Saudi gaming developers level up in growing market

The team behind Hakawati, a studio focused on developing games for children. (Supplied)
The team behind Hakawati, a studio focused on developing games for children. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi gaming developers level up in growing market

The team behind Hakawati, a studio focused on developing games for children. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Arabia home to 21.2 million gamers, has seen its gaming industry jump 4.1 percent this year, making it the world’s 19th-largest market

JEDDAH: Out of the many growing industries in Saudi Arabia, the gaming industry is accelerating at an unprecedented pace, with developers taking standards to the next level in an exciting new territory.
In 2020, the Saudi gaming market was estimated to be worth SR2.6 billion ($690 million), with various platforms being launched to give confidence to developers, entrepreneurs and investors so they can continue building the industry.
The Kingdom, home to 21.2 million gamers, has seen its gaming industry jump 4.1 percent this year, making it the world’s 19th-largest market.
Mohammad Waleed Hashim, a 30-year-old indie game developer, is currently producing a game the revolves around a player who needs to find his way through the deserts of Saudi Arabia, training herds of camels, befriending desert folk, fighting off predators and navigating the mysteries of the desert, just like his grandfather once did.
“The Shepherd” is set to be released soon on the Steam platform for $10 with no additional in-game purchases, a plan he says will allow gamers to enjoy it more.
Indie games are made by a small group of people, or in Hashim’s case, a single developer.
Apart from occasionally hiring freelancers for the art and design, Hashim said: “The game focuses more on the mechanics and the story and less on the graphical aspects.”
The developer said that the game was meant to be a small hobby, but it rolled into a bigger project and became the detailed product it is today. “The Arab touches were very important to me because I wanted something the players could relate to,” he said, adding: “I found a picture of my grandfather wearing traditional clothes and that’s where the inspiration for the character design started.”
Abdullah Bamashmoos, founder of Jeddah-based game development studio Hakawati, said games that allow children to build their own in-game worlds — such as Minecraft and Roblox — can influence young children to jump on the bandwagon.
“That opens the possibility of one day creating their own games in Saudi Arabia, the generation that grew up playing the games that enhanced their creativity are now learning to develop actual games,” said Bamashmoos.
The 31-year-old developer said that there were a small number of gaming studios a few years ago, so he could not pursue his passion for developing games right away. He faced opposition from his community when he started investing his time and money into development.
“What kept me going is that all crazy ideas start somewhere and although things like augmented reality were once believed to be science fiction stories, it became a profitable reality years later. So, I figured that the technology here in Saudi Arabia will advance far enough and I was able to foresee a future in what I was investing in.”
Bamashmoos said that his journey was one of trial and error: “I would create files, scavenge the internet for solutions to some of the software issues, delete files, and start from scratch.”
According to the developers, it is not just the software skills that aspiring developers need to work on, Bamashmoos said that they also need to work on their team-building abilities and finding efficient developers who are willing to work hard throughout the development stage of their games.
“Another thing that Saudi developers need to do is keep practising and learning additional talents so they can gradually progress in the industry.”
When the two developers started on their journeys over 10 years ago, the internet was not as rich with information as it is now, which has been a game-changer for developers.
They can now find a treasure trove of information for free or very low prices, which Bamashmoos said could ease the production pipeline.
“Developers in the country are also helpful since the community is small, the ones who are interested can get help from the professionals easily.”
Despite Hashim’s struggle with the industry, he is hoping to build a small gaming studio.
“I have so many ideas for more games after this one, seven to be precise. I look forward to hiring people who can work with me.”


Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization

Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization
Updated 41 sec ago

Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization

Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization
  • Saudi initiative aims to promote social prosperity through more inclusive participation and growth across the digital economy

RIYADH: Djibouti has officially joined the membership of the Digital Cooperation Organization, a Saudi initiative that brings together nations, businesses, civil society groups, academics, and R & D institutions to promote social prosperity through more inclusive participation and growth across the digital economy. 

Djibouti Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dya-Eddine Said Bamakhrama signed the DCO’s founding charter in a ceremony organized at the embassy in Riyadh, and in the presence of the DCO’s secretary-general, Deemah Al-Yahya, and Omar Al-Nimr, director of governmental and international relations in the organization.
 
