Syrian Games Industry Crumbled Under Sanctions and Violence

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @10:23AM (#39915147)

    Horrible oppressive dictatorships tend to stifle small businesses.

    But very clever to blame it all on George Bush.

    Damn dubya, if it wasn't for him Syria would be a fun land full of gamers and anime!!!

    *wacks off to huffpost* *smug grin*

  • really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    assad is a murderous tyrant, but we want to focus on sanctions george bush put on his regime... and its effects on the gaming industry? this is the important thing to talk about?

    if you demonstrate an eagerness to talk about the usa and american actions, or GAMING, for crying out loud... on the topic of a country currently under the full force of mass murder of civilians by a true tyrant on a daily basis for months... you look like you are less motivated by actual principles and more like you are either obsessed with the usa or lack all proportionality in your ability to think about and understand the world you live in

    really? the fucking gaming industry is the important issue here? i'm pretty fucking sure the entire syrian gaming industry would agree with me: "uhhh... that's a little unimportant right now, they are murdering us"

    there are people dying in this world for rights that some people in the west take completely for granted... because obviously, it's more important to talk about fucking videogames, on the topic of syria right now

    wake the fuck up, you coddled fat suburbanites

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @10:37AM (#39915287)

    Yes, economic sanctions harm a country's economy. This should not be news. That's precisely what they're designed to do. It's the stick to encourage behavior (in this particilar case, the decades-long occupation of Lebanon and state sponsorship of Hamas).

    But, yeah, they do have side effects. And THIS is the one you're focusing on? Oh, no, we can't produce videogames domestically as easily!

    You want to talk side effects of sanctions? Talk about people starving without food aid. Talk of infrastructure crumbling because they can't get funding to finance those projects (which will cripple the economy for decades). Talk about people who can't get proper medical care. Talk about small shop owners who can't make ends meet. But video game developers? THEY'RE the victims you want to cry out for?

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday May 07, 2012 @10:49AM (#39915397) Journal

    assad is a murderous tyrant, but we want to focus on sanctions george bush put on his regime... and its effects on the gaming industry? this is the important thing to talk about?

    The sanctions are part of the history of Syria's currently ailing game development industry. Think of this as maybe a case history of how a destabilized nation can lose out on arts and entertainment due to sanctions. This is, arguably, the point of sanctions: not to deplete food, water, shelter but more so the nice-to-haves (one of which is games).

    if you demonstrate an eagerness to talk about the usa and american actions, or GAMING, for crying out loud... on the topic of a country currently under the full force of mass murder of civilians by a true tyrant on a daily basis for months... you look like you are less motivated by actual principles and more like you are either obsessed with the usa or lack all proportionality in your ability to think about and understand the world you live in

    really? the fucking gaming industry is the important issue here? i'm pretty fucking sure the entire syrian gaming industry would agree with me: "uhhh... that's a little unimportant right now, they are murdering us"

    You seem to have misread this article from the PoV as we are trying to help save Syrian lives. That's not really the case and the mainstream media has already covered this issue fairly well. You're actually reading a techie site called Slashdot where games and technology are two important topics. While politics and conflict sometimes find their way into the discussion, it's usually kept to the topics most important to us. Just because humans are losing their lives and that's the most important thing, doesn't mean we have to ignore the facets that are important to us and also affected by this conflict. As such, you can turn your attention to a variety of other news sources if you want body counts or UN actions. But if you're curious about the collateral to Syria's Games Industry, here is a unique story on it. It's not meant to replace the reporting on the actual conflict but mildly augment it.

    there are people dying in this world for rights that some people in the west take completely for granted... because obviously, it's more important to talk about fucking videogames, on the topic of syria right now

    wake the fuck up, you coddled fat suburbanites

    You seem to make the assumption that because we're talking about Syrian games and not people dying that we don't care about it. Did you know that last night The Simpsons aired at its regular time slot instead of emergency 24/7 reporting on all television channels about the conflict in Syria? And I suppose we're all horrible awful inhuman demons for not constantly talking about death in Syria? Instead of instructing me to "wake the fuck up, you coddled fat suburbanite" I suggest you consider the possibility that I am capable of consuming a very diverse range of news reports, this being one of a particular topic. And to stop assuming that this is the only coverage of Syria I'm being exposed to.

