published at [[reAction zine|]]\n\nA few years ago, cleaning out a drawer in my parents’ house, I stumbled upon an old passport. I opened it expecting to see a dusty picture of a grandparent, or my mother or father in an incriminating hairstyle, but was surprised to see it had actually belonged to me. This was my Saudi passport before becoming a Canadian citizen in 1994. I couldn’t help but smile at the picture of five-year-old Soha, whose grin with missing teeth and big brown eyes looked happy, excited and full of hope. My eyes scanned the rest of the document and, very quickly, the nostalgia was interrupted and I could almost hear the moment shatter around me.\n\n@@font-size: 300%;NATIONALITY:STATELESS REFUGEE@@\n\nThis jarring reality check comes often, especially when I read news headlines:\n\n//‘Political arrests plague Palestinians,’//\n\n//‘Palestinians killed in West Bank,’//\n\n//‘Palestinians mark the 65th anniversary of Nakba,’//\n\nI am half-Palestinian. The other half of me is Iraqi (from my mother) and I was born in Saudi Arabia, but due to sexist patrilineal structures and aggressive racism in the Middle East, I was never able to claim citizenship as either an Iraqi or Saudi. I was only seen as a stateless refugee unable to advance beyond a high school diploma. My father, who was born in a city in Gaza called Khan Yunis in 1948, the unfortunate year of the Nakba (‘the catastrophe,’ where 700,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes), had enough of this status following him and his children for the rest of our lives.\n\nIt was time for a new nationality, and the move to Canada was a no-brainer for my family.\nThe majority of my adolescence was spent erasing the fact that I had been once stamped with the dire identity of a stateless refugee.\n\nEvery 6 months a new Soha would emerge, with the least flattering being the Dead Kennedys-obsessed, punk-rocker Soha. Eventually, I decided to grow my plucked-too-thin eyebrows, hide my Sex Pistols CDs, and began exploring the next phase – the gamer.\n\nAt first it was a casual affair where every now and then I would argue with my cousins and sisters over Mario Kart and picked up titles that would unexpectedly freak me out like Mischief Makers. A high school friend had lent me her brother’s copy of The Ocarina of Time on the N64, shocked that I had never played it, but dared to call myself an owner of the console. After hours of her nagging I finally sat down and played the game in its entirety in the span of a day and a half. I was astonished by my first experience with a game narrative, but what touched me the most was The Boy Without a Fairy whose revealed identity as a Hylian changed the rest of his life and became The Hero of Time.\n\nThe gaming phase hasn’t ended since that fateful playthrough, and I began to expect more from the games that I played. Beyond multiplayer fun and heart-touching stories, I learned that games could actually mean something to me besides avoiding school work and passing time, and that games could create unforgettable experiences. That realization came with the Silent Hill series, where horror wasn’t used simply to create feelings of discomfort and terror, but to represent the troubled human psyche in forms of monsters and other tropes of horror genre. I became proficient in dissecting narratives and contextualizing characters, settings, and plots to make meaning in hopes that I could criticize games in the same way I criticized films in my undergraduate career.\nWhen I was standing in line at midnight to pick up BioShock: Infinite, my belief its narrative would be meaningful was strong.\n\nThe two previous installments in the series opened my mind to the possibilities of politics and philosophy merging with gameplay to create a unique experience that would take games beyond code and design. My gut told me that this game would be the pinnacle of masterful storytelling. I was tremendously excited.\n\nThat excitement didn’t last, and my hopes for the game crashed around me. The cause was Daisy Fitzroy.\n\nThe Vox Populi, led by Daisy, had a cause to which I was committed – fight the oppressors. In Columbia, black bodies were enslaved, passive, villainized and discarded. I could not have been happier to arm them and assist their revolt against the horrific racism rampant through the city. Then, for the sake of a plot twist, I found myself having to fight them instead. As I fought them to progress Booker and Elizabeth’s stories I kept asking out loud in my empty apartment, “Why? Why am I doing this?” With every member of the Vox Populi I murdered, I was erasing their history and oppression one bullet at a time. They aren’t the enemies. They aren’t my enemies.\nI believed in Daisy. I believed she had a right to this land as much as the Founders of Columbia, and suddenly I was forced to put her down.