All photos by Chantelle D’mello
Throngs of enthusiasts convened yesterday to attend the opening of Qatar’s first gaming extravaganza – the two-day-long IGN convention – at the Qatar National Convention Center.
Organized by T Break Media, the Dubai-based owner of IGN Middle East, the event saw more than one thousand attendees turn up for the first day.
Last night, participants mingled with international celebrities like the Mountain from popular TV drama series Game of Thrones, American voice actor Dave Fennoy of The Walking Dead video game, and professional cosplayer Nadiask.
In Qatar, the culture of gaming has slowly been gaining public traction.
In October, news of the recent opening of Hobby Chan, Qatar’s first anime and manga toy shop, quickly went viral, highlighting a previously less publicized sub-culture of video game and anime enthusiasts in Qatar.
Speaking to Doha News, Abbas Jaffar Ali, a publisher at T Break Media, said that so far, the IGN event has exceeded their expectations:
“This is the third event that we’ve held in the Middle East. We’ve done Dubai and Bahrain before, but I think that this is the largest turn out that we’ve seen. People are dressing up, gamers are playing, and it’s great to provide the population here with such a platform.
It’s different from Dubai in the sense that there is a lot of local women. Our largest demographic is generally young men, but in Qatar, the women seem to be a lot more invested in the anime side of it.”
While the conference was originally scheduled to be held in October 2014, it was moved due to a venue conflict for the Dubai convention, which ended up being held that month.
The convention, which is open from noon to 9:30pm today, features day-long gaming contests, a cosplay competition, celebrity talks, workshops, and a game-developing contest. Day passes cost QR100 and are available at the door.
According to organizers, the goal is to promote international movies, video games, comics and pop culture within the region, as well as showcase local talent and artists.
Originally, there was supposed to be a dedicated Artists Alley where local designers, artists, and small business owners could showcase and pedal their game-related goods.
A few days ago however, artists were told that they wouldn’t be able to sell their goods at the event as the convention’s retail license was declined.
Speaking to Doha News, Ali explained:
“The basic issue was that there was a miscommunication. The middleman that we were dealing with told us that we had nothing to worry about, but (the Qatar Tourism Authority) then said that more time was needed to process the paperwork. It wasn’t anything lacking, but merely a case of limited time.”
He added that preparations were already being made to file the relevant paperwork for next year’s conference.
For many participants, the news came as a serious setback.
“We’ve been creating our products for months – T-shirts, mugs, drawings – and now we can’t sell anything,” one female t-shirt designer told Doha News.
Others complained about the change on Facebook:
“Frankly I was not going to participate in any tournaments yet I was just participating in the event to be part and appreciate the talented collectors, artists, and people that are passionate about this growing culture…
However, if they are denied the right to do so..then this whole thing turns into one big internet/game cafe with gaming tournaments and NOT a convention,” said one fan.
In an effort to circumvent the retail ban but still accommodate requests, some stalls have been accepting orders for merchandise, which will then be sold and delivered at a later date.
However, celebrity autographs are still being sold on-site and cost QR50. A specially designed card to hold signatures cost QR10.