She’s got game


As Saudi Arabia loosens gender restrictions on esports, the country’s female gamers are stepping up to meet the challenge.

Over the past decade, Saudi Arabia’s gaming scene has dramatically evolved, especially for women. In the early 2000s, the country had strict moral regulations on entertainment, and games were mostly sold in a gray market or through unofficial channels.

While the Middle East represents only a small portion of the international gaming industry, it is a rapidly expanding market. In 2017, the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council accounted for around $693 million of gaming revenue, most related to esports. By 2021, that number is expected to exceed $821 million, boosted in part by the pandemic-induced lockdown.

Saudi Arabia expects to be at the forefront of that expansion. In a country where roughly 50% of the population is under 30, gaming has become an emblem for a generation of young Saudis.