The Game Of Life

by Dish Staff

Simon Parkin appreciates Spermania, a video game in which “players assume the role of a plucky sperm that must navigate the kinks and curves of an undulating fallopian tube,” as a “good joke that’s well told.” He describes how the game’s creators at the Ramallah-based PinchPoint, Inc. had to overcome the barrenness of the gaming industry in Palestine:

PinchPoint is, according to the company’s co-founder and C.E.O., Khaled Abu Al Kheir, the first venture-capital-backed Palestinian video-game studio. Despite recent efforts to grow the I.T. sector in the Palestinian territories with incubators, accelerators, and venture-capital firms, there are only a handful of video-game developers in the area. Partly, this is due to the unique challenges of establishing a startup in a turbulent region. “Local events here definitely affect our focus and stress us out,” Basel Nasr, one of the game’s developers, told me. “We have no airport or control over our land borders, so travel costs extra time and money. This makes it more challenging to plan overseas trips, as well as to connect with foreign video-game studios around the world in order to learn and share our experiences.” Likewise, the lack of a vibrant industry in the region makes expanding the studio a tremendous challenge. “There’s an almost non-existent talent pool in Palestine for video-game development,” Kheir said.

As for whether the game has proven controversial in Palestine:

Contrary to the team members’ expectations, most of their friends and families supported Spermania’s subject matter. “The theme itself might be a bit controversial,” [developer Basel] Nasr, who designed the game’s cartoonish aesthetic, said. “But the art style gives the game a light and humorous feel. Most people laugh about the idea, and we haven’t received any threats. My two sons, who are five and two, enjoy the game, although they don’t know what it’s really about.”