GCON is a video game convention specifically for women in Saudi Arabia. It’s in its fourth year, and for the first time, the event was successful enough to expand to a second location. The two cities are Riyadh (Saudi Arabia’s capitol) and Khobar. Riyadh’s event took place November 29 and 30, while Khobar’s was December 8 and 9.
GCON started up in 2012 after another gaming convention declared itself only for men. Two Saudi women, Tasneem Salim and Felwa al-Swailem, were able to organize another separate event for women gamers; they were able to convince PlayStation, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Huawei to support the event.
Every year GCON draws about 3,000 women. It’s about what you’d expect from a gaming convention; cosplay, tournaments, socializing, and lots of games.
In an interview with NPR, Salim said, “It’s a side of Saudi Arabia that people rarely get to see, but it’s real and it exists. And here we are.”
GCON also held a game development competition, and works hard to encourage Saudi women to explore careers in STEM fields. “There are no big [Saudi] games out there, so we don’t really have a local role model that we can follow,” Salim explained in an interview with Wamda (video above). “There is no technical training available either, which has been a huge challenge.”
Here’s to the women who made these conventions possible, and hopefully GCON will continue to expand and offer opportunities and experiences to gamers in Saudi Arabia.