Baghdad is San Andreas

In the face of rising console and game prices, monthly MMO fees, and microtransactions, gamers, including myself, have taken to complaining. It’s what we do best. But what if your montly gaming fee was over $200? What if you had to wait in line for 4 hours at a gas station just to buy enough fuel to run your PS2? What if you had to avoid gangs, militia, para-military factions, and the U.S. Military to get bootlegged copies of FFXII, Grand Theft Auto, and Metal Gear? Maybe the above video will help to put things in perspective.

Make the jump for more about Wisam and what it’s like to be a gamer in Baghdad. 

Aive in Baghdad is a video blog that offers an alternative to mainstream media coverage on the war in Iraq, with a focus on the people of Baghdad, as opposed to its government and military. Finding people willing to speak in front of a camera is hard enough, and finding topics that people feel comfortable speaking about is even more so. Until you take into account the universal appeal of doing drugs and killing hookers.

Enter Wisam, an Iraqi gamer that was featured on AiB last month, speaking about the hardships of gaming in Baghdad as well as the Iraqi gaming scene. His favorites include Metal Gear, Grand Theft Auto, and FFXII. He’s actually further than me in FFXII. Awesome. To boot, the Metal Gear and Final Fantasy franchises helped him learn English.

MTVNews caught wind of the story and then caught up with Wisam. This article gives some history of AiB and then gets into the general gaming scene in Baghdad. Here’s the rundown: Soccer games are hot, Nintendo isn’t. War games used to be really popular, but now they just make people uncomfortable.

Prohibitive costs and the dangers of leaving your house aside, this might be the most harrowing clip from both pieces:


In fact, there’s only one game with guns he can still tolerate.       “‘Grand Theft Auto’ is the exception. Because ‘Grand Theft Auto’ is like us.”

Abdullah concurs, saying San Andreas looks like his city. “It was very, very similar to Baghdad. We were like, ‘Oh my God. These are the same actions that happen in Baghdad.’ There are some places that are divided. For each place, there is a gang ruling that place. You can go down the street and drive any car. If you want to jump on a motorcycle, you can do it.”


Well, that, and Wisam’s last words in the AiB video: “People are dying here. And for no reason.”

So, next time you want to complain about the corporate greed of Microsoft, Sony, or EA, keep in mind that it could be worse.

[Via bits, bytes, pixels, & sprites]

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Joseph Leray
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