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For 22 of his 24 years of life, Lual Mayen lived in a refugee camp in northern Uganda. His parents fled from South Sudan and its decades-long civil war. And that is why Mayen’s journey to becoming a game developer is so rare and amazing.

That’s how I started a story about Mayen, after hearing him tell his story at Rami Ismail’s #1ReasonToBe panel at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, and after interviewing him on video. And now Mayen will get a chance to tell his extraordinary story again before a live audience at our GamesBeat Summit 2019 conference.

Mayen, the founder of Junub Games, will speak about his journey from being a refugee and the road to making games about peace. Leo Olebe, head of games partnerships at Facebook, will moderate the conversation. Facebook is one of our sponsors for the event, and it agreed to fly Mayen out from his new home in Washington, D.C.


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Above: Leo Olebe, global director of games partnerships at Facebook.

Image Credit: Google

It is one of several talks that will be more about emotion and inspiration, or a sense of purpose. These topics are all at the frontiers of games that can help explain why developers do what they do.

Above: John Krajewski is CEO of Strange Loop Games, creator of Eco.

Image Credit: Strange Loop Games

We’ll also hear from John Krajewski, CEO of Strange Loop Games, creator of Eco. Dave Taylor, a friend and longtime game developer, suggested we counter-balance all of the carbon emissions our conference is going to create by having a talk about climate change.

Krajewski’s studio focuses on evolving the classroom by connecting entertainment and educational games. He received funding from the U.S. Department of Education for the ecology game Eco, and the National Science Foundation has funded the upcoming Exo game. His background is the console games industry, having worked at EA and Midway prior to founding Strange Loop. After founding Strange Loop Games in 2009, he has led development on six titles including a suite of games for Amplify Education and the Steam and Playstation indie hit Vessel.

Eric Gradman at the Two Bit Circus headquarters.

Above: Eric Gradman at the Two Bit Circus headquarters.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Our PC gaming editor Jeff Grubb connected me with Krajewski, who agreed to talk at GamesBeat Summit in a session on climate change games that will be moderated by Eric Gradman, cofounder of Two Bit Circus, which is hosting our event. Here’s our Grubb describes Eco:

In Eco, you need to build up your civilization with other players to destroy the meteor before it destroys your world. This encourages everyone to work together to acquire resources and to refine them into usable materials. But every action in Eco has consequences. Overhunting a species could push it toward extinction. Smelting iron creates toxic sludge. Cutting down too many trees could kill your forest. So Eco forces players to find a balance between stripping the planet and respecting its delicate systems. And it encourages players to work out their issues when they disagree about the best way to move forward.

We’ve also got a speaker coming from Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller project. You may have seen its moving Super Bowl ad dubbed, “We all win.”

Gabi Michel has spent the last six years working on Xbox controllers as a senior hardware program manager with Microsoft Devices. She had the honor to lead the Xbox Adaptive Controller development team from concept to the product launch last year. She also championed the Xbox Design Lab program from its grassroots beginnings to the great customization program it is today. She continues to be part of the team leading accessibility initiatives across all of Microsoft Devices.

Gabi Michel of Microsoft

Above: Gabi Michel of Microsoft

Image Credit: Microsoft

Keisha Howard, founder of Sugar Gamers, will moderate the talk about accessible communities with Michel.

Check out the agenda. Mayen, Krajewski, and Michel are a few of more than 90 speakers who will talk on the theme of “Building gaming communities” across two days. The code GBS19EXPERIENCE will unlock a 20 percent discount on your registration.

Keisha Howard and Paula Angela Escuadra speak on the diversity panel at GamesBeat Summit 2018.

Above: Keisha Howard and Paula Angela Escuadra speak on the diversity panel at GamesBeat Summit 2018.

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

Our 10th annual event takes place in Los Angeles on April 23-24, at Two Bit Circus, the micro-amusement park in downtown Los Angeles. Our theme is about “Building gaming communities.”

We filled out our agenda earlier this year than we ever have before, and we think that’s going to result in a stellar event. Our emcees across two concurrent stages include Andrea Rene of Whats Good Games, Tommy Tallarico of Intellivision and Video Games Live, and Elizabeth Howard of Aspyr. We’re calling the stages the Boss Stage and the Hero Stage, and we’ll have a small room available for “unconference” activities as well as plenty of options for entertainment at Two Bit Circus.

I’m very proud to put this trio of meaningful talks before our audience.

We do, by the way, have a few more people we would like to fly out for our event. They can’t afford to come themselves. If you’d like to pay for their accommodations and entry into the event, please let us know. Send me an email at dean at venturebeat dot com.

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