RIYADH: The Gamers8 electronic sports festival, which kicked off at a purpose-built venue in Riyadh Boulevard City on Thursday, will showcase Saudi Arabia’s gaming community to the world, its organizers say.
The festival, created by Gamers Without Borders, will run until Sept. 8 under the theme “Your Portal to the Next World,” and will feature a string of professional e-sports tournaments, entertainment shows, workshops and global music concerts.
More than 23.5 million people in Saudi Arabia consider themselves gamers, prompting the groundbreaking Gamers8 event, and the Saudi Esports Federation hopes that the festival will be a source of pride to the Saudi gaming community.
“With a population so young, all gamers, even the older generation or former gamers, it was the time to start to focus on giving them an avenue to not just enjoy the games, but have that be your career path as well,” Prince Faisal bin Bandar, chairman of SEF, told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
Prince Faisal said that the festival will give young gamers the chance to come together, supply them with the knowledge and tools to pursue their passions, and provide a space where they can create a legitimate career out of e-sports and gaming.
“It’s something that I’m very excited about,” he said.
Prince Faisal said that one of the most overlooked benefits of e-sports is the community it offers gamers.
“One of the things that I’ve always loved about it the most is that it’s a community and a very close community globally.”
He said that scientific evidence showed that gaming can positively and proactively affect gamers. A study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that gaming helped military veterans to cope with their post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Within gaming, they were part of a community that checked in on them, that asked about them, that looked after them. And they felt a part of the community,” Prince Faisal said.
Various studies have shown that gaming can help increase cognitive recognition, connectivity and problem-solving skills, as well as help with stress relief.
“Gaming, at worst, is a way to escape. At best, it’s a way to help,” he said.
The series of gaming tournaments and educational summits comes with an eight-week music program featuring a lineup of international and local artists. Concerts will be staged in the NXT LVL arena each Thursday starting July 14.
“Music and gaming are so interlinked,” Prince Faisal said. “You feel the tenseness, you feel the fear, or you feel the rush. And the link between music and gaming has gone back a number of years where people actually started creating music for games.”
The lineup of artists includes DJ Snake, Marshmello, Alan Walker, Nanci Ajram, Balqees, and rappers Russ and Lil Pump.
“To do something in gaming, without a focus on some of the cartoons, the anime, the comics, and without a focus on some of the music, I think you would be doing a disservice to the community. So we wanted to make sure we’re giving them a holistic view of everything that they’re interested in as gamers,” he said.