Game on: IGN Convention makes Saudi debut

Game on: IGN Convention makes Saudi debut
Established in 1996, IGN is the leading internet media company focusing on the world of pop culture, comics, movies and video games. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)
Updated 11 November 2018

Game on: IGN Convention makes Saudi debut

Game on: IGN Convention makes Saudi debut
  • The event’s success will lead to many more exciting gaming projects in future, says expert

JEDDAH: The Imagine Games Network (IGN) Convention was held in Saudi Arabia for the first time this week. 

Considered the year’s biggest gathering of video games, movies, comics and pop culture within the Kingdom, the IGN Convention debuted to much fanfare on Wednesday night. 

Established in 1996, IGN is the leading internet media company focusing on the world of pop culture, comics, movies and video games. IGN reaches more than 170 million monthly users worldwide and has more than 31 million followers on social media. IGN content is localized in 25 languages and across 114 countries worldwide.

The IGN Convention, owned and operated by IGN Middle East, is a four-day convention offering guests video game tournaments, table-top games, comic book stalls, art creations and cosplay. In previous years, the event has attracted thousands of visitors and international celebrities included Giancarlo Esposito of the hit TV series “Breaking Bad,” Hafthor Bjornsson of “Game of Thrones,” Troy Baker of “The Last of Us,” as well as WWE wrestlers Kurt Angel and Booker T.

This year’s IGN Convention took place at Jeddah’s Western Sky Aviation, where Arab News caught up with the operation supervisor of the event, Khalid Nagro. 

“Although IGN is new to the Saudi Arabian market, it has been received very well by the public, especially by the young Saudi population,” Nagro said. “There are a lot of young Saudis, most of them females, that are hosting booths offering their unique products and artwork. Also, regarding the gaming competitions, there are many females who are taking part in the competitions and have been having success and lots of fun,” he said. 

There has been plenty of buzz on social media in anticipation of the event and Nagro believes this initial success will lead to many more IGN projects in the future. “We expect to only grow from here. When we host our second event everyone will know what to expect,” he said.

Along with a gaming entertainment core, IGN serves as a platform for not only Saudi and regional artists, but product innovators and startups who are using the opportunity to showcase their creative works by featuring them in booth stalls throughout the convention. 

More than 50 booths were on display, offering a variety of original creations that included anime products and merchandise, homemade pop-culture products, graphic-design products, paintings and sculpture.

IGN provides a number of activities that cater to the whole family. On the outskirts of the convention, food trucks and gaming booths were made available to guests looking for a quick bite while they enjoyed the festive outdoor entertainment. 


Portable horror house

Music mixes from the DJ stage, as well as typical fun carnival games in the form of “mini rifle range” and “can knockdown,” were featured. But perhaps the biggest outside entertainment attraction was a portable haunted house. Owner and operator Hassan Barqah talked about the vision behind his idea of constructing portable Saudi horror houses that can be featured at events such as the IGN Convention.

“I’ve always been interested in bringing haunted houses to Saudi Arabia, but I wanted the haunted houses to be uniquely Saudi and decorated in a Hijazi style. The rooms and the characters within all have a Saudi theme so visitors feel as if they are truly in a haunted Saudi house. 

“As far as the technical sound effects, makeup and overall production, this has all been brought in from the States to deliver an experience of the highest standards. To participate in events like these, the haunted house needs to be portable. It takes a lot of time and effort to construct these houses, and what makes me most proud is our whole creative team are Saudis,” he said.

Saudi celebrity Hussain Sallam, known on YouTube as “S7S,” attended the event on Wednesday night. Known for his outlandish food challenges and other publicity stunts, he has more than 1.2 million subscribers. 

IGN served as a great platform for young Saudis to showcase their artistic talent, as well as creating a fun environment for the whole family to enjoy, he said. 

“I’m here at IGN to see the latest games and other entertainment activities being offered. For the first time, being here in the Kingdom, I think it’s a success. There’s a lot of kids here, a lot of teenagers, and talented Saudi artists, and they’re enjoying themselves. Cosplay costumes, games, it’s a fun time. They actually convinced me to do an animation of myself. They are very talented, I loved it!” he said. 


Other celebrities who made an appearance on Wednesday night included Saudi actor Abdullah Al-Sinani, Egyptian actor Hassan El-Raddad, and Kuwaiti actor Khaled Amin. 

Hitesh Uchill, sales director for IGN, told Arab News: “IGN is one of the largest gaming media in the world, we now operate in more than 21 countries, and we reach about 150 million gamers worldwide, in the Middle East alone we reached 2 million gamers. For us it was definitely an opportunity to come to Saudi Arabia and spread a bit more information and knowledge of gaming. We are different because we are a global brand, previous local events have paved a way for events like the IGN convention.

“For us it’s about pop culture and about getting the gaming community together and growing the scene for it to become stable. So this is the ultimate goal, to build a community around gaming.

“We provided board games and video games so that there was something for everyone, we are doing some big screen gaming, where players are playing games such as Mario Kart.

“In Saudi Arabia we would like to come back here and build up more on the experience of this year, so this year now we tested the waters and now hopefully next year we will do better.

“With the unstable weather of Jeddah, it’s been a challenge for the organizers to make this event possible as all the electrical equipment were affected by the rain.”

Bara’a Abdullah, who was MC-ing the stage shows and performances, said: “It’s a new experience for us and everybody else in Jeddah with how things have been changing, there is huge potential for the event in the future because the vibe here is different, a different kind of beauty to it because there is a different kind of respect to gaming and pop culture.”

Abdulaziz Bawazir, technical supervisor of the Game Extreme booth, said: “We are saving people’s time to assemble a complete gaming PC setup; we provide the PC as ‘plug and play.’”

Ibrahim, an attendee, said: “I heard about this event about two weeks ago. I was excited since it was about gaming. now that I am here I figured it was way more than that; there are artists, big screen games and cos-players. One of the shops that caught my attention was challenge round as I love board games, and I would like to visit them again.”


• Arab News photos by Huda Bashatah