Gamers8 fest welcomes Ithra’s Creative Solutions program

Gamers8 fest welcomes Ithra’s Creative Solutions program
Ithra’s initiative introduced in tandem with the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) to build a market for both consumers and developers. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 July 2022

Gamers8 fest welcomes Ithra’s Creative Solutions program

Gamers8 fest welcomes Ithra’s Creative Solutions program
  • As the extended reality market is set to balloon, Saudi creatives work to make their mark

RIYADH: A new creativity program from the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) has taken the Gamers8 festival in Riyadh by storm.

The center’s latest endeavor is a leading initiative in innovative and interactive content creation: the Creative Solutions program.

Creative Solutions is a yearly program based in the Kingdom that gives a platform to creatives eager to take part in an emerging industry saturated with immersive and innovative technologies, creating an ecosystem of collective learning. It was launched in 2021 to enrich economic growth and provide a platform for innovators to pursue their creative ideas, from an idea to a working prototype.

Ithra’s collaboration with Gamers8 brings an educational approach to the e-sports industry, with a focus on its design and technology aspects, while also developing a more balanced approach in the e-sports and gaming creative industry.

Ithra’s initiative has been introduced in tandem with the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) in an effort to build a market for both consumers and developers. It will also create greater local job opportunities. Instead of outsourcing, Saudi companies in e-sports will be able to produce and consume locally.

“We see this sector as important as other sectors,” Miznah Al-Zamil, the head of the Creativity and Innovation department at Ithra, told Arab News.

“Gamers8 is the first and the largest event in this industry, to be specific, and we wanted to be participants as a knowledge beacon and the role that we have in the culture and creative industry,” Al-Zamil added.

Ithra’s collaboration with Gamers8 includes an exhibit showcasing the five innovative winning projects of last year’s Creative Solutions cohort, all falling under the extended reality (XR) umbrella in relation to arts, culture and education. The exhibit will run alongside the festival until Sept. 8.

“I was really surprised when I learned that the consumer market for games and e-sports, Saudi is in the top five in the world. It’s mind blowing,” Filipe Gomes, head of the Creative Solutions program, told Arab News. “The question was how can we connect our value and showcase it — not just what we can do locally through a consumer perspective, but also from a production perspective.”

The program’s first round onboarded 60 creatives, selected out of approximately 2,000 applicants, who went through 12 masterclass sessions in a range of topics, including narrative storytelling, 3D production, virtual reality headsets, augmented reality, and others.

The program is currently running its second round, and 15 selected creatives’ ideas will be presented at Gamers8 on Aug. 21, allowing participants to pitch their ideas to Creative Solutions partners, vendors, the media and more stakeholders.

“What is obvious to all is that gamers usually, if you’re (into tech), have to do a lot with esports. But on the contrary, it has a lot to do with design, it has a lot to do with creatives. There’s a lot that goes into development. Here is where Ithra comes in and technically contributes to such a growing industry,” Al Zamil said.

Three years ago, the XR market was valued at $27 billion and is expected to reach $300 billion by 2024.

“It’s a global phenomenon, and it’s a huge opportunity,” said Gomes. “The program is a gate for Saudi to the world, and the world to Saudi. We work with partners all across the globe, so why not bring some of the key content around games and virtual reality to Gamers8 through these connections.”

Additionally, an XR-centered panel discussion will take place, joined by leading experts and specialists in the field, including the head of the SEF, Faisal Bin Bandar, and the dean of e-learning and distance education at the University of Tabuk, Ali Alshammari, coming together to shed light on data around the topic and the future of the field.

“The Saudi XR ecosystem is developing. There is a huge potential worldwide, to be honest, and Saudi needs to have its mark,” Al-Zamil said.


Young Saudi digital artist’s work showcased at major music festival

Young Saudi digital artist’s work showcased at major music festival
Updated 05 December 2022

Young Saudi digital artist’s work showcased at major music festival

Young Saudi digital artist’s work showcased at major music festival
  • MDLBeast Soundstorm event displays Ahaad Alamoudi’s falcon images on giant screen
  • It was one of three commissioned artworks displayed at the event through a collaboration between independent arts initiative Edge of Arabia and YallaSwap

RIYADH: A Saudi art student’s digital work has been showcased on a giant screen at one of the world’s biggest music festivals.

Ahaad Alamoudi’s colorful falcons creation went on display at the third edition of MDLBeast’s Soundstorm event held in the desert outside of Riyadh.

The moving digital images featured on a horizontal 128-meter screen near to the festival’s DownBeast stage.

