They Turned My City Into A Video Game

There’s a certain joy in hearing your country being mentioned in a movie or a video game. Then there’s this moment of bliss when you see a city from you country featured in a movie or a video game. I live in Pakistan. I play video games in Pakistan. But many of the movies I love to watch and games I play aren’t set anywhere near here. The new Ghost Recon, however, comes to my old neighbourhood.

I remember how my and friends used to rejoice every time they would watch Rambo III where Sly Stallone comes to Peshawar and speaks a few words of Pushto (local language of the city of Peshawar).

Last night, I experienced a similar moment of happiness when I saw that Ubisoft was showing off some new gameplay from their upcoming Ghost Recon Future Soldier. The game has a level set in Peshawar.

Peshawar is the city where my maternal grandparents live. It’s my mother’s hometown where she grew up. Ever since we were young we’ve been visiting our grandparents house there. I lived there for two years to finish high school.

At first glance, I was amazed at how the Ghost Recon team made the map look real. The map might not be accurate down to the street, but the designers do a great job in making it look and feel like it is Peshawar.

The area where the game’s firefight between US forces and terrorists takes place looks like the Saddar area of Peshawar which is also known as the old Pesahawar. I can tell from the architecture of the buildings, from the look of local vehicles — including the buses, rickshaws, and local cabs — and the appearance of the civilians.

The gameplay clip I saw shows so many things that feel like real Peshawar to me. The first thing that hits you in that area of the city is the traffic. It’s very congested. The old buildings in that area are so closely knit that they’re merged together. That’s a sight we all know.

The random minarets in the blue sky are also a good touch. The colourful buses are a trademark to Pakistani public transportation, so it looks like a complete picture with them. The odd jharokas in the upper stories give us a glimpse of our heritage past and decaying. And let’s not forget that peshawaris aren’t the epitome of good taste! So the unusually-coloured walls and doors are also quite recognisable. The only thing missing in the clip that I’d expect to see is some civilians fighting back.

For a moment, watching this, you do actually feel like you are in Peshawar. This is all from the gameplay footage, of course. Imagine how it would feel when your actually playing the game.

It’s not perfect, though. Game designers seem to have some problems with making accurate levels set in Pakistan.

Back in 2009, when Modern Warfare 2 was released, it came with a multiplayer map called Karachi, in Pakistan, of course. That map looked nothing like any place in Karachi at all. The writing on the boards and the wall in that map were in Arabic! People in our country don’t speak Arabic. They speak Urdu. Unfortunately, the level designers made the same mistake here as well. They also think people in our country speak Arabic but they don’t. Since its Peshawar they either speak Urdu or Pushto, hence the writings on the boards should be in those languages as well.

Secondly the number plates on the vehicles are all wrong. Those number plates are the types they use in Europe, not Pakistan.

Lastly the music being played on the radios of the cars standing on the road is the type of music people listen to in Arab countries. That is nothing like the music what the local people listen to over there. (I recommend the song in the video here.)

Please pay attention to these minute details, Ubisoft!

Other then that, I would really like the applaud their efforts in terms of level design. You guys did a damn fine job, better than the Modern Warfare people at Infinity Ward did on that Karachi map.

Okay, so then theres this issue of US troops having firefights on the streets of Peshawar. Theres already so much tension going on between US and Pakistan that some gamers who are fond of politics just take this stuff too seriously and get into their nerd rage and start rolling. Some are even saying, “Look how they’re showing us as terrorists!” while other saying, “They’re trying to show the US is going to attack us in the future!” If you don’t believe me go check out the Youtube and Facebook comments of the video.

What’s my opinion?

This is a just a video game. It is not to be taken seriously. So treat it as a video game. You don’t need to involve politics into it. I’ve been a big fan of the Tom Clancy video games. I’ve always enjoyed reading his novels involving Jack Ryan and John Clarke. This is the type of stuff the Tom Clancy franchise is made up of. That’s what attracts people to it. ’nuff said.

Azim Durrani is university student doing his undergrad in Business and currently lives in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He’s a comic book nerd and a hardcore gamer.

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