Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Women Arab game developers power up! Interview with Wixel Studios Co-Founder, Reine Abbas on her recent achievement

Within the past few years, Arab game development has slowly been turning away from a hobby to an actual high profile job. The people from Semaphore and Game Tako have showed us how they want make this industry grow bigger and bigger. But let’s face it, when we think of Arab game developers (even game devs in general) the first gender that pops into our heads is man. Well, today I’m going to be giving you a bit of…perspective.  

Wixel Studios is a game development company based in Lebanon. One if it’s staff members, Reine Abbas, is not only a creative director but is also a co-founder of the studio (along with Ziad Feghali and Karim Abi Saleh). The successful launch of her recent title, Survival Race, has earned her a WOW 2013 award for artistic expression at the 6th National Arab Women Forum (NAWF). I was lucky enough to ask Reine some questions regarding her success and her recently launched title.

TAG: I'm curious as to what kind of games Wixel Studios makes and how it plans on expanding?

RA: Wixel Studios is a gaming company startup based in Lebanon. Our team is relatively small but is comprised of 6 very talented and passionate artists and programmers. We are currently involved in 3D mobile games. Our first big game “Survival Race: Life or Power Plants” will be released by April 2013 on the iOS and the following month on the Android. Survival Race is by far our biggest production ever. It is based on two characters, Abu Ahmad, a 60-year old botanist/scientist and Salem (gamer), a 30-year-old all-star wheelie race champion. We invested all our know-how in terms of production quality and skills to deliver to the Arab audience and beyond, an international looking game and game play. You can check out [and] for a sneak peak and more information. We are also using a humanitarian relief message through the game to educate people about the issue of climate change, hence the name “power plants” and the story happening in a post global-warming era Middle East.

We aim to continue to release more Arab-region relevant games in the upcoming years.

TAG: How does it feel to be a renowned female game director?

RA: It is a great feeling to really be involved in a project that’s so close to my heart and an industry that I have surrounded my life with, as a teacher and art director. I deeply hope that the collective efforts, which women in the Arab region are working on, inspire and keep inspiring young females to get into all kinds of industries. The creative industry in particular is a place that, for one reason or another, many females are not directed towards. My wish is that the echo from the work that we are delivering as a team and individuals, educates more people in general and females from our region in specific about the business of gaming and the art of game building as a professional path.

Driven by a personal goal of research and wanting to make a difference, the following is an interesting finding about the number of women involvement in the gaming industry:
While women make up 47% of the gaming audience, a 2005 study (the most recent comprehensive survey) revealed that more than 88% of the industry's employees are male.

I believe that raising awareness is key to making a difference in these numbers. Reaching out to the crowd through products that we build/deliver, educational programs in schools and media exposures that go straight into our region’s households can and will make numbers shift. I consider achievements and rewards such as the ones I have been lucky to obtain as a co-founder at Wixel Studios and on a personal level will inspire and make up an extra motivational force for young Arab women to aim high in their dreams, set milestones and take action in all walks of life.

TAG: How do you feel towards the videogame Industry as a whole? Do you see a future in the Arab region for it?

RA: One thing that we can say for sure, is that the gaming industry will get better in our region. With the numbers of gamers on the constant rise, the supply will have to be present and become more niche-focused just like in all other products. The powerful social networking preface and what it offers in terms of real challenge via online, consoles and mobile portals, is bound to attract more and more active users.
The shining beacon is the Middle Eastern youth that passionately wants to create, deliver and is consistently seeking out every opportunity to do so. We still have quite a way to go towards educating and supplying the needed foundation in the entertainment and gaming industry skills development, but again, with time and perseverance, we are already on the right track. Mobile gaming will only get better as the phones themselves become smarter and more powerful.

TAG: Thank you for your time!

Mobile gaming is indeed getting more powerful and with the Ouya, who knows, developers like Wixel Studios may finally get to expand to our living room. The current stage of Arab game development may seem a bit ambiguous but to learn that Arab women are getting involved is a positive sign moving forward.

Thanks goes to Zeina Yazbek for passing the news 


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