Comic Con, E3, PAX Prime, Dragon Con - there is a plethora of conventions you can attend if you have a passion for gaming or nerd culture in general. Halls flooded with cosplayers, booths littering the show floor, and demo stations for upcoming video games are a standard. Most of these you hear about in the headlines, but one popped up this morning that I had never known existed...in Saudi Arabia.
GCON is an annual convention focused on female gamers and game developers.  Female gamers were barred from an all male convention in 2011. Tasneem Salim and Felwa al-Swailem soon set out to form their own convention, persuading big names in gaming to back their convention. Playstation, Nintendo, Microsoft; they all hopped on board and in 2012 the first ever G Con was held.
This year marks the fourth annual event, and the crowd has been growing. Over 3,000 attended the con event that took place in November.
"This is not the Saudi Arabia most people know" Salim says. "It's definitely not. It's a side of Saudi Arabia that people rarely get to see, but it's real and it exists. And here we are."
Competitive tournaments in games like Black Ops III and FIFA, cosplaying attendees sporting their favorite characters; all the elements make this an open place of self-expression, something unheard of in the more conservative society of Saudi Arabia.
GCON is not just about gathering like-minded individuals, it also aims to encourage girls to pursue careers in science and engineering. Female college students in Saudi Arabia tend to outperform men in the tech related fields. They even encourage game development by holding competitions to nurture that growth further.
It is wonderful to see a convention that is not only bringing together female gamers, but takes small steps toward encouraging women to pursue their dreams and express themselves. For more information you can check out the full article from NPR  as well as the video interview posted above from Wamda. 
 - NPR - For Young Saudi Women Video Games Offer Self-Expression - http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/12/09/458806442/for-young-saudi-women-video-games-offer-self-expression
 - Wamda - Building a Gaming Community for Women in Saudi Arabia - http://www.wamda.com/2013/07/building-a-gamer-community-for-women-in-saudi-arabia-wamda-tv