Technology: Meet the gamers of Oman

15 Nov 2017
POSTED BY Y Magazine

A test of skill, strategy and pure chance, board games are an exciting way to spend amusing time together. Hasan al Lawati sits around a table with the ‘Geek Owl’ founder to discover the fun

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “gamer” is an image of a jobless, socially awkward dude sporting thick glasses and smashing on the keyboard while his eyes are glued to the computer screen.

But this group of geeks is defying the stereotype attached to gamers through challenging, innovative board games that offer rewarding experiences.

“Board games had been a major part of my life while I was studying abroad in Melbourne. I always loved how they brought people from various backgrounds together. They were a fun way to relieve stress, have a laugh, and challenge our mind. Plus, the amazing social interaction and the creativity thinking,” said Ahmed Al Kalbani, founder of ‘Geek Owl’, Oman’s first board game club.

Al Kalbani works at Khazzan, BP Oman. He graduated from Monash University in Melbourne in 2011 and 2015, and majored in telecommunication engineering and a PhD in electrical engineering.

“Board games are a big thing in the West. From board game shops, cafes, competitions, Kickstart-funded projects to massive conventions. It is time for us to join in the trend. Our fellow neighbouring GCC countries already have a leap start over us,”
he said.

The 30-year-old man wants to bring and popularise this culture to Oman and share its values.

“As Arabs, we are by nature very sociable people. I believe there is a big market for board games in the region, and people need to exploit it,” he observed.

But Al Kalbani is a “noobie” to the board game industry.

“I started my personal collection back in 2015 when I used to play board games, including role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons during my Phd candidature. The same collection we use today with the group. From time to time I’ve been adding to the collection. We live at a time when we can buy anything from anywhere,” he said.

“There is a board game for every single one of us. You just need to find it,” Al Kalbani added, quoting a “wise friend”.

“Initially, word of mouth has helped us gain a lot of momentum and lured out some of the hibernating board game enthusiasts in Muscat,” Al Kalbani told
Y magazine.

Al Kalbani and his group constantly encourage people to try new things.

“Board games depend a lot on the personality. And what I have noticed is that it is a great tool to develop your character and major soft skills that we use on a daily basis, e.g. negotiation, communication, empathy and leadership. Board games have been an effective method for team building in many organisations and schools,” he said.

He is planning to raise awareness about board game culture in the region through workshops and after-school curriculum. He believes that such interactive games are not only fun, but educational too.

“You learn to follow rules in a fun environment, you learn to win, you learn to lose, you learn to listen, and you learn to focus. Something we need to further polish in today’s competitive world,”

The group currently has a session every Wednesday from 6pm to 9pm, spicing it up with different games, themes
and venues.

“We also have been in works to host a heavy lore/narrative sessions for the hardcore enthusiasts,” he said.

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