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.


This article was written by

Keezy is a gamer, illustrator, and designer. Her background is in teaching and tutoring kids from ages 9 to 19, and she's led workshops for young women in STEM. She is also holds a certificate in teaching English. Her first memory of gaming is when her dad taught her to play the first Warcraft when she was five. You can find her at Key of Zee and on Twitter @KeezyBees.