UAE Female Game Developer Gets to the Next Level
When I met Fakhra AlMansouri, the founder CEO and game designer at Hybrids Humans game studio in Abu Dhabi, and listened to her animated discussion about a video game with a Russian female executive also working in the UAE, I knew that I had to share her story with you. Atypical of our preconceptions of programmers and developers, Fakhra is very comfortable around people, engaging easily and exuding a joy for life. Rarely have I ever met such a positive, radiant person. Her passion for gaming is also quickly evident, and that’s why she’s made it her business.
Fakhra grew up playing video games in the late 1980s, after peering over her brother’s shoulder in fascination as he played Sakhr, the Arabic-language version of Penguin Adventure on Commodore 64. Though she was too young to understand the game, she remembers being absorbed by the penguin moving across the blue screen. Over the next several years of her childhood, Fakhra played almost all the available consoles and created brilliant memories and friends through her video-gaming childhood experiences.
“With video games, I get to craft experiences to share with the world. It’s a way to express myself. I believe that video games could make the world a happier place and bring people together.”
Even though much her young life involved a wide-range of games, Fakhra had not considered becoming a developer until in 2011, when a university course for her bachelor’s degree gave her an opportunity to design her first game: Blobby Maze. After that, she realized she wanted to spend her career creating games.
After achieving her dream job in a big game studio, she decided to open her own independent game studio in 2014. Fakhra began as the only woman on her design company’s development team. She worked a day job for a long time before starting her own company. She now leads a multinational development team that combines technology, art, philosophy, and science in developing its unique games.
“The whole process from start to end is so mind stimulating. It’s a creative process that keeps my brain active most of the time, and that makes me happy! I’d go without sleep if my body would take it.” Working to fight gender stereotypes in her studio and with her work, Fakhra refuses to waste time and attention on the ways that female designers are stereotyped for “making silly pink and glittery Barbie games.” Though she knows she’s not automatically taken as seriously as a male developer, she explains that, “I honestly don’t give it that much attention. I’m practical, I just focus on what I love to do and what I need to achieve with the game projects that I develop. If a game needs pink and glitter, so be it. If it needs badass action, it’ll be there.”
While we often lament the lack of women programmers, according to Fakhra and many tech experts, the more we expose girls to video games and how the backend of games work, the more we peak their interest and perhaps engage them in pursuing programming or software development.
“I especially love the reaction my nieces and nephews have when I test my games with them and when they tell their friends about me being a game designer. They say it with pride, and I absolutely love it.”
Fakhra attributes the support, motivation and inspiration for her venture to her multinational team and networking opportunities like entrepreneur’s conferences and game jams. Hearing success stories and bonding over shared struggles helps her feel refreshed and energized to push ahead towards her personal and business future.
Fakhra defined her personal success years ago, with the goals she set when she decided to pursue game design and earned a seat at the exclusive game design school in her area. Having now opened her dream studio space, Fakhra considers it a success when her games comfortably translate real-world experience for the players.
She is about to release Hybrid Human’s newest game, and with more in the works, Fakhra’s eyes are set on a higher goal.
“Growing up I wanted to be an astronaut, I still do. So, now my next big goal is to travel to space and develop a game up there.”