It seems the tension of real world politics extends even into the cyber world. One of last year's winners in the Electronic Sports World Cup refused to defend his title during this year's event (June 30 – July 2) due to conflict in the middle east.
According to Digital Battle, Saudi Arabian gamer Badr Hakeem refused to defend his because he would have had to play against an Israeli opponent to do so.
"Unfortunately, the draw put me against an Israeli player and due to our stand against the Israeli aggression and occupation of Palestine, I raised my voice and said there was no way I was going to play against this guy," Hakeem said.
The ESWC was created in 1999 to bring gamers from all over the world together for competition in a variety of video games. Titles played in the competition range from Counter-Strike and Quake to Gran Turismo 4. Each year, the ESWC and its partners hold qualifying competitions all over the world for teams or players to compete in the ESWC Grand Final.
The event is designed, per the ESWC's site, to entertain and "present the world of new digital leisure activities to as many people as possible. Every year, the ESWC attracts a live audience of 20 to 30,000 spectators, and several tens of millions watch via all of the different media providing coverage."
Hakeem's decision is clearly his prerogative, but it's kind of a sad commentary on the global situation. While I have to applaud the guy for being willing to give up something he clearly enjoys to make such a strong statement, I have to wonder how this could possibly help his cause?
Is this one Israeli gamer responsible for all the problems plaguing Israel and Palestine? Can this action actually effect a change? Did Mr. Hakeem hurt anyone other than himself by withdrawing?
The answer to all three is most likely a huge no.
The sad fact of the matter is for all Mr. Hakeem knows, the Israeli could be a very nice guy who's more interested in gaming than politics. He might just judge books by their contents rather than their covers. It's even a possibility that the Israeli gamer doesn't even agree with his own country's politics, but Mr. Hakeem will never know because he wasn't willing to give it a chance.
Perhaps when people (gamers included) finally decide to judge people based on who they are rather than where they're from and they're willing to take a leap of faith to find out, this world will be a better place. Until then, I guess we're all damned to be hated by some simply for the flags under which we were born.