Can a online game save a life? African refugee places gamers in his race for survival


    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The purpose of Lual Mayen’s online game is to outlive the horrific ordeal of a refugee, an expertise that his household is aware of effectively, however the 25-year-old developer’s ambition is to alter the world.

    Mayen, who was born as his household traveled 250 miles (400 km) to flee South Sudan’s second civil warfare, hopes his recreation, Salaam, will give gamers a greater understanding of what it means to be homeless, hungry and on the run.

    “Lots of people don’t perceive the journey of a refugee,” mentioned Mayen, 25, who and spent his first 22 years in a refugee camp in northern Uganda earlier than shifting to the USA.

    “It was a journey of life and demise,” he mentioned, recalling household tales about bomb assaults, wild animals and the way infants have been deserted by dad and mom who might now not look after them.

    Now head of his personal online game firm in Washington, Mayen believes that “gamification,” the place contributors make choices in contrast to the passive expertise of watching a film, places abnormal individuals within the sneakers of a refugee.

    Salaam, an Arabic greeting which means peace, allows customers who’ve by no means needed to flee a war-torn nation to take a digital trek to a “peaceable setting” — if they will dodge hostile troops and discover sufficient meals and water.


    Whereas the sport is free to play, when contributors want to purchase meals, water or drugs for his or her digital characters, they will make in-app purchases that can go to real-life refugees, he mentioned.

    “Salaam goes to be the first-ever recreation that’s going to bridge the digital world and the truth on the bottom,” he mentioned. “When somebody buys meals within the recreation, you’re truly shopping for somebody in a refugee camp meals.”

    However Mayen additionally has a protracted recreation in thoughts, hoping that Salaam will enlighten at present’s teenagers once they develop into the subsequent technology of policymakers.

    “Once they’re making coverage, they’ll already perceive what refugees face, simply by way of taking part in my recreation,” he mentioned. “That’s truly how we modify the world and the way we are able to be capable to use the trade for good.”

    Rising up in a refugee camp, Mayen had by no means even seen a pc till in the future, at age 12, he reported to the camp’s registration heart.

    “It was a second that truly helped me to grasp, wow, I need to use this in the future,” he mentioned.

    Slideshow (four Pictures)

    For the subsequent three years, his mom, whom he made the principle character in Salaam, labored tirelessly to stash away $300 to purchase him a laptop computer, which he now retains in a glass show case in his condominium.

    His recreation went viral after he uploaded it to Fb and caught the eye of the gaming trade. In 2018, he was named a International Gaming Citizen on the Recreation Awards in Los Angeles.

    “To have the ability to … characterize the continent and characterize the sport for social impression, it offers me a lot hope,” he mentioned. “It offers extra refugees hope.”

    Reporting by Vanessa Johnston in Washington; Writing by Peter Szekely; Modifying by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker

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