Pakistani Gamers Want a Seat at the Table

In the a Call of Duty tournament in Islamabad, Pakistan, an exasperated player gets up from his computer and asks the player who keeps shooting him to speak. “Who is this ‘$ @ dy’?” he roars, referring to the name of the player in the game, his eyes scrutinizing the room with furious anticipation, but what happens next turns his anger into shame, as a young girl raises her hand nervously.

Now, more than 15 years later, Sadia Bashir, 33, remembers the encounter with a gleam in her eyes. “I was the only girl in a room full of boys, and the moment she saw me, she sat down again. I guess the idea of ​​being killed by a girl really hurt her ego.”

At the time, Bashir was just a computer student with a dream that could somehow make a living in the mysterious world of video games. She is now a game developer with her own studio in Islamabad and founder and CEO of Pixel Arts Gaming Academy, a technology incubator that brings gaming talent from around the world to guide a new generation of Pakistani game developers who want to create more. diversified products for the international market.

But Bashir’s journey into the world of video game development has been far from straightforward. He grew up in a home where money was always tight, which meant limited access to video games. There were no game consoles at home and for the first 14 years of his life, his family did not have a computer.

When it came to playing a video game …Mario Kart at a friend’s Nintendo, I was in eighth grade. “That was like, the mind is equal to flying,” he says, pointing a gun at his head. “From that moment on, I knew that video games had something magical about them. Everything else was so boring to me that I knew that was what I wanted to do. “

In conservative Pakistan, where the female literacy rate is 48 percent, Bashir’s choice to go to college was a milestone in itself. But the stigma of wanting to become a video game developer in a country where games are still largely seen as a frivolous pastime was such that she initially didn’t have the courage to tell her parents. “All they knew was that I was a software engineer,” he tells WIRED. “It’s very difficult for people here to understand the concept of a career in video games. Even now, people will think I’m doing it for fun and wasting my time. “

Awais Iftikhar is one of the best in the world Shrink players. In an interview, he talks about the Pakistani public’s dislike of video games as a career. “My family never supported me when I started taking games seriously. In fact, even my classmates, who used to venture into video games, thought that I was destroying my future by devoting so much time to it. the fact is that in Pakistan there is no awareness of how great the platform games are for people like us. “

But with the international success of Pakistani players like Awais Iftikhar and Evo champion Arslan Siddique, who may be about to change. In October last year, the UAE sports giant Galaxy Racer, valued at $ 1.5 billion and with more than 400 million subscribers worldwide, announced that it would expand its investment portfolio to include the South Asian market. Fakhr Alam, who directs Galaxy operations in Pakistan, tells WIRED that the stigma surrounding video games needs to be broken. “One of the main things we’re trying to do here is encourage parents to see games not just as a frivolous pastime,” he says. “We want people to know that sports are by far the largest sports industry in the world and that if you take them seriously, this is something that can be explored as a potential career.”

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