The world of gaming is a transitional one. Unlike other platforms and outlets that allow users to communicate with others, games are there to build communities based on common interest, offer new sets of skills, and expand one's perspective on what achievements can look like. But it isn't just that. When you're sitting in front of your computer or while holding your phone ready to start your next mission, you're instantaneously submerged into a world far from your reality ... and that's the most exciting part about gaming.
For one young man, life hasn't been quite the same ever since he got into this virtual sphere.
At the age of 17, Ahmed Maher Bakeer lost his left hand while working at a plastic factory in Turkey after he had fled his home country Syria due to the ongoing war. Settled there with his aunt and her family, Ahmed was trying to make ends meet by taking a job at that factory. Little did he know a part of him would be lost, there and then, due to a heavy piece of machinery falling on his grip. Seventeen and away from his parents, he was left devastated by the accident.
"I was planning to build a good life [...] have my own home, stable work, and a wife. I was a social person before the accident, but afterwards I started to prefer being alone," Ahmed, now 20 years old, lamented.
Born in Areha village, in the Syrian city of Idlib, Ahmed moved back to his country and is now living with his family in Latakia. Left with one hand and little job opportunities, he took up playing a battle royale game to regain some confidence. Though he had started dabbling with Free Fire before the accident, Ahmed's determination to play better and win the game grew once he found himself staying in more often.
"Winning was an extremely rare case back then. But I've been winning very often lately. As I enter the lobby, the first thing that comes to my mind is to eliminate as many enemies as possible. My main priority is the kill, not the overall score, and as it turns out, winning comes with that mindset," the young man said.
"It took me a great deal of patience, courage, team work, spirit, and passion to get a Booyah. I approach life with the same values," he continued, mentioning a three-month journey to accomplish his first win — "Booyah," as Free Fire adequately titles it.
It was a struggle to get his phone to stand still while gaming at first. However, with the help of a small white shelf-looking prop, he soon enough had a base to hold his mobile phone.
His next move was a YouTube channel under the name of "Meshako," a word - though already existent - he coined related to a ninja tool called "Nunchaku," consisting of two hardwood sticks joined together by a chain, rope, or thong. Inspired by his favorite YouTubers, especially a Free Fire one named "Lawrence", he took up the challenge and now has what he humbly calls a "rather modest" channel with over 34,000 subscribers and half a million total views.
"I lack some tools that are needed to be a PC Gamer, and I often struggle with montages. I use another mobile phone to shoot my videos which is quite inconvenient because it can take up to 4 hours to transfer the videos from one phone to another so that I could edit them," Ahmed explained.
It wasn't long before he was discovered by the Free Fire team, and to no one's surprise as he's the first one-handed Arab gamer to stream his skills online.
"Ahmed's personal story and his skill level made him stand out. Free Fire is a fast-paced battle royale game. While it is an easy game to pick up, mastering it requires considerable time and skill. People with two hands will still have a hard time to be competitive in it, but Ahmed has shown that he is equally adept even by playing it with one hand," Harold Teo, a Free Fire producer at Garena, told us.
"This, to us, demonstrates a huge amount of persistence and spirit - qualities which Garena closely identifies with and value [sic] highly. He is a great inspiration to our community, showing us that regardless of the cards you are dealt with in life, the important thing is how we make the best of them," Mr. Teo continued.
Now, if one may say, Ahmed is in the protective care of his favorite game's creators — a long-shot achievement many avid gamers dream of reaching. He's receiving the needed support from Free Fire to maintain an appealing and informative YouTube channel filled with in-game items to share with his viewers.
With a strong team by his side, including Daraoui, the leader of Mafia LB 2 Clan; Moukafaha, the leader of Mafia LB Clan; Mohamed LB; and Syrian LB, Ahmed is now on his way to stardom and consecutive wins. Ultimately, he's set on winning future Free Fire tournaments to prove his presence and that of Syria to the world.
On a personal level, the young Syrian man has come a long way too. He's now employed at a supermarket and has made a number of new friendships thanks to the gaming community he calls "family". As for his self-esteem and social skills, they're progressing with time.
To all gamers out there, whether people of determination or not, who might feel defeated by back-to-back losses, Ahmed has a few words to share:
"Just enjoy the gaming experience. Don't use hacks or cheat codes. Struggling to play is normal. You'll improve over time. At the end of the day, it is just a game, not an actual war. To those that are disabled like myself or are currently in a tight spot, remember to never give up. Believe in yourself. You can definitely achieve your goals."