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Students Bridging Diplomatic Divide Through Videogames

Salaam, a video game that's meant to encourage empathy and help refugees. Its...

Credit: Junub Games

Above: Salaam, a video game that's meant to encourage empathy and help refugees. Its developer, 25-year-old Lual Mayen, is speaking as part of an event by the San Diego Diplomacy Council on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020.

Students from both sides of the border are taking part Friday in a diplomatic exercise using video games.

Lual Mayen is a 25-year-old South Sudanese refugee who started his own video game company while still living in a refugee camp. Mayen is a panelist at Friday's virtual event co-hosted by the San Diego Diplomacy Council, talking about what made him want to pursue a career in game development.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

“What can I do to use my experiences as a kid, as a child, as someone who has been in a refugee camp, as someone who grew up in a war, to create something that’s going to help people in the future?” he wondered, before settling on video game development.

He’s seen, personally, how video games can bridge the distance between people with vastly different life experiences.

“Videogames are something that we can use to create awareness, to help people understand empathy,” he said.

RELATED: San Diego High School Students Confront Migration Crisis In Mock Exercise

Mayen has designed a game that helps players understand the challenges that refugees face, while also raising money to support those in refugee camps.

As part of the event, high school students in the U.S and Mexico will play the video game “Among Us,” where they’ll have to work collaboratively to solve a mystery.

“Digital diplomacy, through videogames, for example, can help us reach a diverse audience,” San Diego Diplomacy Council executive director Fabienne Perlov told KPBS.

With many young gamers stuck inside during the coronavirus pandemic, she believes it’s the perfect time to build lasting international relationships.

“We can promote diversity through videogames and encourage high school students from all backgrounds,” she said. “Because they’re engaged in our video game platforms and encourage diplomacy, we can also share their voice, share their experience. San Diego is about diversity.”

The diplomacy council hopes to continue using video games to bring communities together, even after the pandemic lockdown is over.


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