    Here at Slashdot, games are art. Art is culture. And a destruction of culture is indeed an important topic. Syria appeared to be a major hub of game development in the Middle East and Arab World so of course it is important to note when their game industry is sent back to the stone age. This means that a large part of the world isn't getting something that is integral to our lifestyle and it will be a long time before that industry catches up with the West. Which is truly unfortunate because, unlike nuclear weapons, these are cultural experiences that can be enjoyed the world over.

  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday May 07, 2012 @11:31AM (#39915861)

    That 'oppressive dictator' has the support of the majority of Syrians.

    It doesn't matter if he has support of 99% of the population. You still don't set up snipers to indiscriminately shoot civilians, use mortars and tanks to bombard neighborhoods, or block out international media and peacekeeping inspectors.

  • by hey! (33014) on Monday May 07, 2012 @11:34AM (#39915893) Homepage Journal

    The summary doesn't "blame it all on George Bush"; it points out the reasonably neutral fact that the sanctions he put in place hobbled Syrian game development companies. Since putting economic pressure on the regime is the *point* of sanctions, the fact that it worked in this case is neither here nor there as to whether the sanctions were justified.

    Perhaps you think the idea of a Syrian game development company is just silly. I don't see why a county of 22 million people couldn't produce a few successful small time game development studios, especially after the iPhone came on the market. The top two universities in Syria have 180,000 and 56,000 undergraduates respectively. Damascus University offers graduate programs in computer science and informatics through an in-country cooperative program with a British university.

    Sounds like a country which could support a few companies in the gaming industry. And it wouldn't be silly at all for some Syrian hackers to start companies to produce games. Remember, it's not about *playing* games; it's about putting bread on the table by *creating* games for others to play. The median income from an iOS app is something like $3000. That's a lot of money in a country with a per capita GDP of $2800.

  • by poity (465672) on Monday May 07, 2012 @11:53AM (#39916113)

    And 99% of North Koreans support Kim Jong Un (the other 1% are in luxurious diet camps in the mountains). What's your point? Shit, a majority of Americans in February 2003 supported the imminent Iraq invasion. Guess that's alright by your book, and anyone who said anything different was a victim of anti-American propaganda right?

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday May 07, 2012 @01:38PM (#39917359) Journal

    When you stand back, you are not the one directly responsible for what happens in those countries.

    When you invade and trigger the persecutions, you are.

    So, yes, it is worse to invade if you do it like that. The point is really rather that if you do invade on premise of "bringing freedom and democracy", then stay there long enough to actually make it work, forcibly if needed. You did that with Japan back in the day, so it's not a pipe dream.

    Problem is, this kind of civilization project requires stronger commitment in terms of both money and military power. More importantly, it requires being honest about what you're doing and how, rather than playing PR games about how locals are running the show. Something that America seems to not have the balls for these days...

  • by swb (14022) on Monday May 07, 2012 @01:45PM (#39917427)

    I think historically sanctions probably work better than the credit they get. At a minimum they raise the cost of doing business since a country under sanctions has to now engage in some subterfuge to keep engaging in whatever the sanctions were supposed to change.

    For severe sanctions, this can mean drastically raised costs -- Iran hasn't been stopped from pursuing its nuclear program, for example, but the few suppliers they have are probably charging the Iranians whatever they want and getting paid up front in an expensive to obtain currency or submarket-priced oil.

    In Syria's case I don't think there have been serious sanctions levied against them until recently. Direct trade with the US was impossible, but there were always satellite/client state Lebanon or other Arab states who weren't subject to the sanctions. The Assads run a near monopoly on anything worthwhile in Syria, so increased wholesale costs are just that, increased wholesale costs.

    As for sanctions hurting the broader cause by hindering opponents or more broadly, allowing a state to trumpet sanctions as the reason for price increases or a shitty currency that only goes so far.

    For one, how effective has resistance EVER been in Syria or Iran? Short of a running guerrilla war without an outside supplier, resistance in those states has been near zero and of limited effectiveness, even now in Syria.

    Secondly, when you have a secret police, censor the media and jail political opponents, your PR of "blaming" sanctions for economic problems will only get you limited support. Iranians aren't stupid and they know that a dictatorial oppressive regime that openly supports terrorism is the real problem and that state policies more in line with Jordan will get them further than state policies more in line with North Korea.

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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