\n\nI was crestfallen and ashamed, but mostly I was angry. I could not believe how poorly oppression and racism was handled simply to advance the stories of a white man and woman. Daisy and the Vox had been robbed of their voices to shout for their rights and freedoms. I found myself wondering, “Did the writing team even consider how offensive this is to black people?” And I decided that the only solution to properly represent stories of colour is to have people of colour write them.\n\nWhen people of colour don’t write their own stories in games, they end up in hands that will be neither delicate nor fair. The stories end up as botched as BioShock: Infinite where the oppressed turn to extreme violence and act like animals in the guise of creating a morally complex narrative where ethnicity disappears into the wind of white guilt. Daisy was right in saying, “The only thing a coloured child can depend on is the fact they invisible.”\n\n//The headlines rushed back to my head.//\n\n//‘Over 40,000 Palestinian refugees flee Syria,’//\n\n//‘Palestinian child used as human shield,’//\n\n//The terrors of Israeli occupation,’//\n\nAs a woman of colour, I no longer want to be invisible. Indie developers and game artists are successfully exploring issues of queer and trans* identities, and daily battles against mental health stigmas. I knew I needed to tell the story of being a Palestinian or else that story might never be told. Or worse, be told by people who cannot fathom it.\n\nMy first step was downloading Twine and starting my first project titled //Penalties//, an escape-the-room horror in which a nameless character wakes up in an unknown room with their mouth wired shut. Its objective is not only to escape the room, but to believe that the room can be escaped. The process of making this game so far has been rewarding and cathartic in ways that debating about Palestinian rights in political science classes or Internet comments sections are not. It voices the way it feels to be like me in this world: claustrophobic, terrifying and horrifically quiet.\n\nI want my beliefs to be built into the structure of the games I make and the articles I write. After all, belief is integral in shaping why we play in the first place. I believed in Irrational Games and bought BioShock: Infinite. I believed in Daisy and the Vox Populi and tried to aid their resistance. I believe this is not the way stories of colour should ever be handled. I believe in giving my identity a voice that will not be tainted by others. \n\n@@font-size: 300%;[[My own way|credits]].@@
bones creak as feet ground on concrete\n\nwords gurgled and blood spurts through rusty quivering lips\n\nblurred eyes focus on \n\nan unfamiliar \n\nempty room\n\nsmeared on a wall\n\n@@font-size: 300%;[[YOU DON'T BELONG HERE|panic]]@@\n\n
i inch the skinny nose of the needled pliers towards my bloodied lips\n\nthe glass shakes in my other hand\n\na flashback of overtweezing eyebrows in my early teens\n\ni throw the pliers and glass across the room\n\nbloodied fists in my hair tug at my scalp and i scream through wires\n\nthighs sticking with piss and only now i notice\n\na sob catches in my throat when i hear it\n\nthe click-clock of footsteps \n\nevery breath stings the mangled tissues of skin that were once lips\n\nthe door [[opens|door]]
The cold of the early morning pinches the skin on my cheeks. \n\nIt's the nail to seal summer away in its coffin of atrocious heat waves and high humidity. \n\nI inhale deeply and smile to myself at the thought of layered clothing.\n\nThe jerking brake of the car makes me look at my dad with a raised eyebrow.\n\n"What?" He says, one hand struggling to buckle his seatbelt while his other hand grips the base of the wheel.\n\nI turn away to face the empty intersection. \n\nThis city is so quiet before rush hour.\n\nEvery time we reach this intersection my dad would turn on the radio to listen to the morning news. \n\nHe doesn't today.\n\nWe sit in silence after I assure him for the second time that I printed out my bus ticket and have change for a coffee.\n\n"We're worried about you. Your mom and I always worry about you." \n\nI wince at the thought. \n\nWe continue driving, rushing through yellow lights even though we'll arrive ahead of time. \n\n"[[You'll have to come home again soon to visit us|Home]]," he says, barely audible. "Wait." He perks up, "What day is it?"\n\n"Uhh," I check my phone, "The 12th." \n\n"The 12th of August... Do you know what that is?"\n\nMy expression remains intact but my mind races through the possibilities. \n\nHis birthday? \n\nNo, that's December. \n\nMom's is in February. \n\nTheir anniversary? \n\nHe clears his throat after a sip of black coffee, "Today marks the day that we've been in this country for 20 years."
