Virtual reality tools offer blockaded Gaza youth an escape

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The owner of Gaza’s first virtual reality gaming cafe is offering a fantasy world of action, music, and sports to young people who have grown up under the blockade.

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“Often many of the youth who come here to play they look for an escape from the reality they live in,” Firas al-Khodary, the owner of VR Station in Gaza city, said.

A Palestinian man wears virtual reality glasses inside a gaming store in Gaza City, November 16, 2022. (Reuters)
A Palestinian man wears virtual reality glasses inside a gaming store in Gaza City, November 16, 2022. (Reuters)

With opportunities for travel ruled out for most people by the years-long border closure imposed by Israel and Egypt, the online realm is an outlet for young people hungry for entertainment and distraction.

“I move into cities, different places, mountains, and oceans, cities that are impossible for us to visit,” said 22 year-old Youssef al-Qudairi.

A Palestinian girl Nisreen Shamalakh wears virtual reality glasses inside a gaming store in Gaza City, November 22, 2022. (Reuters)
A Palestinian girl Nisreen Shamalakh wears virtual reality glasses inside a gaming store in Gaza City, November 22, 2022. (Reuters)

According to al-Khodary, virtual action and combat games are the most popular among young men, while young women tend to favor sports, music and travel.

Palestinian men wear virtual reality glasses as they play inside a gaming store in Gaza City, November 16, 2022. (Reuters)
Palestinian men wear virtual reality glasses as they play inside a gaming store in Gaza City, November 16, 2022. (Reuters)

“Since we are blockaded and it is difficult to travel and move from one place to another, we come to VR and make up for all these things and we live it in the virtual reality,” said 16 year-old Nisreen Shamalakh as she put on her headset.

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