Friday, August 4, 2017

Gaming life

Life is a single player game. You level up. Sometimes you buy coins. Sometimes you play everyday. Sometimes you don't login for weeks. Maybe you have a guild. Maybe you're in between guilds. Half of the game is not quitting. Most of the game outlasting other players. All of the game is logging in after losing all your archers in a raid last night. You go to bed defeated and broke. You've wasted so much gold and elixir you say. You'll never bounce back you think. Your guild is laughing at you. You're laughing at you. Screw it. This game sucks. It's rigged for coin-buying whales anyway. But you wake up, login again, and check your gold mine and elixir stream and say to yourself "it's not so bad"—and try to heal those wounded archers (and your bruised ego), create new archers, and go raiding again. This time smarter, you think. You tell yourself you'll level your troops up at the balcksmith. Build that wizard tower and make mages too. Yes, cavalry, archers, and (this time) mages is the winning combination. Who needs swordsman!?

The thing about MMOGs is that they are both competitive and pointless. You cannot win in everything. You rarely win in something. But you compete in bouts. Because it's fun and (literally) rewarding. The only goal of the game is the journey because there is no destination. So many players before you. Their castles abandoned. So many players after you. So young, so inexperienced you think. But you're different. You're faster than the older ones and wiser than the youngins. And you're levelling up, still. You say you're a better player now. More intentional. You don't respond to the designer's incentives. You're gaming the game. Elixir chests are for impatient losers. You understand. And then many guilds, armors, and upgrades later... one day you stop logging in. Nobody knows what happened. They remember you for a while. And then the guild moves on. The game moves on. The designers even launch some upgrades to the game's interface, how players upgrade, and they reprice the elixir chests. You wouldn't even recognise it if you saw it. But you're gone.

Note: This post was partly inspired by this piece

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Queen of Things

My dearest of kin, sin, and all that we would together win. Fin to my stride, max to my mins. To you I ping all the things we must watch and read and see and be. To you I ring all my bells that would otherwise never toll. To you I bring all my words for you to sing. And to you I am your wing and you my wing and together we fly and see all the things. Thank you for making my heart ting. I miss you when you are in Berlin. 

I love you in the valentines and all the other times.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Notes on Bibi: Death and all that follows

Death takes all that is full and renders it empty. We are comforted by what those we lost have left behind for us to keep. Kebabs and shops and art and salad sauces and books and jokes and strange habits we carry. Death is the indiscriminate execution of an inheritance to both the worthy and the unworthy. We are all heirs of great and mediocre heritage. Bibi, as Iraqis call their grandmother, died after battling too many illnesses to comprehend let alone explain. She died on the morning of a storm. Sand came early to take her away. Sand we walked on together. Sand I rarely glanced at while spending weekends at her house. Sand I buried her with on Saturday. We were both above sand and together for so long and now sand is between us. 

Bibi was a strong woman. She survived too much. War, migration, death of a child and a husband. She watched her brothers and sisters stay in Iraq and fall on times so hard that every bit helped. She watched her nephews called to a fruitless war for eight years. Some didn’t return. She lost her home and left overnight because my grandfather was rumoured to be pro-monarchy at a time of socialist democracy. In 2003, my mother and I took her to Ahwaz to meet her sister - she had been accused by Saddam of being Iranian and had their assets confiscated and banished there - after many years. My great aunt was younger than Bibi but she looked so much older. I remember Bibi almost scolding her - in that hardened tone that streams of love that only Iraqi women can do - “What’s wrong you?! What happened to you??!” But she knew: Saddam happened. One of my great aunt’s daughters had green spots on her arms. I asked her what they were and she said ‘Kemawi’. During that trip I met my great aunt’s only son. He told me that time had stopped since they were forced to leave Iraq. That he now intentionally lives in the past. Before the war. When things were good. 

I do not digress and I do not live in the past but I left a part of me with Bibi in that grave. I don’t know what it is but I know it’s old. I know it’s from the days of her salad and spicy bamya stew in her house in Sharjah by the green belt park in the blue living room where I slept too many times trying to stay up to watch Thursday night movies. Where I saw Enter the Dragon for the first time one afternoon after Akil dozed off.

Maybe that’s what life is about… a life-long attempt to build a collection of memories that can be curated into a final exhibition moments before we die. And then we exhale. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

To Be Long

What is this world that doesn't want to be anything long enough? What is this world that writes itself with no stationary? Who are we if not of each other... if not with one another. Old friends and new. Faint folks and brave. Why is it so hard to linger? Why has it become impossible to see it through. Coming and going. So many manys but few are left if any. I want to be long with you. Let us be long together. Let us make meaning here. And let us find others that will stay and speak and play. Together, maybe we can all be together. Let us dilate with each others' forms and navigate with our paces. Let us predetermine this. Let us not be true (and what is true?) but lasting.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Death reconciles sadness and joy. Achraf says it is the ultimate truth. And we are only capable of seeing anyone buried… or right before, on the washing slab, in a coffin or before they sail to burn. We look at them like it’s the first time. The last time is the first. We say hello as they wave goodbye. Eyes shut. Soul afloat. We only belong to them then. They conquer Achraf’s truth all while immortalising our memories. We eventually embalm them into a picture. One time. One moment. That is all we have left. Our misery is traded for the sanctuary of a single memory. Dear Bassem, I’m sorry I skipped Sir Bani Yas Forum and we never met like we planned. Dear Thamer, I’m sorry I didn’t press on you to leave to RAK after lunch like you initially planned that day before you got that on wretched bike. Dear Nasser, I’m sorry I missed your burial and didn’t shed a tear when mom called to tell me – though my heart broke and my lungs compressed at the thought of your loss. Dear Akil, I’m sorry I never took those calls just before the end. But I am not reconciled. I would trade all that truth and a thousand real moments for the company of your lives. I do not find solace for your wrong deaths in the greatness of your past lives. That doesn’t do it for me. I wanted more of you. Days and decades since, I still want more of you. I will always hate that you are dead. You deserve to be immortal. I will probably die a little sooner because you died so much sooner.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


A moment to catch my fleeting thoughts… am I too fast or are they too slow? I think both. 

I am excited at my acceleration but I am also nostalgic of time to be. Can we not be both?

Can we not discuss being both seriously?

Can we not all be highlanders?

Lives after lives to date not to find what’s best or even better… but to find it all.

I hope Ray’s right. 

I want to live a thousand years.

I want to be a highlander.

I want to be a poly-century-math.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Band Incomplete

It’s hard for a band of brothers to travel the same seas with a brother gone. He’s everywhere but he’s not. It’s hard for a band of brothers to walk the same islands with a brother gone. He’s with them but he’s not. It’s hard for a band of brothers to play the same music with a brother gone. His music is still loud but he’s not.

How hard it must be to be shaken from the busy that is everyday to be taken back to the very rooms of a brother. How silly they must feel… their dejections at once awake. How loud is his laugh among their silence? Books and apps and cards and plans and ideas do not prevail. His presence is so loud.

What to do with the present when the past seems this inconclusive? What does the future hold for those with inadequate pasts? What is there to multiply when ones's additions have been this subtracted? Divisibility abounds.

They are incomplete.