In his 24 years of existence, Lual Mayen spent 22 years in a refugee camp in northern Uganda. He grew up surrounded by bombs and wars, like that of Southern Sudan, which forced his parents to flee the country. Therefore, it is not surprising that his dream is a world without violence and that he has decided to spread his message through video games that he develops in his own company.
We decided to share with you the story of this young man who overcame all the obstacles to become a video game developer. Today, he organizes conferences aimed at promoting peace in the world.
The second Sudanese civil war took place between 1983 and 2005, one of the deadliest armed conflicts of the late 20th century, causing more than four million people to flee. Among those who abandoned everything on the spot were Lual’s parents, who was born during the 320 kilometres to a refugee camp. Unfortunately, her two older sisters did not survive.
At the age of 12, he discovered his first computer in the administrative center of the camp in which he grew up. He was immediately fascinated, to the point of asking his mother for one. She saved money for three years to buy her a laptop, but due to the lack of electricity, he had to walk three hours every day to go to an Internet café to recharge it.
All these efforts were worth it: thanks to his new device, Lual learned English and discovered the world of video games, finding that most of them were filled with violence. He realized that their popularity ratings spanned all ages, but that it was especially relevant to children and young people. He, therefore, wanted to find a way to convey a different message, one that promotes peace but also helps his region and the rest of the world.
Lual Mayen, Video games promoting peace rather than violence
As a self-taught person, he studied graphic design and computer programming to develop applications, he created his own company called Junub Games. “My main objective was to design something that would be useful to my country. I realized the power of video games and how useful they can be for peace and conflict resolution,” he explained at a video game industry conference in San Francisco, USA, to which he was invited.
The first video game he developed is called “Salaam” (which means “peace” in Arabic). The basic version was reserved for smartphones. Players must press the bombs that fall from the sky to deactivate them before they fall on a war-affected village.
Initially, Lual Mayen distributed the project in the camp in which he lived, and his goal “was to design a video game to please the refugees so they could have fun, get together, learn or play,” the young man said. Its application became viral after being shared on Facebook, which made it possible to share its story. The IFC world bank called him to become a programming consultant and he obtained a visa to travel to Washington, where he currently resides.