Lebanon News

Online game mirrors Lebanese political scene

BEIRUT: A new online game designed to mirror the Lebanese political scene allows players to join different tribes and parties modeled after the country’s own affiliations and pit themselves against one another in a bid to achieve social domination.

Lebania, which went fully live Wednesday morning after a two-week trial period, is the brainchild of a Lebanese software developer, who is keeping his or her identity under wraps at this stage because of the divisive nature of the game.

“We’re not intending to go public and reveal the owners at the moment, not at least for some time to make sure that everyone understands that it is just a game,” the creator said via email.

Players of the game, which can be found at www.lebania.com, choose one of four tribes – Trinity, Quraysh, Yerevan or Tawhid – intended to represent Christians, Muslims, Armenians and Druze. To play the game, players must attempt to take over neighboring villages with their own resources. They also have the option to form strategic alliances with other players.

Reading the description of the tribes, it’s clear where the impression that the game is controversial comes from.

The Trinity (as in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) tribe is described as having comparatively “high levels of social and technological development,” while the Quraysh (the name of the dominant tribe at the time of the emergence of Islam) are characterized as “the plundering hordes roaming the lands.”

Players also have to choose to join a political party, all named after those in Lebanon’s real life political scene.

The games’s creator said the inspiration for the game came while watching Lebanese party leaders speaking on television “each trying to pull the strings their way.”

“The idea just popped up to mimic that situation over a game.”

Lebania attracted over 800 players on its test version. Its creator, who says the project is entirely commercially driven and funded by users who choose to upgrade their account, is hoping that the final version will draw around 10,000 players, about 1 percent of the country’s internet users.

Online reaction to the game has been mixed. Writing on the game’s Facebook page, which had 1,345 fans by Wednesday morning, several people praised the idea for the game. Others, however, thought the game was a little close to the bone. “Doesn’t it provoke more hostility …?” one commenter, Mud Monei, wondered. “I wish u [had] made it alternative reality instead.” Another commenter, writing in Arabic, said: “There is a party that is missing: Lebanon.”

In fact, the game’s creator said, despite its divisive appearance, the intention of the game is to bring people together.

“Near the endgame players/parties will realize that no single player nor any single tribe or party can win the game” the creator said. “Sooner or later all the parties will realize that the only way to win is to join hands and unite altogether … If not in the real world, at least on a game.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 16, 2011, on page 3.

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