Video games are becoming more and more popular these days, especially as enhanced graphics and other simulations have transformed the traditional gamer stereotype of nerds and shut-ins into mainstream Facebook and mobile phone users. Yet while games have begun to resemble interactive movies, the Middle East has been making a name for itself for its rapid advances in the less technically impressive realms of mobile and online gaming; on top of that, it has been doing that with the support of users outside of the traditional market of young male techies.
Angry Birds has, for better or worse, become a critical part of everyday lingo, spilling over into the mainstream from the vocabularies of vidiots and aficionados like Pac Man and Mario before it. Unlike Pac Man and Mario, this popularization is due to the cosmopolitan nature of addicting games, online puzzles, and social networking via games. Their appeal today has extended to demographics that might be hesitant to call themselves gamers, being older and less computer savvy.
In response to this trend, Nazara and other companies have invested heavily in the region, and the rapidly expanding market has encouraged a wide range of companies to develop Arabic language and regionally themed games for users interested in a homegrown feel. (Read: They are tired of killing the Arab and/or Muslim terrorists that are bad guys in practically every first person shooter.) Other companies like Yalla Games Cafe are catering to a wide audience with social and puzzle games that are more adept at rapidly growing, non-traditional markets.
One of the most prominent of these markets are women gamers, and developers are eager to explore this niche, although to date the market has been dominated by male developers in spite of its gender-diverse consumer base. Older women especially have are likely to get involved with gaming these days, it seems, playing anything from games designed specifically for women, like Hawwa Style, or more traditionally popular games like RPG's and shooters.
While Facebook fads and angry birds may come and go, it seems that mobile gaming is here to stay in the Middle East. Recently, Orange Telecom made a deal with Gameloft to develop mobile games on phones as a value-added feature of its services, and The Mobile Show just became the first expo in the Middle East dedicated to mobile phone apps in Dubai. Earlier this year Saudi Arabia hosted an all-female gaming convention for the first time in the Middle East.
It is difficult to say whether the internet and mobile are changing the way people in the Middle East spend their free time, but current trends suggest that young, educated men are not the only ones benefiting from the region's technology boom.
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