Lual Mayen was born while his mother was fleeing from the Civil War in Sudan. He and his mother lived in a refugee camp in Uganda. When he was 13, he saw his first computer and knew that he wanted to be a computer programmer. Three years later, he created his first computer program which he sold to pay for his brother’s education in a private school. The program was created on a laptop bought by his mother from 3 years of savings.
When Lual was 22, he created a game called Salaam (peace in Arabic) which he placed on Facebook. He was negatively inspired by the game Grand Theft Auto. He reasoned that if a game could glorify violence, a game could also glorify peace. The game drew considerable interest and at the age of 24, Lual was named a Global Gaming Citizen in front of an audience of 26 million people during a livestreaming of the presentation.
Lual then created his own gaming company, Junub Games, and moved to Washington DC. Junub Games is designed to call attention to the plight of refugees. Across the world, one person becomes a refugee every 2 seconds. Junub Games hopes to bring awareness to the refugee crises in all parts of the world.
What Lual has done is to inspire other game developers to focus on social impact games rather than violence. Rather than focusing on normal game metrics, Lual’s metric is inspiring people to do better. How do you measure the ability to inspire people to live better lives? Maybe you can’t, but that doesn’t negate the attempt to make a difference in how we view our fellow global citizens. In spite of Lual’s success and inspiring vision, he has still been unable to bring his family to the U.S.
Lual has created a story of hope for the millions of players of his games. Stories come in many forms. In Salaan, the “reader” has an interactive experience with the story. The ability to interact with the story provides a new experience for those for whom traditional reading is not engaging. Lual’s story is unfolding, but very hopeful.
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“It’s not a country. It’s not a camp. It’s just a place where you can have peace of mind. The main thing is helping people understand the journey of the refugee and to have empathy for what refugees have to go through.” – Lual Mayen