Saudi store leads fightback as board games throw down the gauntlet to online rivals

1 / 2
One of the main aims behind this store is to encourage families to find interesting ways of coming together instead of becoming isolated playing video or phone games. (AN photos)
2 / 2
One of the main aims behind this store is to encourage families to find interesting ways of coming together instead of becoming isolated playing video or phone games. (AN photos)
Updated 17 February 2018
0

Saudi store leads fightback as board games throw down the gauntlet to online rivals

JEDDAH: Chess, Monopoly, Baloot, Snakes and Ladders — board and card games have been part of family and social life for thousands of years.
Now a Saudi store is helping these age-old pastimes fight back against the dominance of their online and mobile phone rivals, and the social isolation that these encourage.
Challenge Round offers more than 200 board games from around the world, with eight playing tables. Each table seats eight players and, for a SR35 ($9.30) fee, visitors can play with friends and family — or alone.
Rami Sunnari, Challenge Round’s founder and business manager, told Arab News: “We sometimes have one player, and in this case we help him to either socialize with a new group of friends or, if not, then the game masters gladly help him to enjoy the game.”
Four game masters at the store offer customers advice on games, with tips on rules and tactics, Sunnari said.
Dixit, Games Magazine’s best new game of 2010, is one of the store’s top sellers. It features a group of cards illustrated with dreamlike images. Players select cards that match a title suggested by the “storyteller,” and attempt to guess which card the “storyteller” selected. The game was introduced in 2008.
“A friend of mine told me about a fun game that can make people laugh out loud,” Sunnari said. “It was Dixit. I bought it from Amazon, then played it with family and friends, and we had great fun.
“I kept searching for similar games and found this huge industry of board gaming that I wasn’t aware of. In fact, only a handful of people knew about these games in our part of the world, while the industry has reached its peak in Germany, the US, Britain, France, and other European countries.
Sunnari said games could be an enjoyable way of teaching and learning, as developments in “edutainment” showed.
But while video and online games can help us to think more critically and engage with people from all over the world, they also carry the risk of social isolation, and even depression and violence.
“One of the main aims behind this store is to encourage families to find interesting ways of coming together instead of becoming isolated playing video or phone games,” Sunnari said.
“I started buying games and playing them with family and friends at weekends and even on weekdays. After a while, I owned 27 different games. And it wasn’t easy to get them because I ordered them online most of the time. Later my friends and family invited me over and asked me to play these games with them. It wasn’t long before the idea of a board gaming business came to my mind,” he said.
In March, Challenge Round will open a new branch with more space for families to play. “It can accommodate up to 100 people to play games and enjoy coffee and smoothies. And in the next five years, we aim to have our own games events and shows for the people of Saudi Arabia,” Sunnari said.


We have a story to share with the Saudi people, says new US official in Riyadh

Cultural and educational exchange programs between Saudi Arabia and the United States help build stronger ties. (AN photo)
Updated 19 September 2018
0

We have a story to share with the Saudi people, says new US official in Riyadh

  • We have a story to tell and a story to share in Saudi Arabia with the Saudi people. We are pleased that so many Saudis want to study in the United States: US Public Affairs Counselor in KSA

RIYADH: Cultural and educational exchange programs between Saudi Arabia and the United States “help build stronger ties between the two countries and bring them closer together,” according to Brian Shott, the new US Public Affairs Counselor in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at a reception to welcome him at the US embassy in Riyadh on September 18, he said: “One of the main things we do is we try to share aspects of the United States and of American culture, but we also learn from Saudis and Saudi culture.” 

In her opening speech, the embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Martina Strong also highlighted the enduring relationship between the two countries, saying: “Tonight is a celebration, a celebration of a friendship that has extended over many, many decades.”

Shott, who previously served in Morocco, Cairo and Baghdad, will be in Saudi Arabia for the next two years, during which he will promote educational and cultural exchanges.

“There are some real opportunities here and we have been fortunate enough to be able take advantage of partnerships with Saudi organizations and Saudi agencies, whether it is the General Authority for Culture or the Ministry of Education,” he said.

“We have a story to tell and a story to share in Saudi Arabia with the Saudi people. We are pleased that so many Saudis want to study in the United States.”

Meanwhile, the reception also served as a farewell to Robin Yeager, the cultural attache in Riyadh. She said that it had been a “very dynamic time to be in Saudi Arabia. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be here at a time when I get to know first-hand the future that Saudis are trying to build.”

The night that women were were given the right to drive, she said she went out and saw the “thrill on their faces.” To assist with empowerment and other progressive policies, embassy staff work on social issues and provide leadership training for women’s groups, she said.

“It is beautiful because they take something that an American expert talks to them about and they turn it into the Saudi way to approach it,” she added. “It’s not that we are changing things; it’s that we are giving them tools, so they can build what they want to build.”