In a country where women are banned from driving or even going out on their own, it’s no wonder that Saudi Arabia has a thriving girl gamer community. Where there are geeks and gamers, there will be conventions, but females were also stopped from attending regular gaming cons, so they formed their own, according to a NPR report.
GCON is in its fourth year, and 3,000 Saudi girl gamers attended the con, held in a Riyadh hotel convention center. Tasneem Salim and Felwa al-Swailem are GCON’s organizers, and they managed to not only expand the convention into a second city but also garner the sponsorship of Playstation and the Chinese mobile tech company Huawei. Since 50 percent of gamers are female, GCON has the potential to expand and increase even further in size.
Attendees play games like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty and Uncharted, cosplay their favorite characters and receive encouragement to aim for STEM careers. Like gamers everywhere, they invest hundreds of hours in their favorite obsession.
“They call themselves geeks,” said al-Swailem. “There’s no embarrassment. I call myself a geek, too. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing.”
Cultural restrictions are slowly loosening on women in Saudi Arabia, with new voting rights and talk of some women being allowed to eventually represent themselves in society. For the next generation, gamers may be leading the way and leveling up to a better life.