When Lual Mayen and his family fled the horrific violence during South Sudan’s second civil war, they became refugees in Uganda for 22 years. While at a refugee camp he learned how to code at age 12 and later created a video game called Salaam,” which means peace in Arabic, to make others aware of his plight and to save lives by bridging virtual and real worlds.
Mayen, now a 25-year-old developer, who owns his own gaming company in Washington, D.C., was born during his family’s 250-mile (400 km) treacherous journey “of life and death.” He recalls his family stories about bomb attacks, wild animals and abandoned babies.
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The “Salaam” game is free to play, but Mayen points out that “when participants need to buy food, water or medicine for their virtual characters, they can make in-app purchases that will go to real-life refugees.” While the game shows you what it’s like to be a refugee, Mayen didn’t want it to be violent, but rather a game that created peace and conflict resolution.