The Iraqi love for video games became evident when the first Atari became available in the country; all subsequent video consoles were affectionately called ‘Atari’ for years to come. People from different generations were hooked on games like Super Mario, Duck Hunt, and Pinball. The Iraqi love for video games evolved as the development of the games and their consoles progressed. The first Play station (PlayStation 1), started a generation that swore by joysticks.
On April of 2015 Rawa Dilshad, a student from the American University of Iraq Suliamani (AUIS) started The Video Games Club (VGC), to bring together the gamers of AUIS, and to give the students a chance to unwind and release stress. The club has six organizers at the moment, the President Rawa Dilshad, the Vice President Allen Ninous, two Event Organizers Hasan Ihsan and Banu Bakr, and two Intern Presidents Saman Fuad and Lava Ako. At three weeks old the club had more than seventy members, making it one of the biggest clubs on campus. Today, the club is the biggest on campus with 130 active members.
The club members meet twice every week and compete in tournaments hosted by the club. The club chooses its games based on surveys it sends out to its members. In these surveys, organizers list games that are available to them, they then decide on the game that was agreed upon by the majority of the members. So far, the most in demand games are FIFA (surprise, surprise!) and Tekken.
Among the tournaments it has hosted, one of the most successful was the Tekken tournament. Lava Ako, who is also the Intern President of the club, won the tournament.
The club does not have any sponsorship, the university provides the space for the club, and the organizers and contributing members provide the consoles. “Most sponsors will not take the club for more than 'just a university club,' which is why we are not very likely to get any sponsorship, at least not anytime soon” said Rawa. Due to their lack of sponsorship, it is unlikely that the club will extend outside of the AUIS community, and be able to take part in the international eSport scene. Their goal is to maintain their success and statues within the AUIS community.
VGC is open for students in the preparatory programs, undergraduates, and graduates. The organizers consider this to be the only space in Iraq where people from different parts of the country can get together and have friendly competitions, unwind, and make new friends.
Members of the club only have positive things to say about the club and its organizers. Rekan Mustafa, who has been a member of VGC since the first day it was introduced said that club has helped bring the students of AUIS together “I see a lot of potential in the gaming club because it is the largest and most popular club in AUIS. I can see that it creates a great sense of community within AUIS based on individual interest”
The gaming club has also been inspiring people to start social clubs of their own, in order to bring the students further together. Ardin Shaho shared his views on the club saying, “The gaming club is one of the best clubs at AUIS, this may be an opinion, but an opinion based on reasoning. The club brings many students from different backgrounds together. These kinds of clubs create a great sense of community; therefore, such clubs are very crucial for the AUIS community. This club is a great place to meet new people and make new friends”
When eSports were first introduced in the country, gaming communities emerged soon after. Entrepreneurs began launching small video game shops open to the public to provide them with a gaming space. Given that there was no clear data on the exact size of the gaming community in Iraq this was considered a risky business move. Fortunately enough, these video game shops were amongst the more successful merchants in Iraq. One, if not the only disadvantage these shops had was the fact that they were a little isolated. A shop in Bagdad for example, only hosted people from Baghdad. The diversity of the students of AUIS itself has helped the club in this regard. The club has both Arab and Kurdish members that come from different parts of Iraq, bringing the people together one game at a time.
Good game well played.