Huge comic book and gaming show lands on the island
Time Out Bahrain staff
Bahrain’s comic book lovers, gamers and cosplayers are out this month for the big IGN Convention. We speak to Tarteeb co-founder Omar Abdulaziz who has been driving this sub-culture from the start.
How did you get involved with this event? What happened was back in 2010 me and a friend decided we need to do something to cater to – to put it loosely – Bahrain’s geek market [laughs]. Comic book fans, gaming fans, movie fans had no platform. There was nothing catering to them apart from maybe a few gaming stores.
So we launched an event done by a group of youngsters. It was a very low budget event. We even paid from our own cash. It was the first time something like this happened in Bahrain and surprisingly 1,000 people showed up.
It must have filled a glaring gap in the market then… It did. Once that started we had a lot of other spin-off events trying to do something similar. We had groups coming out – cosplayers, gamers – that weren’t there before so a community started to form.
So we built on that. Back in 2011, despite the circumstances in Bahrain, we did another event and it was also a big success. So that spurred us on to do more. In 2013, we did a bigger event in the Bahrain International Circuit and that brought over 2,000 people. What happened was that people even from outside the country started paying attention – that there is a market and a community in Bahrain for this. That’s when IGN Middle East approached us and said ‘Why not do something with us?’
So you and your company Tarteeb partnered with IGN. What exactly is Tarteeb? Tarteeb (Arabic for organisation or organising) is a group of young Bahrainis. We started off as volunteers, we were just youngsters doing our own thing and helping out other bigger events. We then turned it into a proper company not purely with the aim of making profit but with the aim of supporting youth – people who want to do things, who are inspired to do events or if they have an initiative they want to launch.
And how have you helped IGN in Bahrain grow? IGN is now in three different cities but Bahrain is the biggest one. When we did it last year we had more than 5,000 people attending. Plus, it’s not just Bahrain we’re talking about because we cater to the Saudi market too.
What can we expect at this year’s event? This year the celebrity roster is bigger than before. We have Hafthor Bjornsson who is ‘The Mountain’ in ‘Game of Thrones’, Julia Voth who plays Jill Valentine in ‘Resident Evil’, Naomi Kyle, the presenter for IGN Worldwide, and Troy Baker from the game ‘The Last of Us’. We’re also trying to have more interactive content this year. We want everyone to come and be part of the event, interact, play some games, get involved with activities, go on stage. We’ll have a sumo suit contest, more on-stage interactive games and a concert where a local band will play different tracks from movies and games. What we try to create is even if you’re not into anime, gaming or comics, you’re still going to come and have a good time.
So will there be lots of workshops for people? There will be a workshop hall. We’re looking at aspects like creating your own video game. Artists will be giving workshops on how to draw a comic book. Writers will be giving workshops on how to write a novel or story. We’ll have movie makers teaching techniques on how to create films. We are also getting people involved like BDB, Bahrain Development Bank, as they’re one of our main sponsors, alongside Tamkeen, who will be doing workshops on entrepreneurship for example.
What do you want to achieve? The aim is to put this event on the Bahrain calendar on par with say F1, the boat show or the air show. To make it an event that everyone looks out for in Bahrain. It’s affordable for everyone, fun, interactive and everyone who shows up has a good time. The IGN Convention is from October 24-25. Tickets are BD7 (one day) or BD12 (two days). There is no age limit. Open Fri 1pm-10pm; Sat noon-10pm. Bahrain International Circuit, Zallaq (www.ignconvention.com).