RIYADH: Game developers, artists, enthusiasts and industry leaders have taken part in a series of online talks and panels on life in the gaming industry.
The two-day inaugural Arabic Games conference at the weekend was organized by five industry leaders across the region: Joseph Azzam, Carl Farra and Iyad El-Hout, community organizers of LebGameDev; Mohamed Bouabidi, from Tunisia’s Black Dune Studio and Hussem Ben Amor, treasurer of Global Game Jam Inc. and business development manager of Tunisia’s Nuked Cockroach Studio.
Speakers and panelists include Tariq Mukhttar, game development manager at Saudi Arabia’s Manga Productions; Seifeddine Ben Hamouda, CEO of Tunisia’s Newgen Studio; Nourhan ElShereif, senior game developer at Egyptian studio Instinct Games.
Panels included discussions on getting a first job in the industry and women in gaming, which was hosted by Lynn Charafeddine, former head of Arabic editorial at IGN Middle East.
Tariq Mukhtar, who hosted an instructional workshop on the Unity game engine, told Arab News about the importance of events in the continued success of the industry in the region. He also praised local game developers for their efforts in expanding the industry.
“I have nothing but respect for fellow Arab game developers who continue to initiate, drive, develop and organize events in our region. These events help foster a feeling of solidarity and community throughout the Arab world,” he said.
He also spoke on the Kingdom’s importance to the MENA gaming market.
“Saudi Arabia is a pivotal country in the regional video game market, and as a Saudi I have a sense of duty to support and contribute to the Arabic Games Conference 2020.
It is also an honor to represent my country in this conference. Saudi Arabia is a trove of talent that is itching to contribute to the game development scene in the MENA region and help see it elevated to the global stage,” he said.
Charafeddine, whose panel is scheduled for the second day of the conference, told Arab News that she was looking forward to the future of Arabic Games.
“I hope this conference grows each year and more Arabs contribute to this industry we all love so much,” she said.
Malek Teffaha, head of communications and localization at Ubisoft MENA, was one of the event’s panelists. He said initiatives like Arabic Games were doing a lot to highlight untapped potential in the region in the form of both developers and consumers.
“Arabic game localization has been the cornerstone of opening up the market here and it’s rewarding to see the impact it has had on all players alike,” he said.
In a joint statement to Arab News, the organizers spoke about the reasons behind the event and what they hoped to achieve through the conference.
“All the organizers of Arabic Games are managing their local game developer communities and it is a passion that we accidentally found ourselves pursuing. After pushing local initiatives, we were eager to collaborate with our neighboring countries, where game developer scenes are still in their infancy and we face some of the same challenges,” the statement read.
The creators said they wanted to focus on community development, Arabic technical content and industry exposure.
“This idea has been building up in our minds for a while now, however, doing such an event can be expensive, but the with current situation and with everything becoming online, we decided to go for it,” the team said.
They added that most conferences in the region tend to ignore the importance of technical talks, especially in Arabic.
“Business and networking are two important aspects, but so is leveling up the skills of developers.
“There is a lot of technical content online, but for some, language is a barrier of entry and we wanted to diminish that. Not to mention, technical talks are even harder to follow when you’re not a fluent English speaker. Arabic is a language that unifies a massive region, and that’s why we named our event Arabic Games,” they said.
The event also hopes to help game developers circumvent the challenges of working in a region where the industry is still growing and developers are mostly self-taught without the resources or opportunities for formal education. By connecting game developers and creating communities, the industry will grow organically, the organizers said.
“It was important as well for us to involve regional studios, as well as featuring people’s games so that they can help find each other. The key to making a successful game is a team and we wanted to help developers form them or get hired by helping to understand what studios are looking for, and where they should direct their focus,” they said.