Meta-march: Roblox gamers hold virtual pro-Palestine protest
Virtual reality game Roblox is the latest space to host a Palestine solidarity protest since Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip which has killed thousands began earlier this month.
The game – particularly popular among children and teenagers, and home to 65 million players from around the world each day – allows users to create experiences online and build games. It has now become a place to express support for Palestine thanks to a player in Malaysia.
As horror has grown over Israel’s aggressive aerial bombardment on Gaza which has claimed the lives of more than 6,500 people, a wave of protests in solidarity with Palestine has hit cities worldwide, from London to Karachi and Amman to Cape Town.
Now the metaverse has joined after a player of the US-made game in Malaysia created a pro-Palestine protest experience called '(PALESTINE) Dataran Tanjung Mas'.
It has drawn 60,000 visits since its creation on 14 October, with 200 users allowed to attend the march at a time, according to the game's server page on Roblox.
Videos of the virtual protest shared by the creator @cikguzyd on their TikTok account shows animated block characters marching together and holding Palestinian flags along a computer-generated street, with some players holding Malaysian flags.
@cikguzyd Doa Qunut Nazilah dalam event Roblox semalam #cikguzyd #zydverse #ceviralskit #roblox #robloxfyp ♬ original sound - Cikgu Zyd Gaming ✪ - Cikgu Zyd Gaming ✪ 🇲🇾🇵🇸
The protest experience ends with the players standing in front of a wide billboard which reads "Solidari5y Untukmu", Malay for "Solidarity for you". Players from all over the world have joined the protest.
In response to a TikTok user commenting: "How does this help Palestine?", Malaysian gamer @cikguzyd said that his creation was helping spread awareness.
In Muslim majority Malaysia, where the government has no diplomatic ties with Israel, thousands of people have attended Palestine solidarity demonstrations over the last few weeks.
But social media users pointed out that the virtual rally on Roblox means children can join in with Palestinian activism too.
y’all my cousin is 15 and couldn’t join a protest so she just went to one on roblox bro i’m crying 😭😭😭😭😭— salsabeel سلسبيل 🦊🇵🇸 (@funnecfox) October 23, 2023
While governments in Europe have sought to quash Palestinian activism by banning demonstrations or threatening arrest over the use of Palestine freedom chants, expressions of solidarity in the metaverse are likely to resonate globally.
It is not the first time that the virtual world has reacted to global issues. In 2020, a user of popular game The Sims created a Black Lives Matter rally, in solidarity with the worldwide movement to stand against racism, discrimination and inequality experienced by Black people.