EXPLORING THE EMIRATI CULTURE OF ‘KARAK CHAI’ THROUGH GAMING

By Maryam Ahmed, Intern @ Zaman

Today’s topic is a bit offbeat – inspired by my friend Sara’s project (a student from the American University of Sharjah from the College of Art, Architecture and Design) it’s about gaming for education, a topic I find particularly interesting as an animation enthusiast.

Using the context of the UAE & what has now become an Emirati culture of drinking karak chai (milk-based strong tea), the purpose of the game is to educate players on how to interact with the workers, in the karak chai shops, who are usually of South Asian origin, and a glimpse into the culture of these ever popular road side cafeterias. For readers not familiar, most of these cafeterias are quite small with very simple interiors, and one can usually find many cars parked outside, while waiters bustle in and out with trays laden with fresh chai delivered to customers waiting in their cars. This cheap beverage has become a source for social gatherings for many UAE locals.

Now the game’s concept is based on a real karak chai shop where Sara carried out her research. What I think is interesting about the game is how it offers scenario-based challenges which show both the worker’s and the customer’s views. For example, in one scenario there’s a sandstorm and if you’ve selected to be the character of the customer (an Emirati man called Sultan who drives a Range Rover and has lots of money; granted a bit clichéd but one gets the picture), you have to select whether you’ll wait in your car for the waiter to come outside and take your order or you’ll be considerate about the waiter’s health and opt to go into the cafeteria to be served. All points awarded are accompanied by a recorded voice over that rationalizes each choice and made and points scored.

Using gaming as an education tool in my opinion is a smart way to enlighten people on any subject. People may learn faster from gaming as they get to interact with the situation or the virtual environment. In this particular case, the game can be useful for those who are new to the karak karak “culture” as they can get an idea about the place.

It would be nice if this approach takes a wider step in the Arab region where local related games or interactive designs are created. Here’s a link to a Gulf News article on the popularity of the karak chai culture amongst Emiratis. If you could create a game to educate people one element of Emirati culture what would it be?

Below is part 2 of the game.