There’s no shortage of gaming lounges in the UAE but a newly opened location in Abu Dhabi offers something a little different: it’s entirely for women.
Gaming hub sQuad core, located inside Abu Dhabi Ladies Club, caters exclusively to female gamers, providing a space for women who would like to socialise with others with a shared interest.
The space has a gaming section, complete with specially designed chairs and computers, as well as HyperX headphones, while another area features sofas and chairs, a big screen TV and consoles such as a PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. There are also board games on offer.
The story behind the gaming lounge
Fakhra Khalifah, owner of sQuad Core, says she has always had an interest in gaming thanks to her brothers, but she wanted to meet up with and play with other female gamers.
She says the experience of being able to play together in-person, rather than online, further fuelled that goal of wanting to fill a void that was missing for female gamers.
“While I was in university, my friend and I would play games on our laptops together during breaks, and sometimes we would get together at home, gather all the computers we could, and play in the same room. Having everyone there in real life felt really different than having everyone online,” she says.
“As with a lot of other gamers, I love watching eSports and always dreamt of participating in tournaments. My love for the social and competitive aspect of gaming are what pushed me to start working on sQuad Core Gaming Lounge.”
'Gaming is just like any other hobby'
The gaming lounge opened its doors in February 2020, right before the start of the global pandemic that shuttered businesses.
sQuad Core was no different and had to close for three months. However, during that time, the venue started hosting online tournaments and sent out activity kits to members to keep them engaged.
More than a year later, as things begin reopening thanks to the global rollout of vaccines, the Emirati owner is excited for what the future holds as business begins to pick up. She says the gamers are aged anywhere between 12 to 35 and most come with their friends.
“I believe gaming is just like any other hobby and, in my opinion, hobbies are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. For that reason, it would be nice to see more gaming lounges or gaming events to encourage and support female gamers,” Khalifah says.
'We always needed a place like this'
While the gaming hub originally began with a membership programme, they switched to an hourly rate because of people’s schedules during the pandemic. However, there have been requests to reintroduce the membership which they are looking into.
In addition to allowing gamers to play, sQuad Core also hosts an event every month, including tournaments, seasonal events and gaming live streams. In the past, it has held Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Overwatch and Among Us individual and team tournaments.
For those who have visited, such as Rana Malas, the lounge is a much-needed space.
"I used to go into a mixed gaming lounge but I was very uncomfortable whenever I walked in because it was full of guys. It wasn't a girl-friendly environment," says Malas.
And for Khalifah, she's achieved her goal of creating a place for female gamers, where they feel like they belong.
“The reception has been incredible – it seems like the girl gaming community always needed a place like this. A lot of gamers who visit express how happy they are that there’s an all-girls gaming lounge,” she says.
“When I started sQuad Core I intended for it to be comfortable – just like you’re visiting a friend’s house. It pleases me that many gamers do tell us that they feel that way as well.”