When I was growing up I was one of those kids that was all but glued to a video game controller. Really, I went through pretty much every generation of video game play up until I was in my late teens. Sega, PlayStation, X-Box–you name it, I had it.
And, while I’m not nearly the game player that I used to be, I’m still very much a game lover. I appreciate the art form of game design; I enjoy sharing in the adrenaline rush of watching a well-played game; and, most importantly, I love being a part of what is largely considered something of a geeky boys club (Hello! Feminist!).
So, I was definitely all kinds of stoked when I was contacted by the National Gaming Union to come check out what is perhaps the biggest gaming competition to ever hit Kuwait.
Now, as far as I know, this is the first gamers union of its kind to ever form in Kuwait. And, considering the sheer mass of avid gamers and game lovers which this country holds, I have to say its about freaking time. To acknowledge, celebrate, and bring together a community which has, up until this point, never been given any kind of official voice or platform to express itself is a beautiful thing.
For someone to put in the effort in order to not only unite this growing and wanting community, but to celebrate it is also quite the accomplishment. The National Gaming Union has taken the connotation of gaming from something frivolous and childish to something that bands all kinds of people together under a common, well-loved hobby (some would even say sport). And that ain’t small potatoes.
Now, as for the competition itself, I can think of one word to sum it up: BIG.
Seriously, the thing was a freaking production. Held at The Live Theater in Discovery Mall (which, as you all know, I’ve had a so-so experience with), the circular set-up of the venue made it feel like I was attending the gamer version of The Thunder Dome. With all eyes set on the stage at which sits the huge–HUGE!–screen projecting the games as the different contestants battled it out at their own stations (I wanna say “play stations” but…), the place was definitely set-up to keep the crowd fully tuned in to the action.
The way the competition works is a group of gamers battle it out over two elimination rounds, playing a separate set of games every Friday. The competition I attended was for Street Fighter and Ultimate Marvel VS. Capcom. And, basically, if you come out the victor of either one of those, then you shall be henceforth known as Kuwait’s Street Fighter Champion (for example). Oh, and you also get A TON of seriously awesome loot from the NGU and the event sponsors.
Plus, a shirt that says ‘Kuwait’s Baddest Dude.’
Now, as far as my personal experience went it was kind of a mixed bag.
For the most part, I enjoyed the hell out of the night. The entire room was just pulsating with energy and definitely kept everyone in a very pumped up kind of mood. The MCs of the night gave the event a very Fight Club tone and pace which only helped magnify the crowds excitement and thrill. As everyone nestled into their white lounge sofa, encircling the stage, and cheering on wildly with every winning K.O., the atmosphere of the whole event definitely did not disappoint.
One of the things I appreciated the most was the way that the founder of the National Gaming Union, Ahmad Al-Ateeqi, kept a very hands-on approach throughout the whole night. He was interacting with the audience, MC-ing, checking in on the contestants, and contributed to keeping everyone on their feet throughout the night.
Another thing I loved? The diversity of the people that this event brought together. There were children, people with special needs, folks from Saudi Arabia and the UAE–all joining in the competition with the rest of the Kuwaiti community! Seeing this collective love for gaming bring such a diverse pool of great people together was a wonderful thing!
If I had to list a few qualms about the night, I’d say the organization of the event itself could’ve used a little work. The event was supposed to start at 10 PM but actually ended up starting a whole hour later. Now, I get that opening nights are hectic and all but an entire hour is beyond that excuse. Also, at times it became a little difficult to follow who was playing what and against who, which kind of hindered the flow of the night on occasion. Again, I’m going to chalk this one up to first night kinks and I’m guessing they’ve now got a solid system down for the coming Fridays.
The one other personal disappointment I had (which has nothing to do with the NGU itself) was the fact that there were about zero women attending! C’MON LADIES. I know that you exist! I’ve met a number of women in Kuwait who have a real interest in gaming and can actually kick major hiney! Where were they?! The fact that there were nearly a negative number of women that showed up makes it look like all women in Kuwait care about are pretty, frilly, pink stuff.
Not cool, ladies. Not cool.
I’d like to thank Ahmad Al-Ateeqi and the whole NGU team for inviting me to this one of a kind event and for pulling off such a great effort for the sake of Kuwait’s gaming community. It was honestly a blast attending this energized celebration of all that is worthwhile about the gaming world: diversity, adrenalin, and a whole lot of competition!
Be sure to check out the National Gaming Union on Twitter or Instagram @N_GamingUnion, and stop by at the upcoming competitions this coming Friday and the next at The Live Theater in Discovery Mall. Viewers get in for free (awesome, yes?), competitors are 5KD each.
All my love!