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Innovation from the Middle East: An Exclusive Interview with Waleedzo, an Indie Video Game Designer. 

Waleed Daer, known in the gaming world as Waleedzo, emerges as a passionate indie game developer from Yemen. His foray into the game development industry began in 2018, and since then, Waleedzo has dedicated himself to the craft, contributing to various projects. Standout among these are ‘The Black Within’ and ‘The Green Light,’ where Waleedzo’s unique vision for game design and storytelling comes to the forefront. Join us as we delve into Waleedzo’s journey, navigating the challenges and triumphs of game development amidst the enduring struggles of Yemen. 

Q: Can you share the inspiration behind your journey into game development, and how has your background influenced your creative process?

Waleedzo: In my opinion, video games are like the ultimate art. You bring a bunch of things together to create this one big experience that only lasts 2 to 5 hours, and then it’s in the past. That, to me, is artistic and beautiful. What interests me is something that starts in your mind and ends up changing how a person feels, whether it’s fear, anger, or happiness. The person playing the game is kinda sharing a part of their life with the game developer, you know? It might sound crazy, and maybe it is, but that’s what makes me passionate.

As for my inspiration, living in different places like Yemen and then the West gave me a mix that makes my personality dynamic and unique. Not being cocky, haha, but it’s the truth. That mixture of experiences is what makes the creativity in the mind come out; you see things from all angles.

Q: Could you talk about the themes and narratives that you aim to convey through your games?

Waleedzo: The themes in my games typically lean towards the dark, which is why I chose the horror genre. This choice is not only because I personally love the genre but also comes from the experiences I’ve been through in my life, especially mentally. I’m not trying to be an edgelord here, haha, but for instance, ‘The Black Within’ primarily delves into the theme of fear versus change. It mirrors what I’ve personally faced while navigating anxiety and OCD. Going through anxiety made me realize that the only way to eliminate it is to confront fear, and that’s only possible through change. My aim is to create games that reflect what I’ve been through in my mind because, in my opinion, that’s usually the most genuine form of expression.

Q: So, it seems like you’ve found your passion and purpose. What advice do you give to people who are searching for their purpose?

Waleedzo: I’d say the most important thing is to just try stuff out. Before I stumbled into game development, I explored all sorts of things that had nothing to do with it. It’s like, when you have the courage to give different things a shot, God rewards you by showing what you’re really passionate about. I say, do whatever you feel like doing. Some days, I’m all about game development, but on others, I’m onto different projects or doing a live stream. I think God rewards the fearless, so what’s standing between you and a good life is fear. My advice? Before finding your purpose, develop a strong mindset. 

Q: In your opinion, how can someone be fearless? What’s your take on developing a mindset that overcomes fear in the entertainment industry?

Waleedzo: I think having genuine self-confidence is crucial, not that fake confidence. And you know, a bit of delusional thinking can be kind of important—delusional optimism. It might sound crazy, but your mind can’t really tell if it’s delusional; it just believes what you tell it.

Eliminating fear is a gradual process, but building the best version of yourself, among other things, can contribute to that journey.

Q: Which game developer has been a source of inspiration for you in your journey as an indie game developer?

Waleedzo: There are so many game developers who inspired me, such as Shinji Mikami, the maker of Resident Evil, and Hideo Kojima, of course. But not only game developers; I also got inspired by Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto Shippuden, and movie makers like Martin Scorsese. So, really, I get inspiration from a lot of people.

Q: Thank you for the engaging conversation and thought-provoking answers. Any last advice before we end the interview?

Waleedzo: The last thing I want to say is, don’t take life seriously. The more you take it seriously, the more it takes you seriously, and that’s when you suffer. Take it as a video game, and it’s gonna be fun. Thank you, guys!

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