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Former refugee is now the CEO of a philanthropic gaming company that makes video games to promote peace

Former refugee is now the CEO of a philanthropic gaming company that makes video games to promote peace

Former refugee is now the CEO of a philanthropic gaming company that makes video games to promote peace.
Former refugee is now the CEO of a philanthropic gaming company that makes video games to promote peace. Credit: Lual Mayen

Lual Mayen, a former refugee, is now living the American dream as the CEO of his own gaming company with a trendy D.C. office space – but it wasn’t always this way. In fact just a short time ago, Mayen was more focused on survival then he was dreaming of being a CEO.

Mayen was born into war, but his mission is peace. Mayen spent most of his young life doubting he would live to see the next day. He never had enough food, his friends were conscripted as child soldiers, and bombs regularly fell from the sky.

But the terrifying journey that began his life, gave him the inspiration and experience to build upon a future that is almost unbelievable.

Now 24 years old, he is a video game developer residing in the United States, leading his own company and using the experiences from his past to inform his products: games aimed at peace-building and conflict resolution.

Former refugee is now the CEO of a philanthropic gaming company that makes video games to promote peace. Credit: Lual Mayen
Former refugee is now the CEO of a philanthropic gaming company that makes video games to promote peace. Credit: Lual Mayen

“That’s the thing in life,” Mayen says. “If you’re going through something hard and you survive, the next thing is, how do you come out of that? How do you utilize that opportunity to make your life better?”

Mayen is in the process of launching his company, Junub Games, and finishing its latest product – a peace-building game called Salaam.

He created the first version of Salaam, which means “peace” in Arabic, while still living as a refugee. Mayen, like the other children in the camp, played soccer, looked for food in the bush and hid underground from the nightly bombs launched by the Sudanese government that residents called “antelope.”

In the game’s new version, players adopt the role of a refugee who must flee falling bombs, find water and gain energy points to ensure the character’s survival as the player’s country journeys from a war-torn present into a peaceful existence.

If the player’s character runs out of energy, the player is prompted to purchase more food, water, and medicine for their character with real-world money.

Former refugee is now the CEO of a philanthropic gaming company that makes video games to promote peace. Credit: Lual Mayen
Former refugee is now the CEO of a philanthropic gaming company that makes video games to promote peace. Credit: Lual Mayen

The funds go beyond the game to benefit a living refugee through Junub’s partnerships with various nonprofit organizations.
Through its in-game transactions, Mayen’s game may offer a real-world benefit for refugees. It also seeks to educate its players on the trying life he and his family endured.

Leo Olebe, Facebook’s Global Director of Games Partnerships said he thinks Mayen is “leading the way” in the social impact gaming category, but it is not the only game with an empathy-building or educational element that has shown a tangible effect.

Former refugee is now the CEO of a philanthropic gaming company that makes video games to promote peace. Credit: Lual Mayen
Former refugee is now the CEO of a philanthropic gaming company that makes video games to promote peace. Credit: Lual Mayen

A 2006 third-person shooter game called Re-Mission featured a player traveling through a human body as a nanobot destroying cancer cells. The game, designed for young cancer patients, had a measured impact on the self-efficacy and knowledge of players, and, according to a 2008 study, resulted in improved treatment adherence in adolescents and young adults undergoing cancer therapy.

Mayen has come a long way indeed. He is out to change the world in a unique way, but he’s offering something a lot more important than simple gaming entertainment – he’s offering hope.

Source The Washington Post


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