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Young Libyans answer call of e-gaming

In this picture taken on March 27, 2023, youths play at a video gaming centre in Libya's capital Tripoli.   -  
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MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP or licensors


Entirely immersed in a 3-dimensional world. In a Tripoli arcade, players banter amid the bleeping and music of video games.

Isolated by decades of Khadafi tenure and of post-revolution chaos, Libyan gamers are now taking on the world. It's late at night in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and in the suburb of Tajoura, teenagers with headphones clamped to their ears gaze into state-of-the-art screens in the modern gaming complex.

Unlike in other Arab states, "the gaming community was completely dead here" until recently, says Sofiane Mattouss, a computer science student, who runs the business set up in 2022.

"So this centre gathers young people who wish to play, to enter gaming tournaments, to get a change of air, instead of hanging out on the streets." "This motivates the players and the youth who have no experience to train and to pursue it as a profession. This will grow in the near future."

Six gaming halls have already sprung up in the capital, with others in major cities such as Benghazi located further east.

Stuck on screens or comfortably installed, students play football or engage in epic electronic battles. 

Growing sector

For Mattous, E-sport gives the youth a purpose. That's why he's betting on the growth of the sector.

"Five years ago, there weren't any gaming centres in Libya, not a single tournament, nothing." 

"But over the past two years, we started having tournaments in the Tripoli International Fair and the Paradise gaming centre. Now all centres in Libya are holding tournaments with prises."

In skinny jeans and a white jacket, Youssef Younssi trades wisecracks while playing a game on a giant screen.

The 20-year-old student was used to playing in small arcades in Tripoli and had "never seen" such modern spaces in Libya until recently.

Now back on holiday from studying in Turkey, Younssi says he regularly visits big gaming halls in Istanbul.

Tripoli's mushrooming arcades have driven rapid growth in Libya's nascent gaming community, Mattouss says.

Player Karim Ziani, 20, puts down his headphones and declares that the growth of e-sport is "a good thing, even for the development of the country".

"It will help, God willing, to eradicate the phenomenon of misconduct behaviours among youth within the society."

Gaming industry experts say the Middle East and North Africa are high-growth regions, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt among the largest markets. 

New pastimes and private sector investment are surging into Libya, which even launched an e-sport federation in 2018.

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