Game on, girls: Girlgamer eSports Festival comes to Dubai to entertain and educate

Targeted at female gamers, the Girlgamer festival is set to provide a platform to educate the region on eSports and the video games industry

Nana. credit is GirlGamer
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The GirlGamer eSports Festival is a celebration of the industry geared towards showcasing the skills of female eSports athletes. Similar gaming events targeted at all gamers are usually dominated by male participants, which is a current symptom of the embryonic sport.

While eSports stakeholders work diligently to redress the balance, GirlGamer is out there leading the charge. Today, the global event that pitches up in cities across the world will make its debut in the Middle East at Dubai's Meydan Grandstand. Not only will it be the biggest festival of its kind in the region, it will also become one of the foundations that eSports in the GCC will build on.

On the entertainment front, US rapper Gucci Mane will headline the festival that will also be presented by Kris Fade and the team at Virgin Radio. There will be a cosplay competition where talented folk will show off the realistic character costumes they've created and, most importantly, the event will introduce the world to the skills of the first all-female UAE eSports team.

GucciMani. credit is GirlGamer

But GirlGamer is a multifaceted event that aims to entertain and educate in equal measure. As well as the gaming action and live acts, there are also talks and workshops about eSports and even how to get into the games industry. For example, shoutcasters (read: game commentators) will explain how they got into their hosting roles and why they're integral to eSports tournaments. Keynote speeches from market analysts will explain the mind-boggling numbers behind the industry and the ways it's expected to grow. There will also be a panel with professional female eSports players who will share their knowledge and tips for making it in the sport.

Partnerships from the likes of the Dubai Sports Council and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority prove how seriously the UAE takes eSports. The groups are completely on board with the importance of events such as GirlGamer and the need to educate players and their families about what is considered to be a recognised sport.

An interschool tournament will be played out on 'Fifa 20'. Courtesy Grow uP eSports

"We were already keen to get the support of both the KHDA and the Sports Council, because we wanted parents and everybody else in the schools to take this event seriously," Paul Roy, chief executive and founder of Galaxy Racer Esports and organiser of GirlGamer 2020, tells The National. "Getting the Sports Council endorsement helps us to tell everybody that they're looking at this as a normal sporting event.

Securing the KHDA's involvement and getting their support helps us to prove to them that people need to take gaming and eSports in general seriously as a career choice."

As a fun aside, the KHDA sanctioned an interschool tournament that will be played out on Fifa 20. This is one area of the festival that's open to both boys and girls and they compete for a share of Dh255,000 in scholarships.

Xayah. credit is GirlGamer

Although GirlGamer is a huge event, it's only the first step in creating a fully fledged professional eSports scene in the region. "eSports is ­currently in a pretty infant stage," Roy says. "We have quite a few local companies that have been around for the past few years and have been trying to get the eSports movement moving, but there isn't anything that could be compared at an international level. 

"The primary reason for that is the basic infrastructure and conditions to have a successful eSports industry in the region don't exist. I'm talking about the basics, not only the quality of internet and servers from the companies to be hosted here, but also the eSports audience. We don't have the type of audiences here that can come and fill 20,000 to 30,000-seater stadiums for events."

This may seem bleak, but Roy is adamant that events such as GirlGamer are a step in the right direction to create an internationally recognised eSports scene. "Dubai needs to be able to attract and host major international events like GirlGamer" he says. "The good thing is that we've blocked it for the next five years – this isn't a one-time thing."

Off the back of events such as this, Roy says he is confident the region will be well equipped if the much-­rumoured introduction of eSports at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games comes to fruition.

"You've already got a lot of Middle Eastern champions in eSports, whether it's Fifa World Cup winners or Dota 2 players that come from the region – you've got quite a few already," he says. "When the Olympics decide to have an official eSports medal event, the GCC will be very, very capable of producing players that can perform at the highest level there."

The GirlGamer eSports Festival runs until Saturday at Meydan Grandstand in Dubai