Virtual reality tools offer escape to blockaded Gaza youth

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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.

“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.

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 22year-old Youssef Al-Qudairi.

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

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