RIYADH: In the first event of its kind in Saudi Arabia, gamers participated in an in-cinema gaming tournament in the Kingdom’s capital with the added excitement of a big screen.
Vox Cinemas on Friday evening hosted Saudi Arabia’s first in-cinema gaming tournament at their Atyaf Mall venue in Riyadh, where 10 teams of two members each went head-to-head in the online multiplayer game Fortnite, which will run over the course of five days.
Organized by the Saudi women’s gaming community organization, GCON, along with support from the Saudi eSports tournament platform, Playhera, Friday’s finale saw the finalists duking it out on Vox Cinemas’ screens in front of a live audience for the grand prize; a trip to Jeddah with a two-day stay in the Jeddah Ritz-Carlton’s fanciest executive suite.
For six hours players battled it out, with both men and women, and girls and boys, signing up for the fight. Areen Assiri, one of the finalists, is only 15, and Nasser Alguraini, another finalist, is just 12.
Assiri told Arab News that Fortnite is one of her favorite games, and when she saw a post advertising the tournament on Instagram she instantly knew that she needed to participate.
“It was a wonderful feeling. Much better than just playing at home. I’ve been playing Fortnite for two years now, and I’ve never had this much fun,” she said.
Alguraini, another avid Fortnite player and a gamer since the age of nine, said that he was so excited to have won, and would love to return for another tournament in the future.
“My partner and I won in a single round. It was an amazing feeling. If they ever have another Fortnite tournament, or if they hold a Call of Duty tournament, I would definitely come back,” he told Arab News.
Ghada Almoqbel, head of GCON, told Arab News that despite their focus on female empowerment, and the fact that their main goal would always be to support women in gaming, they saw organizing the tournament as an opportunity to show that they were supporting the Saudi gaming industry.
“GCON’s primary focus has always been empowering women in the gaming industry. We want to help women break into every aspect of the industry, from eSports to development, but we also try to support gamers in general in any way we can,” she said.
Abdullah Ibrahim, eSports and events manager at Playhera, told Arab News how excited they were to be part of bringing the tournament to life.
“We’re trying change the mentality that people have about gaming and eSports in general. We want people to stop seeing gaming as a waste of time, and rather as a valuable way of spending one’s time, especially in this day and age. Key figures, streamers, and YouTubers such as the two-time FIFA World Cup champion, Musaed Al-Dossary, or YouTuber, BanderitaX, are proving that there is so much potential in the region,” he said.
Almoqbel cited Fortnite’s popularity as the reason for choosing the game for the inaugural event, though she stressed that they had a wide variety of games planned for future tournaments.