Are you game for this awesome new event?

Video game fans will have their hands full as a new gaming event makes its debut in the capital

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When American physicist William Higinbotham invented the first computer video game, Tennis for Two, in 1958, he was oblivious to the fact that he was simultaneously heralding a future phenomenon.

According to market intelligence firm Newzoo, the global gaming industry – buoyed even more by the growing digital format – is expected to generate nearly $115.8 billion (AED 425 billion) in revenue next year, with the Middle East and Africa expected to contribute a significant chunk of that. In fact, the UAE ranks fourth in the region in terms of gaming revenues with $249 million (AED 914 million) earned in 2016 alone.

Catering to this love and aiming to solidify the UAE’s footing in the global gaming community is the first Middle East Games Con, taking place from 23rd to 25th November at Adnec.

“The UAE market has always been passionate about gaming,” says Yannick Theler, managing director of game development company Ubisoft Abu Dhabi.

“It was already a mature market when I arrived here six years ago. People were familiar with all types of games even then, from role-playing to online, especially car games.”

Though video gaming has always enjoyed a huge fan base, there’s no denying the role technology has had in drastically changing the overall landscape of gaming as we know
it today.

While the idea of gaming in the past was strictly limited to consoles, nowadays players across various age demographics can simply download games using their mobile devices and even connect and compete with other gamers online.

“Why are the likes of Clash of Clans or Candy Crush Saga so big? It’s because they serve what we now call the casual audience,” notes Yannick, who oversaw the release of hit online games NCIS Hidden Crimes and Growtopia, among others. “These online games reach a wider audience, are visually appealing, easy to pick up, and people spend more time playing them. It has become more mainstream.”

But overall, the emergence of many gaming platforms only means that the industry is becoming more dynamic, moving forward and keeping both gamers and developers constantly on their toes.

“There are more games available today so it can be challenging to get noticed,” confides Yannick.

“The market is moving fast and new segments of players are also emerging, which is good. We now see games crossing over to other mediums such as virtual reality and even console games have an online element in them. The potential for video gaming is endless.”

Level up

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Organised by the same team behind the annual Middle East Film and Comic Con and last year’s Ani:Me, Middle East Games Con will bring together technology, gaming and pop culture under one roof for three days of pure gaming and entertainment mayhem.

Catering to everyone, the event will cover the whole industry from retro, console and tabletop games to online, PC and mobile ones, as well as featuring an Artist Alley and Comic Con zone.

You’ll be able to check out and even try the latest releases, watch professionals compete live, take part in competitions and join in gaming workshops covering topics like games design and business management.

Those looking to explore the virtual reality world can step inside the Alienware hummer, VIVE booth and Project Cars 2 simulator, or join the multitude of tournaments waiting at the eSports Arena and other selected spots around the venue.

UAE-based university gamers will clash to get their hands on the AED 15,000 prize pool in the thrilling Dota 2 Collegiate eSports finals.

Guests will have the chance to be among the first to play unreleased games including the much-anticipated Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Dynasty Warriors 9, Monster Hunter: World, Attack on Titan 2 and Gravel.

There will also be tabletop tournaments for those looking to brandish their mastery of board games such as Catan, Splendor, Star Wars: Destiny and Ticket to Ride.

You can also cheer for your favourite costume in the cosplay competition, which will be judged by soon-to-be-revealed invited international cosplay stars.

For those curious to know more about the technical aspects of creating a game, the Indie and Developer Workshop and Zone will host a series of workshops showing the
nitty-gritty of game development, designing and marketing.

For extra inspiration, be sure to catch the A Maze Game Jam to witness creators, developers and artists take on the challenge of creating a new game from scratch, live.

And before you go, don’t forget to take something with you by checking out the many booths selling merchandise including toys, shirts, gadgets, a variety of retro game consoles and more.

What’s more, top brands like Sony, MSI, Dell and HTC will showcase their latest laptops, desktops and hardware.

Industry insiders

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Adding star power to the convention are special guests led by gamers-turned-social media stars Josh Bradley, aka Zerkaa, and Vikkstar123.

Both are members of the popular Sidemen collective, a group of talented British
gamers-turned-YouTube-sensations that enjoys a huge following worldwide. Their success had even led to ventures in publishing and merchandising.

Joining the duo to compete and answer questions from fans are fellow gaming-internet stars Ali A, who will be giving a masterclass on Call of Duty: WW2, former Xbox EMEA social manager and YouTube star Clare Siobhan and Julia ‘Bish’ Robson.

Renowned voice artists will also make appearances, including Chloe Hollings, the voice of Widowmaker in the video game Overwatch, Brina Palencia, popularly known as Mad Moxxi in Borderlands and DC Douglas, who voiced characters for various projects including Resident Evil, One Piece and Transformers: Rescue Bots.

Rounding up the list of special guests are Middle East-based gaming personalities Dizzyy, Sarah aka Otterpanda, regarded as the highest ranked female Overwatch player in the UAE, and UAE CS:GO character Moeleley.

Need to know

What: Middle East Games Con
Where: Adnec, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street
When: 23rd-25th November; Thu 2pm-10pm, Fri noon-10pm, Sat noon-9pm
Tickets: From AED 75 at me-gamescon.com/tickets or tickets.virginmegastore.me
Contact: me-gamescon.com

WORDS Ferdinand Godinez
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