Esports, including gaming, can open multiple career paths for young people who are looking to explore or immerse themselves in this fast-growing industry.
In Qatar, gaming and the esports industry have steadily evolved over the years, according to Khalifa al-Haroon, the founder and CEO of Store974 and, who noted that this LNG-rich Gulf nation “has always been a country of gamers.”
Speaking to Gulf Times in an exclusive interview, al-Haroon said some of the factors that contributed to the growth of these industries in Qatar include a young and tech-savvy population, robust government support and investment, collaborations with international gaming companies and events, and the emergence of different groups and roles in the gaming community.
“I definitely see that we have been evolving. Today, there are more groups in all shapes and forms that are starting to develop in the country, which include not just gamers and esports players, but people investing in hardware or those who want to become content creators, game designers, storytellers, TV scriptwriters, or movie producers, as well as people wanting to be announcers for esports events, among others. That’s the beauty of this medium,” al-Haroon explained.
However, esports and gaming are not only a source of entertainment, but also a platform for learning, innovation, and collaboration in Qatar’s education sector, underscored al-Haroon, citing Store 974’s partnership with the International School of London (ISL) to include esports in its curriculum.
Al-Haroon explains the motivation behind Store 974’s tie-ups with educational institutions to offer esports and gaming courses, saying it is part of his vision to be as inclusive as possible for everyone, regardless of age, ability, or nationality.
“Just as you would have physical athletes that represent a school, now there are digital athletes, as well. But then you also have individuals that might want to be involved in becoming game developers one day,” he noted.
Similarly, al-Haroon said his mission is to educate the public about the benefits and opportunities of gaming and to prepare the country for the digital economy.
“Educating parents that gaming is so much more than just a waste of time is crucial. It’s about encouraging kids that they can pursue a professional career in something that they are passionate about.
“But then they also have to be trained and developed to understand that being a professional esports athlete requires more playing skills. You also need social and communication skills, as well as to be presentable and business savvy, so that’s why it was very important for us to make sure that we get the schools involved because whether we like it or not, the world is going to evolve into a hyper-digital economy. And we need to make sure that everyone in the country is prepared,” he pointed out.
Citing an experience that Store 974 had while working with a specific institution, al-Haroon said they discovered that gaming played a key role in helping children overcome certain social challenges, such as the difficulty of physically interacting and participating in team-based activities.
“When we gave them virtual reality glasses, the children who typically would not talk to each other physically had started engaging and talking to each other digitally. They’re sitting in the same room, but because they feel like they’re in a virtual world, it took away the social anxiety and encouraged them to be slightly open to trying new things,” said al-Haroon, adding that the experience provided a glimpse of how gaming can cater to everyone, especially when utilised as a tool for social interaction and therapy, aside from just entertainment.
Al-Haroon also pointed out that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could benefit Qatar’s gaming scene, particularly for players, content creators, and the public and private sectors.
“One of the benefits I see is having AI coaches that could review gaming footage and then provide the gamer with advice on areas of improvement. That would be amazing. On content generation, AI can select the best scenes and simplify a creator’s workflow.
“Government support will also play a great role whether in attracting companies specialising in AI to set up in Qatar, investing in global firms, encouraging startups to create their own AI solutions, or simply training people on how to utilise AI better and more efficiently,” al-Haroon added.
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