<<screenShake 5000>>\n\n@@font-size: 300%;[[AWAKE|wake up]]@@
bloody wires litter the floor\n\nthighs sticking with piss and only now i notice\n\nevery breath stings the hanging tissues of skin that were once lips\n\nflashbacks to organizing a drawer of lipsticks, my heart sinks\n\ni pick up a wire with my bloodied fingers\n\nmaybe i can [[pick this lock|door]] and be free\n\n\n\n
<<screenShake 5000>>\n\n@@font-size: 300%;[[GET UP]]@@
How would you like to [[leave|free]]?\n
i rush to the speck of light\n\ncrash onto my knees\n\nand my palm meets the pointed edge of\n\n* [[a pair of pliers|pliers]]\n* [[a shard of glass|glass]]\n\n
Dear Mom,\n\nI'm sorry.\n\nI'm sorry I wasn't strong enough to reach out to you when you frantically lent me your hand. I know how hard you and dad tried to help. You tried everything you could, and there wasn't a solution you missed, or a wrong step you took.\n\nYou tried harder than I deserved. \n\nPlease don't blame yourself.\n\nPlease don't ask Him to forgive my soul.\n\nPlease forget me. \n\nI love you more than you'll know, and more than I allowed myself to show.\n\n[[Goodbye.|credits]]
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the body, with mangled lips, and a slit throat\n\nshe chose the pliers \n\nand the glass\n\ni drag her body away from the exit \n\napologizing to her dead weight\n\ni open the door to another unfamiliar room \n\nno more doors, no more windows\n\nsmeared on a wall\n\n@@font-size: 300%;[[WELCOME HOME|credits]]@@\n\n
i inch the skinny nose of the needled pliers towards my bloodied lips\n\nthe glass shakes in my other hand\n\na flashback of overtweezing eyebrows in my early teens\n\nthe needles grip a wire\n\nsnip\n\n[[pull the wire out|FUCK]]
sob stuck in a drying throat as nails claw at a locked door\n\npungent stench of bile suffocating the nostrils\n\nwood splinters in palms banging on the door\n\nchest heavies\n\nbreath shortens\n\nvision tunnels\n\nmaybe if I go [[back to sleep|back]]\n\nbut [[how can i sleep in a time like this?|here]]\n\n
there is a trail of blood \n\nand shit \n\nleading out another open door\n\nin another pool of blood is a nest of wires\n\nthey chose the pliers, they chose to speak\n\ni walk further down the hall where the trail leads me to\n\na body slumped against a door under an [[exit]] sign\n\n\n
wires weaved into flesh\n\nheart races\n\nlashes blink away tears\n\na whimper escapes\n\n[[fingertips coated in crimson|crimson]]
burning stretches across the mouth that tries to scream\n\nfists uncurl and reach towards the lips\n\nto feel the sharp sting of [[wires poking through fingertips|wires]]
my mouth feels like needles sewn into my lips\n\nare made out of fire\n\nthis room won't stop spinning electrical currents\n\nwhen my eyes scan the room to find \n\nsomething\n\nanything.\n\nit [[shines]] in the corner of this room
<<screenShake 5000>>\n\n@@font-size: 300%;[[FUCK|seminars]]@@
[img[]]\n\nmade by [[soha el-sabaawi|]]\n\nthank you [[dames making games|]]\n\nthank you [[tweethearts|]]\n\nfurther reading can be found [[here|essay]]\n\nwould you like to do this [[again|wake up]]?