Alamoudi, who is currently studying for a Ph.D. at the Royal College of Art in London, said the falcon was a traditional symbol that not only represented the transformations taking place in Saudi Arabia but also the importance of preserving the country’s natural environment.

The Jeddah-born artist’s work appeared alongside acts by top international music stars, Saudi DJs, and rap and hip-hop performers in the first presentation of its kind at the festival.

It was one of three commissioned artworks displayed at the event through a collaboration between independent arts initiative Edge of Arabia, and YallaSwap, a web3 platform bringing the next generation of digital content to the Arab world through digital collectibles, unique experiences, and community.

One of them, by Riyadh-based pixel artist KldPxl, aimed to capture the beauty and loneliness of the modern world through complex digital compositions such as empty gas stations and desert highways.

The artist told Arab News: “Music and art are two of my biggest passions and combining them in one project was especially rewarding.

“I felt really honored to have my work displayed at MDLBeast and potentially seen by over 100,000 local and international attendees.”

Also on display was the work of graphic designer Yusef Alahmad who specializes in Arabic typography with a focus on the cross-cultural aesthetics between the Western and Arab worlds.

Alahmad gained a master of fine arts degree in graphic design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and currently works as art director for Edge of Arabia.

YallaSwap founder, Bader Tazrouti, told Arab News: “The majority of visitors to MDLBeast are local Saudis and we wanted to provide them with local digital art to appreciate.

“We are a web3 marketplace for the Arab world localized through content. We were with top-tier local artists and through curation, with Edge of Arabia, we want to emphasize the local context for these creatives and their aesthetics.”

The works used the latest technology to try and push the boundaries of creativity, while adhering to tradition.

Edge of Arabia founder, Stephen Stapleton, told Arab News: “The works are surreal, technological, and exciting; a collision of past, present, and future and a reflection of what is happening in society.

“The work is made for the people, and this is why we chose these three artists — they want to reach the broader population through their art, not just the art crowd.”

Through their digital medium, the works aimed to reflect the electronic music experience — dizzying, escapist, and inspiring.

Similar to the growing community of Saudi electronic music stars and DJs, these contemporary artists are attempting to pay tribute to their country’s rich heritage while innovating and expanding through technology and contemporary culture.

The first YallaSwap meetup was organized in October in collaboration with Edge of Arabia, and Badiya Studio/Jazzy Spa Sounds, whose founders Warchief and Chindy performed at the DownBeast stage on the opening day of this year’s Soundstorm.


Yogasana Sports Championship concludes in Jeddah

Yogasana Sports Championship concludes in Jeddah
Updated 05 December 2022

Yogasana Sports Championship concludes in Jeddah

Yogasana Sports Championship concludes in Jeddah
  • Participants from all age groups displayed different “asanas”
  • Candidates were selected on the basis of their performance

JEDDAH: The first-ever Yogasana Sports Championship in Saudi Arabia concluded in Jeddah on Saturday at the University of Business and Technology with more than 112 participants from all across the Kingdom.

The one-day event was organized by the Saudi Yoga Committee to promote yoga as a competitive sport in cooperation with the Saudi Sports Ministry and in the presence of experts from the Asian Yogasana Sports Federation.

During the championship, participants from all age groups displayed different postures, known as “asanas,” and candidates were selected on the basis of their performance.

Participants came from various age groups, ranging from 6 years old to over 18.

Nouf Al-Marwaai, the Saudi Yoga Committee’s president, said that encouraging participation in yoga from an early age can foster a health-conscious society.

She said that she is proud of the launch of this tournament, the first of its kind in the region, and that it is reflective of the efforts of the Kingdom to promote the practice.

“Such competitions motivate youth to commit to regular yoga practice,” she added.

“Both the male and female referees who arbitrated the championship are from the first group of Saudi yogasana referees, whose graduation was celebrated by the committee shortly before the lunch of the tournament.”

The number of graduates in Riyadh included 19 women from several different regions in the Kingdom, while the number of graduates in Jeddah included 22 women.

The Saudi Yoga Committee has organized a training camp, hosted by the University of Business and Technology, a full week before the start of the tournament, with the aim of preparing participants for the championship, Al-Marwaai explained.

Yoga instructor Noura Nour, whose team traveled from Riyadh to participate in the championship, told Arab News that she is happy to see such an event held in Saudi Arabia. 

“Yoga has become increasingly popular in Saudi Arabia. As a yoga instructor, I have seen many people of all ages joining our classes because they realized that the sport of yogasana has many benefits for their health. I am sure that the Saudi Yoga Committee will take it to a higher level,” Nour said.

