Lual Mayen is a 24-year-old former refugee from South Sudan. The programmer’s game Salaam, a “thrilling, high tension runner game,” puts players in the shoes of refugees as they endure the hardships that refugees around the world face on a daily basis.
Mayen was born in South Sudan at a camp for internally displaced people, close to the border of Uganda, while his parents were fleeing violence.
In 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan and many people who had fled previous violence returned. But hopes for peace were short-lived: war broke out again, killing over 300,000 people and displacing 2.5 million others.
“My relatives who returned were all killed during the war. There was no peace in South Sudan because of the continued fighting and never-ending cycle of war. Our only hope was to continue our lives as refugees,” explained Mayen.
From a young age, Mayen utilised all he had, going to school to make sure he made the most of his difficult situation. His mother was supportive of his computer programming obsession and saved for three years to buy a laptop for him. He was the only kid in the refugee camp to have one.
“I walked three hours every day to an internet cafe to charge it. It was this determination that led me to build my first video game, Salaam.”
After launching Salaam in the refugee camp, Mayen’s story was picked up by several influential game developers, media outlets and programs supporting peace-building efforts. Just months later he was granted a visa to travel to the United States to build games that could make an impact.
He began travelling the world, sharing his story at conferences, and in 2018 he became Global Gaming Citizen, an award sponsored by Facebook Gaming and The Game Awards that honours one individual using the power of games to build community and bring about positive change in the world.
“Through partnerships with non-profits and NGOs, Salaam will bridge the real world and the virtual world to provide food, water, and medicine to refugees all over the world,” says Mayen.
The next version of Salaam sees Mayen teaming up with Facebook Games. He has raised $25k Kickstarter and is now looking into other funding avenues to complete the game’s development.
Salaam is housed under Junub Games, Mayen’s company that utilizes gaming to build bridges between communities and enhance peaceful behaviour.
Mayen plans to debut the new game in December of 2019.Tags: Game Development, Games, gaming, programming, Refugees, Sudan