Surprisingly, no one asks if I’ve have pwn’ed any noobs lately when I sit down with the two of the organizers of Platform Doha, Lindsay West and Khalid Al Mohannadi.
‘[The gaming world] has been changing, it’s not only shoot ‘em up games or Grand Theft Auto games or things like that,’ says Al Mohannadi. Not only is he a local, but he’s also the CEO of Sago, and the brain behind www.dinosaw.com, a homegrown kids site. ‘The gaming industry is shifting itself from a passive coach potato just sitting there playing the game to an active person who stands up and moves with the game itself, with his peers and his parents, as a social thing.’
These changes and the opportunities the gaming industry could provide is why West is bringing Platform Doha to Qatar University this month.
‘It is about creating content; it’s just as important to create content as it is to consume it,’ says West.
Their event will include exhibitions of new games and gaming platforms, from Microsoft and Sony, including handheld systems like iPad and iPod games. But the really big draw will be the speakers. Names to watch include Chris Deering, the Founder of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Michael Mansour, the Director of Developer Platforms and Technologies at Microsoft Corp who’ll talk about programming for Windows phone and XBOX, and people like Michael Tierney, a multi-award winning designer who will be showing how an App is made, Stefan Lindberg Jones on social media and online video, and Muqeem Khan, a Visiting Associate Professor at Northwestern University Qatar, who’s worked as a visual effect artist with Walt Disney and Square USA on Deep Rising, George of the Jungle, Flubber, Armageddon and Final Fantasy.
‘We also have Live Art which is essentially artists come in the morning and create artwork over the course of the day,’ says West. ‘The thing about gaming is everyone sort of thinks it’s all about game programming, when in fact it’s just as important to have animators, illustrators, story writers. Somebody’s got to write the story about it, somebody’s got to create the Laura Croft or whoever it might be,’ says West.
That’s certainly true. Over the last few years, games have gone beyond jumping into sewer pipes and saving the princess: games like Assassin’s Creed with detailed, historically accurate plots, Deus X, a dystopian world full of political intrigue and complicated terrorist plots, and Resident Evil, an immersive zombie epic with detailed and layered character development. These games are a far cry from the passive entertainment absorption most people imagine: in fact, some researchers say they may stimulate the same kinds of learning as reading a good book, as they’re far more interactive than watching television.
So is Platform Doha. They’re also running two competitions, open to everyone: Create a Character and Create an App, for a QR1000 prize and the chance to have your ideas displayed for the business community.
‘These are just to be presented on story boards. We’re not looking for fully worked up things: we wanted to make this as inclusive as possible. The app doesn’t need to be programmed; it just has to be ‘this is what we’d like’,’ says West.
The event is geared towards a wide range of people, but really focusing on youth in Qatar. West says there will be a little something for everyone, including families. He also says there may be people in costumes. With visions of ComicCon dancing in my head, I ask him if we’re going to be seeing the elaborate fantasy getups in Qatar.
‘For gaming it’s actually called Cosplay and it’s very linked with Manga and Anime.’ he says, showing off photos from Platform events in the UK, featuring staffers dressed up as characters from games. ‘If people wish to do that and it’s appropriate and not offensive or anything, we’d love them to!’
He says gaming is a great way to engage the whole family.
‘Did you know that in America now for young children, Mario is now more recognizable than Mickey Mouse? Would you ever believe that poor old Mickey Mouse would be knocked off his perch, but Super Mario is up there!’ he says.
He says one of the reasons they’re bringing the event to Doha is he wants to encourage young people to see the gaming industry as a viable career option. And he picked Qatar to launch his first Middle East gaming event because of the potential he sees here to really do something special.
‘Why Qatar? I think because Qatar is to me the most exciting country in the Middle East. I think it’s got the potential to become a major hub of the digital world, in the Arabic world and beyond. I think it’s all coming together here in a very coherent way.’
Platform Doha takes place on April 18th from 9am-5pm at Qatar University. Entrance is free. www.platformexpos.com