Hasan Al-Hajjaj from Qatif, who bagged third place in the recent Yoga International Championship organized by the UN, said that yogasana is booming in Saudi Arabia with the support of the Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Yoga Committee.

Rahi, a certified yoga instructor who participated in the championship, said: “I am so glad to be part of the first yogasana championship, and I am so happy to see yoga growing so fast in the Kingdom.”

Joud Sharaf, a 12-year-old yogi who represented the Saudi Yoga Committee at the UTS Festival for Artistic Yoga during the second edition of the Asian Games hosted by Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that she is enjoying yoga and hopes to improve in order to participate in international championships.


KSRelief distributes over 92 tons of food baskets in Marib

KSRelief distributes over 92 tons of food baskets in Marib
Updated 05 December 2022

KSRelief distributes over 92 tons of food baskets in Marib

KSRelief distributes over 92 tons of food baskets in Marib

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) distributed 92 tons and 127 kilograms of food baskets in Yemen’s Marib governorate, benefiting 5,166 people.
This is part of the Food Security Support Project 2022, which is being implemented by KSRelief in Yemen and aims to distribute more than 192,000 food baskets weighing more than 20,000 tons to needy and affected families in 15 Yemeni governorates.
KSRelief also continued to implement its voluntary medical project for specialized surgeries in Gambia, which is being carried out from Nov. 28 to Dec. 4.
Since the beginning of the campaign, the voluntary medical team has performed 105 surgeries.
Also, KSRelief distributed 1,644 winter bags in Pakistan, benefiting 11,508 people. 
This comes within the framework of the relief and humanitarian projects and voluntary programs being implemented by Saudi Arabia, represented by the KSRelief, for a number of brotherly and friendly countries.


HMS Hail commissioned into Saudi Arabia’s naval service

HMS Hail commissioned into Saudi Arabia’s naval service
Updated 05 December 2022

HMS Hail commissioned into Saudi Arabia’s naval service

HMS Hail commissioned into Saudi Arabia’s naval service
  • This is the third ship to be launched, following Al-Jubail and Al-Diriya, as part of the Sarawat project

SAN FERNANDO, Madrid: The Royal Saudi Naval Forces has commissioned into active service His Majesty’s Ship Hail at the Navantia shipyard in San Fernando, Spain, state news agency SPA reported.

This is the third ship to be launched, following Al-Jubail and Al-Diriya, as part of the Sarawat project of five combat ships aimed at improving the Kingdom’s maritime defense capabilities and interests.

Rear Admiral Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghofaily, Commander of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, together with other Saudi and Spanish officials hoisted the Saudi Arabian flag on the ship to mark its official commissioning into the naval service.

Sawarat is a joint venture between the Saudi Arabian Military Industries company and Spain’s state-owned Navantia to build multi-purpose combat ships for the Saudi navy as well as localize 50 percent of military industries by 2030.

Under the joint venture, Saudi Arabia’s navy will also have its first Saudi system, nicknamed Hazm, that would contribute to localize military industries through transformation of technology and national staff intensive training

HMS Diriya, the second ship of the Sarawat project, is scheduled to reach Saudi Arabia early next year after having completed its training program in Spain.

The launch of the fourth and fifth ships, HMS Jazan and HMS Onaiza, will meanwhile take place in Saudi Arabia under the sponsorship of Saudi engineers who have received training in Spain.


Cross-cultural dialogue at heart of Riyadh Philosophy Conference

Cross-cultural dialogue at heart of Riyadh Philosophy Conference
Updated 05 December 2022

Cross-cultural dialogue at heart of Riyadh Philosophy Conference

Cross-cultural dialogue at heart of Riyadh Philosophy Conference
  • Event’s 2nd edition asked questions surrounding space exploration and impact on humanity

RIYADH: Over the course of three days, scientists, writers, historians, professors and philosophers from around the world gathered at the King Fahd National Library in Riyadh to discuss the major issues affecting humanity today.

The second edition of the conference, which concluded on Dec. 3, was dedicated to the theme of “Knowledge and Exploration: Space, Time and Humanity.”

A total of 71 speakers attended from more than 19 countries around the world, including the US, UK, UAE, Mexico, Italy, Singapore, Italy, Germany and Egypt, making the conference a diverse platform to discuss ideas and topics pertinent to our world today. Attendees numbered around 2,700.

