MEET THE DEVELOPER
She's a game changer
Fakhra Mansouri, trailblazing the path for female developers in the region.
In honour of Women’s Day, we are celebrating female leadership and entrepreneurship in the developer community. One to watch from the region is Fakhra Mansouri who is the founder and CEO of the independent game studio, Hybrid Humans, based in the UAE. Hybrid Humans are known for their social competive games Who Lurks, Falcon Valley and puzzle action game Hop Hop Away.
Mansouri’s graduation project was to create a video game, which kick-started her game-developing career. She describes the process as fully immersive, and from then on she knew that this is what she wanted to do. Once she fine-tuned her programming skills, she pursued a game design degree. Aspiring to become an astronaut, she hopes to go to space one day; this correlates perfectly with her life long motto “to infinity and beyond.”
Her personal drive and motivation for creating games derives from her personal values. Mansouri is intrigued by, questions, and admires the world we live in. This is exemplified in her upcoming game Hop Hop Away, a sequel to her previous game Bunny Mares. As a strong advocate of animal rights, the game focuses on helping bunnies escape the EVOL circus. Her take on this game is subtle—the bunnies’ bruises heal the further away they are from the circus.
Video games have been an integral part of her early life; she can be seen carrying her signature grey Game Boy backpack. Games have resonated with Mansouri as she familiarizes herself with different languages, too.
You are in the position of that person/character in the game, you can agency over them/their actions. When it’s done right, you get lost it in and it helps you connect with different cultures, people, lives, etc. When you add the connectivity that these games allow, it crosses the artificial borders that we’ve imposed on maps.
As she reflects her experience in being a woman in the tech industry, she came across several notions that female developers only create content that relates to women filled with girly references with pink and glitter everywhere. That being said, she also happens to be the first woman to run an independent game studio in the UAE. She humbly mentions that she never meant to be the first of anything, and that she just simply wanted to make video games.
Her success has created somewhat of a ripple effect: her story has inspired women to walk in her footsteps.
I was never that self-aware of my gender in the world. I am who I am and if whoever I’m talking to or interacting with is a good person, that’s all that matters. But, being in this position now, I’ve been told, or noticed myself, how other women or girls react to my story. It feels rewarding to see how positive of an impact it could make. Attending international events gave me more self awareness, as an Arab woman creating games. I only got the chance to meet a few and I hope to see and perhaps work with more and more out there.
Fakhra describes the game-creation process as exhilarating and multidisciplinary, encompassing the fields of science, art and philosophy, and psychology. However, she touches on the aspect of minimal developer engagement in the region. She pinpoints that there aren’t indie developer events or networking opportunities, therefore making it hard to gain exposure. While the developer scene in the Middle East is thriving, it has yet to gain momentum.
The more that different people of all backgrounds and experiences join this industry, the better and more relatable it’ll be for everyone in terms of content variation. It’ll be a healthy scene on so many different levels when this industry becomes more diverse, and balances out the gaming scene in vision and feel.
Her upcoming plans involve awesome updates to Who Lurks and Falcon Valley. Be sure to have Bunny Mares on your radar.