Former refugee develops video game that puts you in search of peace

Unique video game promotes peace

Washington — A new video game went on sale Thursday that may be like none you have ever seen. Perhaps, because its developer faced challenges few of us will ever experience.

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.

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.

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CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford with Lual Mayen. CBS News

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.

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.

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A screengrab of Mayen's game Salaam. CBS News

His mother is his game's main character.

"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.

  • Jan Crawford
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    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.