RIYADH: A new creativity program from the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) has taken the Gamers8 festival in Riyadh by storm.
The center’s latest endeavor is a leading initiative in innovative and interactive content creation: the Creative Solutions program.
Creative Solutions is a yearly program based in the Kingdom that gives a platform to creatives eager to take part in an emerging industry saturated with immersive and innovative technologies, creating an ecosystem of collective learning. It was launched in 2021 to enrich economic growth and provide a platform for innovators to pursue their creative ideas, from an idea to a working prototype.
Ithra’s collaboration with Gamers8 brings an educational approach to the e-sports industry, with a focus on its design and technology aspects, while also developing a more balanced approach in the e-sports and gaming creative industry.
Ithra’s initiative has been introduced in tandem with the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) in an effort to build a market for both consumers and developers. It will also create greater local job opportunities. Instead of outsourcing, Saudi companies in e-sports will be able to produce and consume locally.
“We see this sector as important as other sectors,” Miznah Al-Zamil, the head of the Creativity and Innovation department at Ithra, told Arab News.
“Gamers8 is the first and the largest event in this industry, to be specific, and we wanted to be participants as a knowledge beacon and the role that we have in the culture and creative industry,” Al-Zamil added.
Ithra’s collaboration with Gamers8 includes an exhibit showcasing the five innovative winning projects of last year’s Creative Solutions cohort, all falling under the extended reality (XR) umbrella in relation to arts, culture and education. The exhibit will run alongside the festival until Sept. 8.
“I was really surprised when I learned that the consumer market for games and e-sports, Saudi is in the top five in the world. It’s mind blowing,” Filipe Gomes, head of the Creative Solutions program, told Arab News. “The question was how can we connect our value and showcase it — not just what we can do locally through a consumer perspective, but also from a production perspective.”
The program’s first round onboarded 60 creatives, selected out of approximately 2,000 applicants, who went through 12 masterclass sessions in a range of topics, including narrative storytelling, 3D production, virtual reality headsets, augmented reality, and others.
The program is currently running its second round, and 15 selected creatives’ ideas will be presented at Gamers8 on Aug. 21, allowing participants to pitch their ideas to Creative Solutions partners, vendors, the media and more stakeholders.
“What is obvious to all is that gamers usually, if you’re (into tech), have to do a lot with esports. But on the contrary, it has a lot to do with design, it has a lot to do with creatives. There’s a lot that goes into development. Here is where Ithra comes in and technically contributes to such a growing industry,” Al Zamil said.
Three years ago, the XR market was valued at $27 billion and is expected to reach $300 billion by 2024.
“It’s a global phenomenon, and it’s a huge opportunity,” said Gomes. “The program is a gate for Saudi to the world, and the world to Saudi. We work with partners all across the globe, so why not bring some of the key content around games and virtual reality to Gamers8 through these connections.”
Additionally, an XR-centered panel discussion will take place, joined by leading experts and specialists in the field, including the head of the SEF, Faisal Bin Bandar, and the dean of e-learning and distance education at the University of Tabuk, Ali Alshammari, coming together to shed light on data around the topic and the future of the field.
“The Saudi XR ecosystem is developing. There is a huge potential worldwide, to be honest, and Saudi needs to have its mark,” Al-Zamil said.