Arabs have a highly distinct set of culture. This could perhaps be attributed to the religious factor, Saudi Arabia being a Muslim country. Nonetheless, despite the great cultural and religious disparity between Saudi Arabia and other nations, assimilation of western culture in certain aspects is not impossible. As a matter of fact, a good deal of western influence is evidently rubbing on to the Arab people, albeit in a toned down manner. For instance, in introducing western games to Arab nations, modified versions of western games are necessary in order to suit Arab culture.
When manufacturing video games, companies in Europe and America usually give last consideration for Arab countries. This means that by the time the products are available for shipping around the world, it is the only moment when they think of coming up with video games for Arab nations as well. There is a good market for western games in the Middle East but the catch is on the adjustments that must be made in the software with regard to language and major aspects involving religion and culture.
Whenever video game producers come up with Arab versions, they customarily re-dub the videos in both the English and Arab languages. This is not hard to do since there are high-tech equipment that can do the job. When the concern is just on the language, the materials are usually good to go. However if there are elements in the games that are contradictory to the Muslim beliefs and culture such as violence, sex and alcohol, these items are not forwarded to Saudi Arabia. At times when there are games containing provocative segments that do reach Arabian soil, local dealers will just exercise self-regulation. Under such circumstance, they usually refrain from distributing the video games in the market.
Although Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations are very strict in the implementation of their laws, it is surprising that little attention is given to downloaded and imported video games such that people are free to choose what game to play. The language barrier is also taken aside in some occasions and people just go on playing the English games even with no translations. However there are some distributors who prefer to have video games in the Arabic language. For instance, FIFA video games are dubbed in Arab. Most game parts also feature local concepts that blend with the culture of the region. With the huge video game market in Abu Dhabi, companies are reconstructing western games at an estimated cost of $1billion yearly. This job is done with assistance from authorities.
According to Yannick Theler of Ubisoft company, the real hitch in adapting video games for local use is not really on the cultural disparity. Theler said that language concern remains to be the biggest setback. He added that user interface is the major player in the games because Westerners may see the games from a different point of view from that of Arabs. Ubisoft is currently working on an original Arab game content, which is to come out in 2014, in the hope of integrating the game concept from the west to that of local element.
One of the challenges that game producers have to contend with is the manner by which Arabs and Westerners read. Arabs read from right to left direction, unlike Westerners who read from left to right. Theler therefore sees the main difficulty is in the game set up itself and not so much on the language hindrance. He said there is a need to realign the layout of the game itself, from the buttons to the arrangements of text. To completely restructure the patterns, monitor screens must also be reshaped to adapt to the reading habits of the Arab people. Apart from screen reconstruction, a genuine Arab touch must also be injected in children’s games for the young players to really grasp the meaning of the visuals in front of them. Smurfs game is an example of a product that has been transformed into full Arabic impression.
More people apparently prefer games in their own dialect. However for Arabic audience, language variations can become a problem because even as they belong to one community, there is no uniformity in their speech. In Egypt, gamers see very few localized games in the market and if ever some materials are available, the diversity in language puts a barrier. Therefore, the creation of an absolute localized game for the entire Arab community of players is unthinkable. It would be a big challenge to use one different language for each particular game. The attempt would certainly entail humungous amount of work.
More rules to abide with
While the problems on language, reading habits, monitor screens and localized themes are being pinpointed, there are still more rules to abide with. Western clothing style does not sit well with Muslim culture, particularly because provocative and sexy clothes for women and even for men are taboo in Arab nations. Alcohol use, sex and violence are likewise banned in video game content in Muslim nations particularly Saudi Arabia. There were cases that the God of War and other games with sexual content and religious touch have landed in Arab land although they were subsequently banned when officials found it out. Well, it is an ever-changing world that we live in and it is not a surprise to know that people find a way to get hold of the video games they want to have.