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Inaugural Next World Forum concludes in Riyadh by shining a light on future of gaming and esports

RIYADH: The Next World Forum concluded on Thursday with discussions about a range of themes and challenges that are expected shape the future of the gaming and esports industry.

The inaugural two-day event, organized in Riyadh by the Saudi Esports Federation, attracted more than 1,000 delegates from around the world with the aim of exploring and creating new opportunities for gaming stakeholders, businesses and governments. The event also marked the conclusion of Saudi Arabia’s Gamers8 season, the world’s biggest gaming and esports festival.

The idea of gaming as a “force for good” was championed throughout the day, with examples given of how the powerful and far-reaching gaming community can be mobilized to support good causes around the world. This has already created huge benefits for those involved in tackling global challenges. Organizations such as UNICEF and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, for example, which were represented at the forum, have benefited from initiatives such as Gaming Without Borders, which has raised $30 million for good causes.

This is balanced, however, by challenges facing the industry, including the health and well-being of gamers and the safety of children. According to a new report from the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra, two-thirds of gamers said they find it hard to disconnect from the online world.

“Our mantra for digital well-being is that we should be in control of our devices and they shouldn’t be in control of us,” said Abdullah Al-Rashid, Ithra’s director. “There are consequences to anything that you use excessively.”

Delegates also heard how forward-thinking governments are discussing gaming sector regulation, governance, industry lobbying, and how to ensure a globally competitive environment for developers and publishers through better-quality education.

“We want to help parents feel safe and empower decision makers at home to what is appropriate — creating outreach and education,” said Assery Isra, the CEO of Saudi Arabia’s General Commission for Audiovisual Media.

The future of esports was one of the main topics on the agenda, with the Saudi Esports Federation’s approach to the sector discussed in terms of professionalization, investment, support and advancing the overall ecosystem.

“Very few countries in the world have taken this approach to esports, to help their youth have opportunities to become the best athletes in the world,” said Ralf Reichert, executive chairman of competitive gaming platform ESL FACEIT Group.

Other topics for discussion included player care, regulation, competitive integrity, diversity, inclusivity and emerging thinking around regulation in a fast-changing environment, along the possibility that esports might one day be added to the Olympic family.

“We consider esports as an official sport, where we work with athletes, provide opportunities and guidance to represent their country in multi-sport games,” said Abdulaziz Al-Baqous, executive director of marketing and corporate communications with the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Musaed “MSDossary7” Al-Dossary, Sylvia “QueenArrow” Gathon and Madiha “Madi” Naz were among the star gamers who shared their experiences and best practices for the benefit of those interested in pursuing a successful career in professional esports.

Collaboration proved a key theme throughout both days of the forum, and the Saudi Esports Federation announced that it has signed two memorandums of understanding with the Korea Esports Association and the Thailand Esports Federation.

“Together I hope we can foster the sustainable development and betterment of esports between our two countries,” the Thai federation said.

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