A look at Syrian game development

May 7, 2012

The always-interesting Ars Technica has a fascinating article on the challenges faced by game developers in Syria, which has been mired in internal conflict for over a year now. The article talks to several former Syrian game developers, and offers an insight into game development from a part of the world not normally associated with it.

“Life for Syrian game developers has never been better,” joked Falafel Games founder Radwan Kasmiya in an e-mail to Ars Technica. “You can test the action on the streets and get back to your desktop to script it on your keyboard.”

Kasmiya’s icy humor hides a sobering truth about the troubles faced by Syria’s once-promising game development industry. The country once looked like a future technology hub, with its centralized location among the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries allowing it to easily draw programming and engineering talent from Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. But that promise has been effectively squashed, first by global economic sanctions and then by more than a year of bloody civil conflict.

The article looks at how US sanctions started to stifle Syria’s development scene in the early 2000s, and what the long-term impact of the current conflict will be. It also mentions a number of Middle Eastern-developed games that have never appeared in the West, including  Under Ash. It’s always interesting to hear from developers in different parts of the world, and I highly recommend reading the entire article.