Former Refugee Draws On Experience Of Fleeing Violence To Develop Video Game

Lual Mayen, now 25, escaped northern Uganda and developed 'Salaam', a game that focuses on survival and fleeing violence.

For Lual Mayen, this is more than a video game. It's a personal story. The 25-year-old knows about survival. His family fled war-torn South Sudan. He grew up in a refugee camp in northern Uganda.

"There was no electricity at all," Mayen said. "There was no school at all. There was nothing."

But it was there, in a refugee office when Mayen was 12, that for the first time he saw a computer.

"I was like, 'Wow.' It clicked in my mind that I want to use that that one day," he told CBS News.

And he did, thanks to his mother, who saved $300 as the camp's seamstress to buy him a used laptop. He walked three hours a day to charge it.

Lual Mayen and his mother, who saved up enough to buy Lual a laptop in the refugee camp. Photo: CBS

Mayen said "the opportunity to be alive" was his motivation. "Because with that it helped me understand that -- we can do whatever we want to do," he explained.

Inspired, Mayen taught himself how to write computer code and eventually develop a rather unique video game called 'Salaam,' which means peace.

"My main focus when I made that game was just to help children in the camp come together," Malan said.



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In the game, players take on the role of refugees fleeing violence. The game would become the ticket out of the camp for Mayen and his family. Now living in Washington, D.C., this former refugee leads his own company.

His mother is his game's main character.

A screengrab of the video game 'Salam.' Photo: JUNUB GAMES

"My mother helped me," Mayen said, saying she wouldn't let him give up on his dreams.

And how do you win the game?

"You can be able to, like, grow your family, like, have that ... peaceful environment," Mayen said.

So winning is when you find your place of peace -- in a game and in life.

Feature Image: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images