“I signed the foundation charter of the DCO for Djibouti to be a member of this new organization focusing on digital prosperity for all. Deemah Al Yahya, secretary-general of the DCO, was present during the signing at the Djibouti Embassy,” the ambassador tweeted on Wednesday.

With the signing of the charter, Djibouti becomes the 10th member country and the fourth in Africa to join the membership of the organization, which includes Saudi Arabia (the headquarters country), Jordan, Bahrain, Pakistan, Rwanda, Oman, Kuwait, Morocco and Nigeria.

HIGHLIGHT

Founded by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and Pakistan, the Digital Cooperation Organization is driven by the vision of a digital future for all. It aims to empower women, youth and entrepreneurs, expanding the digital economy and advancing with innovation.

Morocco joined as the ninth member state of the DCO last month. The DCO was launched after Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency at the G20 Summit in November 2020, where there was great focus on the digital economy, especially in education and health in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and Pakistan, the DCO is driven by the vision of a digital future for all. It aims to empower women, youth and entrepreneurs, expanding the digital economy and advancing with innovation.

Bamakhrama told Arab News on Thursday: “The DCO is interested in digitization in the field of administration and the economy, and works with governments, civil society, international organizations and the private sector in promoting comprehensive digital transformation within member states by adopting initiatives focused on the digital economy and supporting women, youth and entrepreneurs in this field.”

Bamakhrama added that countries in the DCO are part of a broader network for building global partnerships that develop common digital ambitions.

The ambassador said that the organization aims to achieve diversification and economic and social prosperity, thanks to the growth opportunities provided by the digital transformation of the public sector.

“Djibouti joining the organization comes within the framework of an ambitious national will to adopt digitization, with the aim of responding to many challenges and finding sustainable solutions to them, and providing an exceptional environment for work, living and prosperity in Djibouti,” said the ambassador.

Djibouti’s entry to the DCO comes after Minister of State in charge of Digital Economy and Innovation Maryam Hamdo Ali visited Saudi Arabia in late March, when she met with many senior officials specialized in information technology and digitization.

“In Djibouti, digital technology occupies an important place in the program of President Ismail Omar Guelleh to promote national development at various levels,” said the ambassador.


Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks

Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks
Updated 19 May 2022

Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks

Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks
  • Skna Hassan’s artwork is colorful while Andrea Hulsbosch’s is mysterious with dark colors

RIYADH: For Europe Month 2022, Belgian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dominique Mineur invited visitors to an art exhibition titled “Belgian and Saudi Face to Face” at Lar’t Pur Gallery, which commenced on May 17 and will last for a week.

“The Belgian Embassy is delighted to collaborate with the EU and Saudi Arabia to hold an exhibition featuring Belgian and Saudi artists in conjunction with the European Union month,” Mineur told Arab News.

The exhibit features abstract women-centric art pieces by Belgian artist Andrea B. M. Hulsbosch and Saudi artist Skna Hassan.

“Both artists are portraying women in their respective contexts, and I think the dialogue between them is inspiring, and there is no better way than art to create links between two countries,” Mineur said.

Hassan’s artwork is colorful and showcases Arabian women dressed in traditional yet modern attires on large-scale canvases, while Hulsbosch’s artwork is mysterious with dark colors on small canvases. 

“I believe that Skna and I are very complementary. Her artworks are large and bright while mine are intentionally smaller and more sober. My work requires a symbiotic connection with my collaborators and a level of intimacy with the audience which generates a sense of mystery, while Skna’s art makes an immediate impression. But both focus on women, and I feel that’s what connects us — telling stories as women and about women transcends borders,” Hulsbosch said.

Hassan is known for her female representations in her artwork as she always shows traditions, especially Najdi culture in her artworks.

“My work represents the Saudi woman and her life and culture. I am glad they called me and that the Belgium Embassy chose me to represent the Saudi woman. I feel that it was convenient to do it with Andrea because her pieces are about women and their cultures,” said Hassan.

Europe Month celebrates the founding of the EU on May 9 to celebrate peace and unity in Europe and cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The celebration runs until June 9, and is centered around the exchange of cultural experiences and encouragement of further communication between Europe and the Kingdom to improve mutual understanding and strengthening relations.


Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities

Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities
Updated 19 May 2022

Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities

Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities
  • Musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events
  • A fireworks display backed by US rapper Pharrell Williams’ song ‘Happy’ was another of the Jeddah Pier attractions

JEDDAH: Visitors to the Jeddah Season of activities now have a new entertainment attraction to add to the growing list of festival events.

Mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier is the latest zone to open to fun seekers in the Red Sea port city.

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, it offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants.

For adrenaline junkies there is a roller coaster, plus a swing carousel, Ferris wheel, and pendulum ride. 

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants. (Supplied/Mohammed Al-Manea)

Shah Hussain, an English actor, was playing fictional pirate Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “Treasure Island” in one of the zone’s experience areas, the Abandoned Island.

He said: “The pier itself has so many attractions, but the Abandoned Island is one of the most thrilling for visitors to experience. It is not for the faint-hearted.”

However, Hussain pointed out that he had been struggling to adjust to temperatures in the city. “I have only just acclimatized to Jeddah. I came from 17 degrees weather to 44 degrees. People should come well-equipped with water, and we will also be ensuring that because we want everyone to have fun.” 

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants. (Supplied/Mohammed Al-Manea)

Madda Rashwan, 22, was visiting Jeddah Pier with her friends and family, and said the attraction offered a welcome distraction from work while reminding her of childhood experiences.

“I wanted to see how good it was, as my family and I have a thing for amusement parks. To be fair the amusement park scene in the city was not too good but the pier offers a lot of great rides,” she added.

Musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events. 

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants. (Supplied/Mohammed Al-Manea)

Friends Yosuf Kutbi, 14, and Abdullah Alharbey, 15, visited Jeddah Pier on its opening day.

“I was looking forward to the Ferris wheel the most, even when the place was under construction, and that was the first ride I went to when we entered,” Kutbi said.

Alharbey said: “This place is one hour away from where I live, but because my friend was visiting, I came with him, and so far, coming here was worth the time.”

He added that he was looking forward to visiting other Jeddah Season events.

A fireworks display backed by US rapper Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” was another of the Jeddah Pier attractions.


KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines

KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines
Updated 19 May 2022

KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines

KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines
  • Aid includes medical and protective equipment and devices with a value of $1.7 million to fight COVID-19
  • Filipino officials praised the Saudi support, extending their sincere appreciation to the Kingdom

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) delivered humanitarian assistance worth $3.2 million to the Philippines on Thursday.
The aid included medical and protective equipment and devices with a value of $1.7 million to fight COVID-19.
A further $1.5 million is earmarked to support the Philippine’s Ministry of Health alleviate the impacts of the Typhoon Rai that recently hit the country, and to help health relief and emergency works in Marawi City.
Director of the Department of Health and Environment Assistance at KSrelief Dr. Abdullah Al-Muallem handed over the financial and in-kind support to the Philippines in the presence of the Kingdom’s ambassador to the country Hisham Al-Qahtani.
Filipino officials praised the Saudi support, extending their sincere appreciation to the Kingdom for its generous support and solidarity with the Philippines in addressing health and natural crises in the country.


US defense secretary says he shares Saudi concerns over Iran’s destabilizing activities in region

US defense secretary says he shares Saudi concerns over Iran’s destabilizing activities in region
Updated 19 May 2022

US defense secretary says he shares Saudi concerns over Iran’s destabilizing activities in region

US defense secretary says he shares Saudi concerns over Iran’s destabilizing activities in region
  • Austin: “The US is committed to our strong partnership with Saudi Arabia”
  • He welcomed the Kingdom’s constructive efforts in advancing the current truce in Yemen

RIYADH: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he shares Saudi Arabia’s concerns over Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region on Thursday.
In a tweet, Austin added that he welcomed the Kingdom’s constructive efforts in advancing the current truce in Yemen which came into effect on April 2. He said the truce should be extended.
Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman earlier met with the defense secretary during his visit to Washington for the US-Saudi Strategic Joint Planning Committee.
The officials reviewed the Saudi-US partnership, and ongoing and future strategic military and defense cooperation between the two countries.
Austin said it was a pleasure to meet with Prince Khalid and that the “US is committed to our strong partnership with Saudi Arabia.”