BEIRUT

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Lebanon Games make light of daily problems

BEIRUT: This year hasn’t been Lebanon’s shining glory thus far, with kidnappings, road closures, prison escapes, border incursions and general strikes. And that’s on top of the usual woes the Lebanese must contend with.

For the makers of Lebanon Games – currently available to play for free on Facebook – “we wanted to highlight these social issues and point at them.

“We decided to create these social initiatives and make them in a game format; this way people can laugh at their daily problems and hopefully work to change things to the better,” says Jimmy Ghazal, head of digital operations at Mercury, a Lebanon-based company, comprising young artists, designers and developers.

After endless discussions with which every Lebanese would be familiar, the staff at Mercury decided to create a social, rather than a commercial product. “The ideas came from the funny and sad situations we as Lebanese face every day and also from the stories we all exchange daily at lunch and during our conversations,” Ghazal says.

Currently there are two options: Bad Year, which was launched at the beginning of October, and Takkit, launched last week.

In Bad Year, the more simplistic of the two games, the setting is a street not dissimilar to the southern suburbs’ Airport Road, where balaclava-clad protesters flit across the road, dumping burning tires with careless abandon.

It’s a scene reminiscent of many occasions over the last few months, whether people were expressing their anger over kidnapped relatives, working conditions at Electricite du Liban, or the killing of two Muslim sheikhs in the north of the country.

Instead of becoming increasingly frustrated at the inability of the security services to intervene, Bad Year allows players to take matters into their own hands, hurling fire extinguishers at the flames, in an effort to keep the street clear for increasing lengths of time with each new level.

Rather more complicated, both in design and mental ability required to play it, Takkit invites users to “Play the game Lebanese play every day! The kahraba is out, we’re on moteur. It’s game over iza Takkit!”

While this might not mean much to anyone outside of the country, it’s as common as brushing one’s teeth and eating labneh to those in Lebanon. As the state is unable to provide 24-hour electricity, cuts drive many to invest in a generator, or “moteur.”

When the electricity, “kahraba” clicks out it’s often a mad rush to find that equilibrium of just how many appliances can still be sustained, and the user gains points by maintaining the optimum amount of gadgets on at once, not simply turning everything off. The game ends when the electricity clicks off, “takkit.”

“The idea came simply from discussions that everybody has when they come to work, stories to share from the last night,” Ghazal says.

Despite being launched so recently, the games are receiving a lot of positive attention, Ghazal says.

The games have that added benefit of being, “purely social, with no political agenda. They deal with stuff that everybody in Lebanon deals with, regardless of who you are.”

As the games are not technically very complex, each took around three weeks to develop, with an illustrator and a developer working on each.

More are now in the works, and will also focus on day to day concerns of the Lebanese, exactly which, however, Ghazal will not yet divulge.

Neither Bad Year nor Takkit may make much sense to anyone unfamiliar with the intricacies of Lebanese living, but that doesn’t matter. For those taking a break from work or study, or expats bored of a consistent electricity supply, Lebanon Games provide the perfect respite during a year of depressing headlines.

Visit www.lebanongames.me (which redirects to the Lebanon Games hub on Facebook) to play.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 16, 2012, on page 2.

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