The second edition of the conference was dedicated to questions revolving space exploration and its philosophical and social implications for humanity. (Photo/Huda Bashatah)

“A conference such as this has cross-cultural dialogue at its heart. Inviting and welcoming leading philosophers from all over the world is not a one-way thing,” Dr. Mohammed Hasan Alwan, CEO of the Literature, Publishing & Translation Commission, told Arab News. “It is, instead, a two-way dialogue, with international experts joining their Saudi and regional colleagues in a spirit of intellectual exploration that is far more profound and far-reaching because it is done in a spirit of partnership.”

This year’s conference continues the efforts of last year’s event, which was the first of its kind to take place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. “Our conference has been bigger and more ambitious in many ways,” added Alwan.

The conference was established, he said, “because we believe in philosophy and its relevance in our world.”

The second edition of the conference, which concluded on Dec. 3, was dedicated to the theme of “Knowledge and Exploration: Space, Time and Humanity.” (Photo/Huda Bashatah)

The theme of the conference was highly topical to ongoing debates surrounding space exploration.

“The conference theme is, to coin a science fiction phrase, ‘going boldly where few conferences have gone before,” said Alwan. “We chose a theme that was challenging, and yet which also showed just how philosophical thinking is absolutely vital for humanity, because of its ability to map out entirely new intellectual territory that relates to space exploration, to humanity’s potential extra-terrestrial activities.”

The topic of space exploration is also reflective of Saudi Arabia’s own plans. In September 2022, the Kingdom announced that it had launched a new astronaut program. Its first journey, set for 2023, will carry a female Saudi astronaut, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Over the course of three days, scientists, writers, historians, professors, and philosophers from around the world gathered at the King Fahad National Library in Riyadh to discuss pressing major issues affecting humanity today. (Photo/Huda Bashatah)

“What has been impressive is the ability to speak to a diverse and large population here that you don’t find in academic conferences; attendees this year included even investment bankers and people working in the oil industry,” Nicolas de Warren, professor of philosophy at Penn State University in the US, who was attending the conference for the second time, told Arab News. “I was impressed again by the level of sophistication and questions from the diverse audience.”

De Warren chaired a panel titled “Exploring Space and Time Today.” His research looks at the impact of science fiction literature which, as he says, “imagines not only the exploration of space but what it would mean to enter into contact with other life forms or alien civilizations. It is what is called first contact narratives.”

Such ideas raise the fundamental philosophical question of if we as a species are alone in the universe? Are there other life forms? How do we know if there are other life forms? Why has there been no contact with these other life forms? And what would it really represent if, indeed, one day, there was the discovery that there are other intelligent life forms and civilizations?

De Warren discussed such questions in his panel but went a step further. According to his thesis, these questions do not really concern aliens but ourselves.

“It has to do with the way in which we project our planetary fears onto some imaginary alien to sublimate them,” he said. “From that perspective, it’s not fortuitous that during the 1950s and 1960s, one of the dominant genres of science fiction literature and films was invasion narratives — Martians are coming, and so on. That reflects the sort of sublimation one found during the Cold War.”

Apart from delving into pressing issues involving our world today and fostering cross-cultural dialogue, the conference also had a pedagogical aspect.

A pavilion area with workshops for children called Philosophers of Tomorrow, a Philosophical Camp for philosophical dialogue, and a debating competition for trained teams of college students called Reading Between the Lines Competition underlined the importance of fostering philosophy inquiry and thought within educational platforms, schools and communities in the Kingdom.

“We’ve done more than before to encourage children and young people to participate in the conference through a Philosopher’s Cafe, which has space for members of the audience to discuss philosophical topics with the conference’s speakers,” added Alwan.

This year the conference partnered with more organizations, ranging from international universities, the International Federation of Philosophical Societies, as well as the Saudi Space Commission, and several Saudi organizations engaged in promoting philosophical thinking, such as Baseera, the Saudi Center of Philosophy and Ethics, Mekal Philosophy Club and the Saudi Philosophy Association.

“We abstract the tools that philosophers use and try to invite teachers to apply those tools in their curriculum,” said Dalia Toonsi, educational consultant, founder and general manager of Baseera Educational Consultancy. Baseera, an institute that trains teachers to implement dialogical and philosophical teaching as well as learning methods into the curriculum of Saudi schools, was taking part in the event for the second time.

“People in the Arab world generally don’t think philosophy is an interesting subject,” said Toonsi. Baseera’s work emphasizes the importance of philosophical inquiry in schools.

Toonsi said: “Tools from philosophy entail critical thinking, examining assumptions, deduction and reduction, and inquiry and also caring thinking, related more to children, which gives children the ability to open their minds to different opinions related to philosophical inquiry.”