an eyelid slits\n\na finger twitches\n\nlips try to part\n\n[[pain]]
i try to follow the origin of the voice\n\nmy foot moves forward, gravel sticks to my sole\n\nmy eyes squint down a hallway where doors line opposing sides\n\nmy palm touches one of the doors and with a slight push, it slowly opens\n\non the floor\n\na man in a pool of blood\n\neyes fixed to the ceiling\n\nwires sewing his lips shut\n\n[[what is this place?|more]]\n\n
by soha el-sabaawi
desperate reach for the handles that fumble \n\nout of my slick grip \n\nsnot mixes with blood and drool \n\ncrawling with trail marks behind\n\ni'm a sniveling animal\n\nmy free hand pats the floor towards the shard of glass\n\ni move it towards my eyes\n\na reflection of swollen lips blistered with damson stains\n\nthe rusting wires squeezing them together\n\nthe weight of the pliers ground my hand\n\nthe electrical currents in my temples pulsing out of my skull\n\n* [[unpry the wires|unprying]]\n* [[i can't do this|silence]]\n\n
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desperate reach for the shard that fumbles\n\nout of my slick grip \n\nsnot mixes with blood and drool \n\ncrawling with trail marks behind\n\ni'm a sniveling animal\n\ni squeeze around the shard, hot ribbons drip down my palm\n\ni hold my breath, my muscles vibrating as my thoughts buzz to the solution\n\ni press the glass against my throat\n\nmy heartbeat pulses behind my eyes\n\n* [[press it deeper|game over]]\n* drop the glass and [[grab the pliers|pliers]]
He's late.\n\nI'm about to sit on the floor outside his office, but a recent conversation with a colleague about a cockroach infestation in the building turns my stomach at the thought. I shift my weight to rest against the wall instead.\n\nFucking academics. \n\nI check my phone. 16 minutes.\n\nI hear the shuffling of his squeaky sneakers approach from the end of the hallway and I look his way, forcing a smile. \n\n"Hi!" My pitch squeaks, an attempt to mask my impatience.\n\n"Oh, hello." He says, grappling with keys from his pocket to unlock the door to his office, "What's up?"\n\n"I made an appointment with you."\n\n"Oh." He musters after a beat, "Oh! Oh of course! Come right in."\n\nI roll my eyes behind him as he shifts books off a chair facing his desk. He gestures me to sit. \n\n"What would you like to talk about today?"\n\n"Well, it's about my paper." I sit across from him and chrew on my lip, "I'd like to talk about my topic."\n\nHe scribbles a thought on a sticky note and pastes it on the barcode of a library book. //Deleuze, Cinema And National Identity: Narrative Time In National Contexts//. He meets my eyes and tilts his head, confused, and I realize I've been furrowing my brow at him since I sat down.\n\n"It's, uh," I clear my throat, "I noticed on the syllabus we talk a lot about marginalized nationalities. I wanted to," My breath stills, "I want to discuss Palestinian cinema."\n\nHe stares at me, eyes scanning back and forth between mine in a quick motion, scanning and reading. My lips part, and he blurts, "Well that sounds great. I think there needs to be more research into queer identities in, um, in countries like that. The oppression against gender and sexuality, it creates, a, sort of, um-"\n\nI blink.\n\nHe moves gestures with his hands, about to continue his thought.\n\n"No," My voice breaks, "No," I repeat, an octave louder. "What I mean is," I shake my head, "I want to talk about how cinema represents the Israeli [[occupation|unlock]]." \n\nThere's a silence between us that lasts too long.
eyes lazily open to the familiar pain from before\n\nsounds of panting and wheezing become clear and blood spits with every sharp exhale\n\nThe sounds of my own breath.\n\nThe sight of my own blood.\n\n[[I'm still here|here]]\n\n
10th grade history taught me a thing or two about white privilege.\n\nStale marijuana and cigarette smoke fumed from the cotton fibres of my hoodie. My thoughts focused on a sketching I had been inking while my teacher and a fellow student spoke about \n\nm u l t i c u l t u r a l i s m\n\nI carefully sounded out each letter with the tip of my pen. \n\nI scribbled the word out hard, causing the students around me to turn their attention towards what I was doing. I rubbed my eyes with the flat of my palms and then shot my right hand up.\n\nWithout waiting, I exclaimed, "You know that's not the case, right?" My foot started to fidget, "Do you realize how difficult it is for immigrants to find jobs in this country?"\n\n"That's not true!" A student, white, of course, responded immediately. "That [insert global corporation here] just promoted a Japanese man to be their CEO!" \n\nThe teacher, white, of course, shook her head at me, "I honestly don't know where you get that information from."\n\nMemories of the day my dad opened a convenience store after being one of the top engineers in the Middle East pierced each brain cell like a tumour.\n\nI scoffed, "That's fucking [[bullshit|escape]], and you know it."\n\nI was sent to the principal's office.