War torn Iraqis find escape in virtual battleground

May 17, 2021

Muslim countries’ media reported a new phenomenon that Iraqis found escape and got success on virtual battleground.

Iraq is war torn country. After an invasion by the United States and its allies in 2003, Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party was removed from power, and multi-party parliamentary elections were held in 2005. The US presence in Iraq ended in 2011. But the internal war and proxy war continued.

Bashar Abo Khalil’s PUBG character dashes around a wall in a pink dress and samurai helmet, thwacking an enemy with a frying pan — standard fare in the mobile game that is a mega-sensation in Iraq.

The online star, known as G2G, is one of many Iraqis hooked on Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds — a battle royale first-person shooter game that’s reminiscent of the book and film series “The Hunger Games”.

The mobile version of the game has become so popular in Iraq, where 60 percent of the 40-million-strong population is under 25, that the country’s youth have been dubbed the “PUBG generation”.

Iraqis across the country are spending hours every day on the game’s virtual battleground, socialising via its live chat, playing competitively or even falling in love.

Abo Khalil, 31, said he used to play for hours to “stop thinking about problems”.

“When you’re playing the game you can become closed off to the rest of the world. It can be like a drug,” he added.

Now based in Turkey, he earns a living streaming games and making videos.

Fan Dalya Waheed said she plays PUBG for an hour or two a day with friends she met on the game, and has even set up a gaming hub at the electronics reseller where she works.

“It’s really easy to meet people on PUBG,” said the woman in her thirties, who lives in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.