Voices for Non-Violence in the Muslim World: Nahil Sharkasi

Nahil Sharkasi

Nahil Sharkasi is an interactive media producer pursuing an M.F.A. in Interactive Media as an Annenberg Fellow at the University of Southern California. Sharkasi is currently developing what she calls an empowerment fantasy game called Ninjabi, which she spoke about at the Consortium’s event.

  • There is a genre called serious games which includes September 12, Muslim Massacre and Peace Maker-data mined simulation for real world solutions to inform policy decisions
  • The objective for a new game was an empowerment game for the powerless
  • Video games are known for their empowerment fantasy, violence, story telling and role playing
  • Context of the game would deal with female game characters and Muslims stereotypes
  • Ninja+Hijabi=Ninjabi, re-appropriating terms about Muslim women identity
  • Initial reactions to the idea of the Ninjabi game: people said it made them feel uncomfortable, thought it was culturally insensitive, offended but didn’t know why, thought it perpetuated negative stereotypes
  • Women in video games are either hyper-sexualized or infantilized
  • The game needed a hero narrative structure with an origin story, sympathetic male characters, a defining moment, motivation and arch enemy
  • Violence in an empowerment fantasy becomes revenge, exploring emotion through virtual means
  • Non-violence-offers a solution rather than dwelling on the problem, more aligned with Muslim values
  • A unique feature in the game: The “Ninjabi” character participates in “tagging”-making her presence known, rallying women around her in collaboration, community activism, and supportive relationships
  • The demo of Ninjabi allowed the character to navigate the world, actualizing empowerment through movement (which is severely restricted for women in many Muslim countries)
  • The character moves right to left (like the Arabic alphabet) and increases in power or strength by going up to the windows and greeting or “tagging” women which then helps her in defeating the bad guys she faces
  • Engaging with violence in a virtual space allows for emotional expression and understanding aversion
  • The game creates a broadening view to create identity for Muslim girls who don’t see themselves in games or media
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