For many people, computer games are merely a means to pass the time when there’s little else to do, but for others, they are an all-consuming obsession – less a hobby than a way of life.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Ground Zero, the latest dedicated gaming zone to open its doors in Dubai, has been set up by three friends, all of whom are gamers themselves, and were fed up with the commute to the other end of town to visit gaming zones.
Ground Zero is positioned in Jumeirah Beach Residence’s Bahar cluster, above the India Palace restaurant on The Walk. ‘It’s something different for this area, especially when it’s all food and restaurants down there on The Walk,’ says one of the founders (who, along with his co-founders, does not wish to disclose his identity). The secretive trio have poured their own capital into setting up the gaming shop, which houses 50 computers and two Playstation consoles. It’s a small, dark place, but instead of feeling eerie, grim and slightly dirty (much as you might imagine the bedroom of a home-gamer to be), Ground Zero is a smart, stylish venue filled with state-of-the-art equipment and a choice of more than 50 computer games (and a spotless kitchen – we checked). There are slightly fewer options on the Playstation, with ‘just’ 23 games to the choose from, but the management are more than happy for console enthusiasts to bring their own, admitting they don’t expect to be able to cater to absolutely everyone’s preferences.
Since opening two months ago, there were initially the usual teething problems, but in the past month things have run smoothly and the venue has welcomed all manner of customers, ranging in age from eight to 50. The gamers are from countries including Canada, France and Iran, although their main customer base is so far largely Russian, which they attribute to the population demographic in JBR. And if you’re concerned about juveniles and those from the younger end of the client spectrum interfering with your hard-earned downtime, the founders here are one step ahead, and have sectioned off a ‘VIP area’ open only to over 18s.
When we ask how many women they see at their computers on a regular basis, our anonymous guide smiles and admits the machines are mostly occupied by men, but notes that they do have a few women come in as part of groups to browse the internet or just hang out. It’s the social aspect of the venue that underlines its appeal – gamers have a place to interact with each other, instead of sitting alone in bedrooms or living rooms at home. And as long as you’re comfortable, it seems there’s little reason to leave – under the pay-as-you-go scheme, you can buy 13 hours of game time for just Dhs100, while the kitchen serves hot fast food to each station (and the prices are hardly steep at an average Dhs22 for a cheeseburger and fries). The proprietors are also hoping to apply for a shisha licence and set up a small outdoor area where gamers can take a break.
Whether you’re a seasoned gamer, a beginner or part-timer, we urge you to at the very least poke your head around the door of Ground Zero. Not only will you find a friendly, community-oriented venue in which
to indulge your hobby, but you’ll also find a great space through which to support three burgeoning local businessmen who have obviously put a lot of time and money into indulging theirs.
From Dhs10 for one hour of game time. Open daily 2pm-2am. Plaza Level, Bahar, JBR (04 422 7935).
This gaming club has been going since 2003 and houses more than 120 computers, along with a VIP gaming room.
From Dhs10 for one hour of game time. Open Mon-Wed 10am-2am, Thu 10am-3.15am, Fri 10am-3am, Sat-Sun 10am-2am. Next to Lamcy Plaza, Oud Metha (04 336 5551).
Living Rooms Café
If you’re into board games as much as video games, this might be the spot for you. PS3, Xbox and Wii are available alongside chess, Uno, Monopoly, Scrabble and many more.
From Dhs50 for two people for 60 minutes. Open Sun-Wed 10am-midnight, ThuSat 10am-2am. Festival Centre, Dubai Festival City (04 232 9291).