Lual Mayen and Leo Olebe: You can’t be what you can’t see


Lual Mayen is a former refugee who left Africa to turn out to be a sport developer within the U.S. He has obtained recognition from The Game Awards and CNN for his mission to make video games about peace, and he was a becoming speaker to shut our occasion as we speak.

At the tip of GamesBeat and Facebook’s Driving Game Growth occasion, Facebook sport partnerships head Leo Olebe, Mayen, and I spoke about how one can get inspiration within the sport business as we speak. The session, “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See,” comes from quote from Marian Wright Edelman, the founding father of the Children’s Defense Fund and a civil rights activist who felt that youngsters wanted to see position fashions that impressed them.

Mayen’s story

Mayen spent the primary 22 years of his life as a refugee. His household fled from South Sudan within the nation’s civil conflict and wound up at a refugee camp in Uganda, which occurs to be the place Olebe’s household is from. Mayen was one in every of greater than 2.5 million displaced by the civil conflict, which started in 1983. In the refugee camp, Mayen’s mom saved up cash for 3 years to purchase a laptop computer for him, and he used it, amongst different issues, to discover ways to play video games.

Mayen noticed a laptop computer laptop at a registration station for the refugee camp. He informed his mom he wished one. She saved cash for 3 years to get the $300 to purchase it for him. When she gave it to him in 2013, he burst into tears. He took it to an web cafe and used it. And he found Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the enjoyment of taking part in. He didn’t understand how video video games had been made.

It was a three-hour stroll to get to the web cafe, however he made the journey frequently simply to cost his laptop and play video games. As a baby born in a violent conflict, Mayen considered how one can create a sport that might encourage peace. He taught himself to make video games and fashioned his personal firm, Junub Games. He created a sport referred to as Salaam (an Arabic phrase meaning peace) about defending communities from being destroyed. It was a 10-megabit cellular sport, however he may solely distribute it through Bluetooth networking.

That put him on the street to turn out to be internationally identified. The sport unfold in a viral means. A convention organizer at A Maze found it, tracked him down, and requested him to talk at a convention on video games in South Africa.

There, Mayen met Rami Ismail, the cofounder of Vlambeer and an  profitable sport developer. As an envoy for indies, Ismail inspired Mayen to pursue his ardour of creating video games. Mayen additionally made a board sport, Wahda, that encourages peaceable battle decision. He did so as a result of it didn’t require a pc to play, so refugees could have an opportunity to play it.

Ismail paid for sure panelists to return to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. But regardless of an invite, Mayen wasn’t capable of go in 2017 due to President Donald Trump’s immigration restrictions. His visa wasn’t authorized in time. But Mayen made it in 2018, and he gave a hell of an inspiring discuss.

Later in 2018, Mayen appeared at The Game Awards, the place he was named a Global Gaming Citizen at the side of an award sponsored by Facebook. (27 million folks watched that present.) That occasion was the place Olebe, who has been within the sport business for 20 years, met Mayen. In October, CNN named Mayen one in every of its “Champions for Change.”

More not too long ago, Mayen began the Lual Mayen Foundation, to empower refugees with expertise. And his staff is engaged on making his sport, Salaam, accessible on Facebook as an immediate sport. Olebe has been one of many folks serving to Mayen on his journey to publish a globally accessible sport about peace.

“Meeting Leo was a great opportunity for me,” Mayen stated. “When I was growing up in the refugee camp and then started doing this, I wondered how I can meet the right people who can keep pushing me. It’s a very hard industry. There is so much competition.”

Mayen wanted to seek out individuals who may join him with mentors and others who may assist him inform his inspiring story via each phrases and video games.

Finding inspiration

Lual Mayen, maker of Salaam and Wahda.

Above: Lual Mayen, maker of Salaam and Wahda, talking on the GDC in 2019.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

In our session, Mayen and Olebe spoke about how one can encourage sport builders to be their finest selves and put confirmed variety practices into impact. Olebe stated that each time he talks to a passionate developer, that’s what has given him energy, resolve, and resilience.

“We’re in an amazing industry, that’s filled with amazing people, who are ready to tell amazing stories,” Olebe stated. “If we are listening, if we are doing the best job we can to listen, then inspiration can’t help but come through. Lual’s story is an incredible example of this.”

Growth itself is inspiring for builders. More than three billion individuals are linked around the globe and most of them are avid gamers. More individuals are recognizing video games are a good way to have enjoyable in the course of the pandemic.

“I think we’re just getting started,” Olebe stated.

Mayen stated his journey has ready him for no matter can occur in life. During the pandemic, he stated that he linked with the appropriate individuals who may push him and who’ve achieved a lot of their lives. He is utilizing the teachings he has discovered to create one thing for different folks.

And Mayen stated, “People are just beginning to understand the power and to be able to use the medium for something that is very important: changing the world. Having leaders like Leo is important because a lot of people want to do good but don’t know how to do it.”

How to make change

Asked how you change the business for the higher, Mayen stated you will need to deal with variety amongst sport builders to allow them to inform their very own tales as a result of nobody else can inform these tales.

Olebe stated that individuals are below the impression that creating good on the planet requires a unprecedented effort. It doesn’t take a ton of sources, he stated. It merely requires speaking to folks, whether or not it’s at business occasions or on Zoom calls.

“It’s as simple as giving people a chance to even talk to you,” he stated.

Last month, Facebook Gaming dedicated $10 million over two years to assist the Black gaming creator neighborhood. This is a part of a company-wide dedication to assist Black and various communities within the U.S.

“This stuff doesn’t have to be hard,” Olebe stated. “Just do something. Anybody watching this panel has the ability to create positive change for somebody else.”

I requested Mayen why he’s working exhausting to undertake charitable efforts originally of his profession. But he stated he spent 22 years in a refugee camp, and that he didn’t begin his firm to make video games and make a profession. Rather, he did it for the neighborhood.

Asked how he might help folks like Mayen, Olebe stated, “Let great people do their thing. Lual spent 22 years in a refugee camp and now he has his own game studio and foundation. That’s all Lual. The best I can do is offer to make introductions and then get out of his way. Component No. 1 is not trying to prescribe what greatness looks like, not trying to make a specific mold.”

You ought to let folks shine, Olebe stated, and then faucet into the sources that you have to assist out.

“Everybody has the opportunity to tap into their network to lend that to others,” he stated. “Let people be awesome. Give them the opportunity to be awesome. That’s what doesn’t happen. That is the issue in this space. There are people knocking on the door saying I have something cool to share with you. I have this great story to tell you. And the door remains closed. We need to open the door. That’s what the games industry needs to do.”

Olebe stated he tries to open doorways for folks by assembly as many individuals as he can. He places himself on the market and, whereas it feels dangerous, and he stated it returns “rewards greater than you can possibly happen.”

He added, “How many lives have we been able to change together, simply from the fact that we met?”

Asked how you open the door for your self, Mayen stated, “There is something available in you. Something you have to offer. Today, I’m not just going to wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey Leo. I want this from you.’ You have to say, ‘hey, this is what I have. And this is what I have to offer to the community.’”

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