Clash of Syrian Clans: How an Online Game Reflects the Syrian Conflict

Author:cheap clash of clans gems Release time:2017-4-5 10:17:14 hits:228

 Being a 33-year-old academic, I found it hard to rationalize to my friends and family my infatuation with Clash of Clans, a childish but rather addictive online strategy game, until I met Hosam. While waiting for his refugee application to be accepted, the 24-year-old man from eastern Aleppo spent much of his time online through his Samsung phone, browsing news, chatting on Whatsapp, and playing Clash of Clans. As Hosam explained, fighting in a clan from his Syrian hometown and coordinating battles against clans they were randomly matched with around the globe was one of the ways he maintained spiritual ties with the land and community he had left behind.

Hosam’s experience piqued my personal and academic curiosity, and eventually prompted me to explore how Syria’s conflict is reflected in the virtual reality of a game, highly popular among Syrian youth.

After some browsing, I joined the “Idleb Heroes,” a clan of forty players from my family’s province in the northern part of Syria, a region that since March 2015 has come under the complete control of the Islamist opposition.

The clan I found is a strong community of young males between 16 and 24 living in various parts of the Sunni-majority province, playing on cheap smartphones charged by external batteries to keep the game on even during the daily blackouts. However, lack of electricity was not the main obstacle: when the Internet was cut off in the middle of a clan war, many of our carefully devised strategies went to waste. For the clan, Clash of Clans seemed to be more than a simple game, as the chat function was eventually used for reporting on the Assad regime’s air strikes, and also to check whether all the members were alive.

Although the clan was essentially non-political, sometimes it proved rather challenging for members to suppress their emotions. Once, after being matched with a player called Hezbullah in an individual battle and scoring an all-three star victory, I shared the video with my fellow clan mates. Soon, warm congratulations arrived with overtones of anti-Shia sentiments, something I had never experienced during the long summers I spent in Idleb before the war, where Lebanese Shia Hezbollah were generally celebrated as a force of resistance against the Israelis, the “Zionist entity” of the state propaganda.

After a month of comradeship, I bade farewell to the clan and began my six-month journey as a lonely mercenary, wandering between the front lines of the Syrian clan wars, joining the war-torn country’s most notorious clans.

I chose clans with at least 25 members (out of a maximum fifty) and at least 10,000 clan points (proving the commitment of the core members). When browsing Syrian clans, it was striking to see how the majority of players made every effort to keep the game as a politics-free field, warning would-be members in the clan description to refrain from any talk on politics and sectarian affiliation.

However, an equally significant number of clans proudly declared their political sympathies by naming themselves after fighting factions and militias. Searching both in English and Arabic, I found more than fifty clans calling themselves “Syria of Assad” and significantly more referring to “Asad” (Lion) in one way or another, while the number of politically motivated groups was uncountable.

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