JEDDAH: Whether as a reward after completing homework or as a casual hobby, video games are a big part of many childhoods. Yet not so long ago, gaming and gamers were looked down upon and regarded with suspicion but now they are being celebrated, with games increasingly viewed as a legitimate art form.
In the Kingdom, a growing number of events are being staged that bring together developers and gamers, including this weekend’s three-day Gamers Con and the upcoming IGN convention on Oct. 31, both of them in Jeddah.
This year’s Gamers Con, the second edition, attracted many players, game developers and gaming-PC manufacturers, including HP and MSI, shining a spotlight on a pastime and professions that were in the shadows in the Kingdom for a long time.
Ben Su, the managing director of MSI, said he is happy that gaming is growing in popularity in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East.
“The trend in gaming PCs is growing rapidly in the region and the market is showing very positive results,” he added. To encourage people to participate in gaming and esports, MSI holds games tournament in schools and gaming cafes.
HP, through its Omen brand of gaming PCs, was the main sponsor of Gamers Con, and is the official worldwide partner of the “Overwatch” tournament.
While for most people gaming remains just a hobby, others manage to build a career or social-media presence from it. Ahmed Al-Maymani, for example, an Omani living in Egypt who is better known online as “Pisty,” has almost 70,000 subscribers to his games-themed YouTube channel, and also streams games footage on Twitch.
“The gaming community is growing very rapidly,” he said. “I have been seeing tremendous change. Every year I see the crowd swelling in numbers — all the positive change is for the better.”
Saudi YouTuber Feras Al-Sarami, who is better known online as “Real Feras,” has 248,000 subscribers on YouTube and was at Gamers Con.
“It was my dream to show people how to play, the secrets in the games and walkthroughs for those who are stuck,” he said. “I used to get concerned looks from my family but now that they understand. They do support me.
“Gaming has changed tremendously throughout the years. I was most pleased with the games (announced at the convention that are) coming in Arabic.”
Abdullah Konash, an independent games developer and producer at Manga Productions, said: “Game developing has gotten easier. There weren’t many publishing platforms before, but now you can publish your own games.”
Mashael Abulnaja, another independent developer, said: “My support through my journey has been my family. I am looking forward to developing many games in the future.”
Just as gaming was a huge part of childhood for many people, some are working to make it the focus of their professional lives as well.