Saudi store leads fightback as board games throw down the gauntlet to online rivals

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One of the main aims behind this store is to encourage families to find interesting ways of coming together instead of becoming isolated playing video or phone games. (AN photos)
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One of the main aims behind this store is to encourage families to find interesting ways of coming together instead of becoming isolated playing video or phone games. (AN photos)
Updated 17 February 2018

Saudi store leads fightback as board games throw down the gauntlet to online rivals

JEDDAH: Chess, Monopoly, Baloot, Snakes and Ladders — board and card games have been part of family and social life for thousands of years.
Now a Saudi store is helping these age-old pastimes fight back against the dominance of their online and mobile phone rivals, and the social isolation that these encourage.
Challenge Round offers more than 200 board games from around the world, with eight playing tables. Each table seats eight players and, for a SR35 ($9.30) fee, visitors can play with friends and family — or alone.
Rami Sunnari, Challenge Round’s founder and business manager, told Arab News: “We sometimes have one player, and in this case we help him to either socialize with a new group of friends or, if not, then the game masters gladly help him to enjoy the game.”
Four game masters at the store offer customers advice on games, with tips on rules and tactics, Sunnari said.
Dixit, Games Magazine’s best new game of 2010, is one of the store’s top sellers. It features a group of cards illustrated with dreamlike images. Players select cards that match a title suggested by the “storyteller,” and attempt to guess which card the “storyteller” selected. The game was introduced in 2008.
“A friend of mine told me about a fun game that can make people laugh out loud,” Sunnari said. “It was Dixit. I bought it from Amazon, then played it with family and friends, and we had great fun.
“I kept searching for similar games and found this huge industry of board gaming that I wasn’t aware of. In fact, only a handful of people knew about these games in our part of the world, while the industry has reached its peak in Germany, the US, Britain, France, and other European countries.
Sunnari said games could be an enjoyable way of teaching and learning, as developments in “edutainment” showed.
But while video and online games can help us to think more critically and engage with people from all over the world, they also carry the risk of social isolation, and even depression and violence.
“One of the main aims behind this store is to encourage families to find interesting ways of coming together instead of becoming isolated playing video or phone games,” Sunnari said.
“I started buying games and playing them with family and friends at weekends and even on weekdays. After a while, I owned 27 different games. And it wasn’t easy to get them because I ordered them online most of the time. Later my friends and family invited me over and asked me to play these games with them. It wasn’t long before the idea of a board gaming business came to my mind,” he said.
In March, Challenge Round will open a new branch with more space for families to play. “It can accommodate up to 100 people to play games and enjoy coffee and smoothies. And in the next five years, we aim to have our own games events and shows for the people of Saudi Arabia,” Sunnari said.


New board of directors for Saudi Arabia's Qiddiya Investment Co.

Updated 48 min 12 sec ago

New board of directors for Saudi Arabia's Qiddiya Investment Co.

  • The PIF launched the Qiddiya project as an entertainment, sports and arts destination with more than 300 facilities

RIYADH: The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) has approved a new board of directors for Qiddiya Investment Co. (QIC).

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will head the new board. 

It consists of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Prince Turki bin Hathloul bin Abdul Aziz, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, Majid bin Abdullah Al-Hogail, Ahmed bin Aqeel Al-Khatib, Eng. Ibrahim bin Mohammed Al-Sultan, Fahd bin Abdulmohsen Al-Rasheed, Eng. Faisal Bafarat, and Dr. Rakan Al-Harthy.

The PIF launched the Qiddiya project as an entertainment, sports and arts destination with more than 300 facilities particularly aimed at Saudi youth. 

It will occupy an area of 334 square kilometers west of Riyadh. 

The PIF hopes it will contribute to diversifying the Saudi economy, in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

In 2017, the PIF announced its 2018-2020 program —  one of 12 programs designed to help achieve Saudi Vision 2030 —  outlining its plans to contribute to the diversification of the economy and transform the Kingdom into a hub for international investment by next year. 

The goal was to raise the value of its managed assets to over $400 billion by 2020.

The PIF is the Kingdom’s main investment arm, and its goal is to become one of the largest and most influential sovereign wealth funds in the world. 

To achieve that, it is, according to a statement, “working to establish a diversified portfolio in accordance with the highest international standards by investing in attractive and long-term opportunities in various sectors and assets locally and internationally.”

It invests in four main areas: Saudi companies, real estate, Saudi mega-projects, and “promising sectors.”