Man who learned to code in a refugee camp is now CEO of his own video game company

Catherine Garcia

Lual Mayen was 12 years old when he saw a computer for the first time, and the encounter changed his life.

"I was like, 'Wow,'" Mayen told CBS News. "It clicked in my mind that I want to use that one day." Mayen, now 25, was born in South Sudan, and grew up in a refugee camp in northern Uganda that didn't have electricity or a school. After seeing the computer at a refugee registration center, he shared with his mother how much he wanted one, and she secretly started setting aside some of the money she earned as the camp's seamstress. After three years, she had $300 saved, and was able to buy her son a used laptop.

Mayen walked three hours every day to charge the computer, and taught himself how to code. He created a video game called Salaam, which means "peace" in Arabic, and made his mother the main character. The game is about refugees fleeing violence, and the end goal is for the characters to find peace. "My main focus when I made that game was just to help children in the camp come together," he said.

While still living in the refugee camp, he posted a link to the game on Facebook, and it quickly garnered international attention. This was his ticket out of the camp — Mayen now resides in Washington, D.C., where he runs his own video game company. He released a new version of Salaam earlier this month.

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