National Gaming Union (NGU), a newly established entertainment entity in Kuwait held its first ever tournament for Play Station fans in during the holy month of Ramadan on three consecutive Fridays of the month of Ramadan. The event was held at the Live Theatre in Discovery Mall.
On the first day, participants competed in the games Super Street Fighter 4 and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom, on the second day they battled over Call of Duty, and on the final day it was football fever with FIFA. The venue was jam packed with competitors, their friends and family, and game fans in general. Hearing the loud sounds of shouting and cheering, you would think that you were attending actual fighting and soccer matches. Not only were they battling over a title, but they were also going to win cash, gaming consoles, mobile phones, and WIFI routers. The energy was both intriguing and thrilling.
Khaleejesque chatted with Ahmad Al-Ateeqi, the man behind the tournament to get a better understanding of this gaming world and its growing popularity.
What exactly is the National Gaming Union?
It is a tournament organizer and trade show dedicated to providing a vibrant and professional gaming experience in exciting venues with generous awards. It was established by a group of advanced and competitive gamers aiming to take amateur gaming to the next level. It’s also a community that unites all gaming enthusiasts.
How did you get the idea for NGU? Are you a gamer yourself?
You could say I'm a closeted gamer. It's not something I talk about with my diwaniya friends and colleagues, but I’m very serious and competitive. When I was studying in the United States, I was actually contacted by the Halo (an online game) people to be a sponsor because my score was so high.
As to how I got the idea, I work as a civil site engineer for KEO. I work six days a week from 9-5. I also have a private construction company, ZACCO. As a site engineer you work outside in the sun all the time. It's very hard work and I was talking with a friend about how I wanted to start a fun business for a change. It was while I was thinking of ideas that it occurred to me to start the tournament. At the time I thought it was going to be stress free!
That wasn’t the case?
I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was. I got the idea in June. The tournament was set for Ramadan, July. Meeting sponsors was a problem. Things move very slowly in Ramadan. It was a huge challenge.
Speaking of sponsors, you have an impressive list. Were the people you contacted interested in the games or simply intrigued by the novelty of the idea?
Definitely the latter. But they were not easy to come by. It was very difficult for me to get time off of work to meet people, only to have them cancel. A couple of people agreed to sponsor, only to back out at the worst possible time. Red Bull, for example, had promised to come and distribute drinks and they never showed up. Another example was the venue. It wasn’t going to be originally at Live Theatre. An acquaintance who was supposed to do the branding had offered to set up a meeting with managers of another venue. But branding backed out when I asked for a lower quotation; the asking price was simply too high. And then the venue people kept asking to reschedule our meetings at the last possible minute. Imagine, I’m on site, melting from the heat. The guy calls me and congratulates me on the fact that they agreed to sit with me the following Sunday. It was a Thursday and we had already agreed to meet that day. I was pressed for time and had had enough. I told him I’d rather do it at my diwaniya! By this point I had lost branding, and now the venue. Even worse, the NGU Twitter account got hacked on the same day. That was a very bad week. I almost called everything off.
Thankfully, you didn’t.
My whole family was very encouraging and supportive. I also have to mention my wife. She not only pushed me to do the event but also kept motivating me throughout. I also owe the guy who was originally supposed to do the branding a thank you. After we couldn’t agree on a price he kept telling me I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Nothing gets me going like someone telling me I can’t do something. And it worked out for the best.
When I saw the Live Theatre in Discovery Mall I fell in love with it. I could hardly believe we had a place like this in Kuwait. I asked to meet with the owner, Mazyad Al-Moashirji, a very down to earth person, very easy to get along with. It was an expensive place but he agreed to sponsor the tournament as well and that made a lot of difference. At this point I had Fatburger, Feel Like So, Alrai TV, and Live Theatre. Things were starting to fall into place. Wataniya started getting interested as well as Al-Anbaa. Sun Ray productions got involved and made a video. Urban Moon posted about it. Lucky Generation gamers offered to do a live feed of the event from their website. It was all very helpful. We also had a couple of last minute sponsors, Cinescape and Digumz. And I want to personally thank Neveen and Abdulla Boftain from Qualitynet. They were very easy to work with and extremely cooperative. And I’m grateful to say they were pleased with the results.
How did you manage to get so many people involved in less than a month?
Tweeting like crazy! Before this event I had never used Twitter before in my life. Now it was non-stop social networking. I got 150 followers on the first day. And I set up a blog on WordPress. What’s great about it is you can see the location of the people visiting the site. Seeing so many people from all over the Gulf and MENA region visit was inspiring. It assured me that I was doing something right. And the stats were not misleading. Our first place winner actually came from Saudi Arabia. Others came from the United Arab Emirates; directly from the airport to Discovery mall. It was so great.
How did you select the games?
I researched a lot of forums and asked so many people before choosing them. I then added Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom at the last minute because not a lot of people had bought tickets for the first day. But that turned out to be our busiest day. We had so many last minute entrants. We eventually had to just stop selling tickets.
I unfortunately missed that night. I did attend the tournaments for Call of Duty and FIFA. Both were very busy nights. Can you tell us about the demographics of the participants and attendees?
The age group of the competitors was 13 and above. I really wanted to abide by the “Teen” rating of the games that were being played. But then some mothers came up to me and asked me to let their kids play. As for the audiences, a lot of family members including mothers and sisters came on the first day. The second and third were mostly gamers and their friends.
Do you have any memorable stories to share?
There was one kid who is an excellent player but happened to go out in the very first game of the very first bracket of Street Fighter 4. It was a shocker. But the person he lost to was Hussain Al Homoud. He came from Saudi Arabia and went on to become our first place winner. Then there were the people who won the Call of Duty team competitions. The team called themselves Never Give Up (NGU). It was a funny coincidence as it matched our own initials.
What do you have to say to those want to plan similar tournaments?
Best of luck. We need more gaming action in Kuwait.
When will your next tournament be held?
People can follow us on Twitter to hear about it. For now all I know is, after setting up this “fun stress-free” event, I'm looking forward to vacationing with my family!
Approximately 450 people bought tickets for the three day competitions. Below is a list of the winners:
Super Street Fighter 4
1st: Hussain Al-Homoud
2nd: Firas Yagoub Al-Duaij
3rd: Yusef Qanbar
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom
1st: Mahdi Asem Al Hasany
2nd: Ali Adman Saad
3rd: Ali Al Dohaish
Call of Duty MW3 (Team competition)
1st: Never Give Up
Free For All
1st Place: Eissa Bader Al-Quod
FIFA Individual Winners
For more information on NGU, visit their website.
– Huda Al-Ateeqi