Giddam: From ‘karak’ to ‘eshrij’, a game that’s quintessentially Qatar
American car racing, Japanese warriors, chasing zombies… the agenda for gaming experience has for long been set by the West or the Far East. But to play one that reflects the familiar gives a whole new thrill – like when I had my hands on the controls of “Giddam”, the first Qatari video game launched in December last.
All things local
The game looks and feels like Qatar, built around four main characters fashioned after people you’d meet every day in the community. The characters are big mama, Strawberry, Rashid and Ali representing the stereotypical Qatari community. The ubiquitous Karak, Zanooba (popular footwear worn by men), Eshrij (a traditional herb used for detox) and the A’aqal (band used to keep the kefaya in place) gain iconic status in the game.
“We wanted to use video gaming as a platform to help us export our rich culture and heritage to the whole world; a reason why we chose to make our first game 100% Qatari,” says the team behind “Giddam”.
Munera Al Dosari, Faraj Abdualla and Fatima Al Kuwari are three Qatari tech geeks who took their passion for technology, games and applications and coupled it with their Qatari identity. The result: Girnaas – a local technology start-up that specialises in gaming and application development.
Girnass, which means the highest peak of the mountain, reflects the company’s aspiration of being on top of the gaming industry locally, regionally and globally, they say. “We are fanatics whose craze for gaming developed from a mere hobby to a passion of utilising games to mirror the Arab culture. We dream of placing Qatar among the top countries in development, not just in usage,” says Abdualla.
Despite having studied electronic engineering and marketing, the founders’ common passion for gaming was the common thread on which they started to weave their company bringing it to life in mid-2013. The frustration of not finding games relevant to their culture was an added impetus.
Putting a local game in the global sphere was not all play. The team had to contend with a chain of challenges, since this part of the world is not very active in the gaming industry. The first challenge was to build a game rich in Qatari symbols to represent every aspect of the culture as well as appeal not only to nationals but also to expats. “We had to undergo extensive research and conducted many focus groups with different age groups and backgrounds to reach a better understanding of the market needs before game launch,” Al Kuwari says.
Financing was another big issue, as developing a quality game in Qatar doesn’t come cheap. ICT Qatar provided them with seed funding. They still needed $25,000 more, and went for crowd-sourcing with Indiegogo. A very popular platform in the gaming industry worldwide built on raising funds by perks. “The way it works is basically, the game owner opens up perks for public to buy, these perks are assets exclusive to the people who contribute money to the game,” explains Al Kuwari. For Giddam, the perks included items like exclusive game wallpapers, t-shirts, a thank you note in the credits section of the game, booking your username or having a special character designed after you in the game.
Despite all the hassles, the team’s overall experience was satisfactory since they managed to collect the required amount from 71 backers and achieved the milestone of 100,000 downloads within six weeks of launch without incurring further costs. The game is now played in almost 90 countries across the globe.
Of all the challenges they took to launch Giddam, the toughest now is to retain their customer base given the high turnover of gamers where they shift among games very fast. However the strong positive word of mouth Giddam enjoys and the high user rating via social media networks is what keeps them going now without incurring any further costs. “We ensure taking into consideration all the players’ feedback of how to improve the game and constantly upgrade it. Accordingly the game released the first update two weeks after the launch, followed by a second update a month later when a new character was included, with a Map of Saudi Arabia and new features like dressing up the characters,” Al Dosari says.
The Giddam challenge
Giddam also offers a great networking opportunity where the players can make new friends, compete head-to-head against others and chat with other gamers on Google Android and Apple iOS devices. Two weeks ago, the team launched “The Giddam Challenge” where the players compete and the winners are entitled to receive very exciting games like PS4, Xbox One, 3D XL, and exclusive T-shirts with Giddam characters. (For more information about the competition you can check their link http://giddam.com/)
Currently the team is working on new additional maps and characters to be introduced over the coming weeks. “We have a full roadmap for the coming year and our next games are planned to be a mix of Qatari, wider GCC and Arab cultures too to quench our thirst of reflecting GCC culture,” Al Kuwari concludes.
Have you played this Giddam? What’s your review?
Featured photo: The Girnass team at work.