Mobile games have become increasingly popular over the years as smartphones continue to improve with brand new technologies. In the Gulf, several young video game designers are contributing to this wave of mobile gaming by creating games tackling both regional and global audiences.
In Abu Dhabi, Emirati entrepreneur Fakhra Al Mansouri is creating local games that managed to gain global followers. Al Mansouri, also founder and CEO of Hybrid Humans, one of the UAE’s leading independent game studios, told Wamda during her appearance at ATECH World and World Game Expo last week that she views game development as a form of self-expression.
“When I created the Arabic version of my games, I adopted a ‘localized’ language instead of the standard Arabic. I chose to use the dialect used by the Al Mansouri tribe that my family belongs to. When I designed my games’ levels, I decided to include a level that represents my city, Abu Dhabi,” said Al Mansouri.
“Now we are creating a Mario Kart-like racing game called ‘Falcon Action’, where players race with falcons. Falconry is centuries-old sport across multiple cultures. By showcasing it in this game, I am sharing a part of the Arabian Gulf’s culture.”
Al Mansouri and her team created Hop Hop Away and Who Lurks for both iOS and Android platforms. These games managed to gain an international recognition.
Al Mansouri traveled to industry conferences in the US and in Europe. She was a speaker in the IndieCade Europe in Paris, and was invited to speak at the game developer’s conference in San Francisco. She was also invited to the annual IndieCade conference in Los Angeles after the latter recognized Who Lurks as one of the year’s best games.
She pointed out that during this current era where stereotypical messages about Muslims and the Arab world are present in the media in countries like the US, her presence [a Muslim Arab women wearing a hijab] at major video game conferences, was an opportunity to create dialogue and dispel myths about similar women.
“As individuals with this Muslim Arab identity, we need to bridge the gaps (that exist when people don’t know about our culture) and show the world who we are. We need to make this conversation ‘person to person’: then it will translate to media and others."
Fatimah Aldubaisi is another woman who created an acclaimed game and launched a studio in the Gulf. She has a master’s degree in computer science from the US Auburn University. She is currently the CEO of Light Studio. She hails from Qatif, a city located in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, and is part of a generation of young Saudi entrepreneurs who have studied abroad before launching businesses that contribute to their country’s economy.
Wojdan, is a game she created [for iOS, Android and desktop PC platforms] along with an all-women team at Light Studio. Aldubaisi discussed her game with Wamda in the beginning of 2017, which has been a hit in the Gulf and a favorite of young Saudis studying in the US. She shared her journey with Wamda at her stand at the World Game Expo before stepping on stage to accept the conference’s ‘Best Visual Art’ award for Wojdan.
“We started Light Studio in late 2015 as a creative environment where we focused on animation, game development and design. We work on illustration and 2D animation projects for clients to pay bills, but I have always loved video games, so I said “let's do a visual novel game.” Wojdan has been received greatly. People said they loved it and we will work on the English version soon,” said Aldubaisi.
Emirati writer and designer Mohammad Al Huraiz, is seeking to make an impact on the video game industry. ‘Roses Will Rise’ is a visual SRPG (strategy role-playing game) he is currently building after transitioning to the world of game design. His project was honored onstage at the World Game Expo.
“My background is in writing, but I decided to become a self-taught designer. The demo for Roses Will Rise will come out at the end of the year. Meanwhile, I have the Patreon page (patreon.com/asatiir) with more information and crowdfunding options,” said Al Huraiz, who praised Patreon for its ability to create communities and alternative funding sources.