How video games are helping integrate Libyans back into the international community
Last October, as Libya's congress was throwing out the then-prime minister-elect and the hunt continued for the killers of the American ambassador, around five dozen young men filed into a Tripoli theater for the country's first-ever open national qualifier tournament for the Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC).
On the stage were four tables, each with a monitor and a Sony PlayStation. To one side stood a whiteboard with four charts like genealogical trees to organize matches. Six young men in dark jeans and black polo shirts were hurriedly setting everything up; it was the first time they had done anything like this, and they were behind schedule. A splitter cable had gone missing. The young men's shirts had the word "TESCA" -- which stands for Tripoli Electronic Sports Clubs Association -- written in silver-white on the right breast. One of them tested the microphone: "Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim" -- "In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate."
There are many ways to help bring countries like Libya out of isolation: trade, educational exchanges, and tourism, for example. There is the world of fine arts. And there is competitive online gaming. This notion is being pushed by two young Libyan gamers named Alameen A. Layas and Hassan Drebika, who founded TESCA and organized the tournament. "Most young people here don't have the opportunity to interact with other nationalities," says Layas, who is also a medical student. "Gaming can be a bridge."