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Animal Crossing's cursed bunny event, Grand Theft Auto Online with its July 4th celebration, Overwatch's Chinese New Year: these are just some of the events that crop up in our favourite games on a yearly basis. But the majority of AAA titles never seem to do anything special for Eid, which is currently (May 12-13) being celebrated by Muslims worldwide. This is a holiday that's celebrated by nearly two billion people, yet so few games take the opportunity to represent its events.
Check out the promo video for Overwatch's Chinese Year of the Ox event, below
Eid is an Islamic holiday that is celebrated twice a year. In my family home, we called them big Eid and little Eid. Eid al-Fitr, aka the "Festival of Breaking the Fast", takes place at the end of Ramadan, and is the one being marked now; and Eid al-Adha celebrates Abraham's sacrifice and is held July 19-23. Both of these are hugely special occasions for Muslims, but very few video games celebrate these holidays in the same way they do Halloween, Chinese New Year, and Christmas.
Which isn't to say that they're wholly ignored, as there have been a few occasions where developers have acknowledged these massive celebrations and implemented something within their games. For example, while he was at Blizzard, Nazih Fares worked with the Overwatch team to add two special Ramadan sprays during an anniversary event in 2020.
Alongside what Blizzard did last year, Epic Games, Activision, and PUBG Corp also did some small things to join in with the merriments. Fortnite and Call Of Duty Mobile released some great Ramadan-themed aesthetic items that players could equip, while PUBG Mobile took a more 'advent calendar' approach by gifting players with free rewards on each day of the holy month.
These are just a few of the rare moments where games have done something to celebrate Eid and Ramadan - but this year I've not seen anything in mainstream games such as Call of Duty: Warzone and Animal Crossing: New Horizons that celebrates the holiday. Not even Marvel's Avengers, a game where the central protagonist is a Pakistani-American Muslim hero, has done something to celebrate the occasion. Poor Kamala Khan is hanging out on the Avengers helicarrier celebrating the religious holiday on her lonesome!
For most gamers out there, we're used to these special in-game events celebrating many of the mainstream holidays, as it's just part and parcel of their arrival every year. But in 2021, shouldn't we be looking to represent more and more people from around the world? As I mentioned, Eid is observed by two billion people globally, and it's very likely that a good portion of them play video games. On top of that, I think it's fair to say that everyone around the world loves some kind of festivity. I'm not Christian, but I'm a big sucker for a nice Christmas dinner and a good family gathering.
As The Daily Show host and comedian Trevor Noah said in his Netflix special Afraid of the Dark, one of the best things anyone can do is travel the world, because travelling is the antidote to ignorance. Video games, in a strange way, are a way that gamers can travel the world. Games are a way for folks to discover a new point of view, and can help give you a wider perspective on the world that we all inhabit. In my opinion, this argument alone is reason enough for why we should see more in-game events for other religious holidays.
It's not just Eid that gets left out, though. The Hindu holiday Diwali, the "Festival of Lights" held in November this year, doesn't get enough representation in AAA games. There's a plethora of cultural events celebrated by billions of people every year that simply don't get represented or celebrated in the same way as a lot of the more obviously mainstream, Western-world holidays. Not only are players missing out on some exciting things, but the devs are also missing out on adding just a little bit more fun and variety to their games.
This time next year, I'd love to be sailing a ship in Sea of Thieves with Ramadan-themed sails, or decorating my island in Animal Crossing with some Ramadan lanterns. There's a lot that can be done with aesthetic items in a whole host of games, similar to what Fortnite and Call of Duty Mobile have already done. Players love donning all kinds of items and clothing because it's a way of better representing themselves, and it better diversifies the worlds that everyone loves to venture to. Hopefully, devs realise this sooner rather than later.
Featured Image Credit: Epic Games, Activision