JEDDAH, October 1, 2017 – Hundreds of young people gathered over the weekend at Jeddah’s International Exhibition Centre to attend GAMESARABIA, a major computer games show. It comes on the heels of Gamerscon, also held in the port city earlier this month, and highlights the importance of the gaming industry in the ¬ Kingdom.
The event that ran from September 28 to 30 was co-organized by Panache Live Middle East and Events Oasis, and supported by Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA), which had also supported other entertainment events in the Kingdom recently such as Comic Con, held in Jeddah in February.
In line with one of the Vision 2030 mandates to create a vibrant society, GEA says it has been established to organize, develop and lead the entertainment sector to provide exciting entertainment options and to contribute towards enriching people’s lifestyles and the nation’s social cohesion. The authority also believes that events such as these will create a vibrant and dynamic “young culture”.
The GAMESARABIA organizers said that they planned to make it an annual event.
The participants – between 7 and 15 years of age – competed for titles and cash prizes in various game categories at GAMESARABIA. “It’s not the prize or the title that is important, but the event itself,” said Ehab Osama, an undergraduate student of IT in Jeddah, who is part of the event’s organizing team.
“While occasions such as this one is an opportunity for young people to learn about the latest games and devices, they also spur many of them to develop games themselves.”
Herein lies the fulfilment of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which has underscored digital development as one of the catalysts of the Kingdom’s modernization and economic diversification. Saudi youth are a key driver of this shift.
That change is clearly taking place, said Osama, a sentiment echoed by Mohammed Mazloun, 30, another member of the organizing committee. “Where there is a vacuum, there is always an opportunity. The deficiency we have is going to be filled by the enthusiasm and desire being generated in young minds through these events.”
For Mishaal Abdulaziz, 14, a student of Zamzam School in Jeddah, the event was an opportunity to learn and fathom what the future has in store for him. “It’s full of promise,” said Abdulaziz, who has already developed a game called Overwatch and wants to pursue his passion seriously to become a professional game developer one day. “Opportunities are plenty, so are freedom and inspiration,” said another organizer, Mohannad Mazloun, a 30-year-old dentist and a technology enthusiast. “Who can stop us now?”
Over the past few years, Saudi Arabia’s technology sector has developed significantly. “Five years ago, we couldn’t have imagined such things taking place,” he said. “This is just the beginning. With events such as these taking place more frequently in the country, the time may not be distant when Saudi names in this sector will shine across the globe,” said Mazloun.
Saudi Arabia is the most penetrated market in the GCC in terms of video games, hence opportunities are boundless.
“If we consider the different types of games now available on different mediums as well as the interest of people in them, we will see a massive growth in the amount of time young adults spend playing games,” said Arun Adnani of Panache Live Middle East.
He believes that, as video-gaming habits pick up among young people, they will eventually start developing games themselves. That, in turn, will open up professional opportunities for them and create jobs.