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Gender roles are becoming more fluid than ever in Pakistan – but 29-year-old Sadia Bashir still stands out.
Although women have become more visible in sports and other areas in Pakistan, video gaming is still overwhelmingly for the boys.
Sadia was not put off, however. She started not just playing video games, but developing them as well – from the age of 13.
“My interest in computers began with video gaming, so I just continued to develop it,” she told BBC Urdu.
At one point, she even persuaded her parents to change her school so she could study computing.
Deciding whether to continue her studies at university was also hard, as she knew her family might find it difficult to support her.
“Being a female in our society, people generally invest less in girls’ education as compared to boys,” she says.
‘Mesmerised by CGI’
But the university decided to offer her a scholarship because of her ability and she completed her graduation.
She was mesmerised by the beauty of computer graphics.
“I started making video games from there. My final-year project was to make a game that helps with cancer treatment by mimicking the action of treatments attacking cancer cells in an affected person’s body.”
The idea was to visualise for cancer patients the therapy they are having to help them cope with their illness.
“Before that the video game was just a source of fun for me. But after this research project, I saw a different aspect to gaming and decided to further work in this field,” she said.
Sadia worked in the gaming industry for a year and a half, but felt she wasn’t able to achieve what she wanted to do.
There are no real centres specialising in video game-making in Pakistan, she says.
“I realised my dream was to learn how to make my own games. That’s why I started my master’s thesis and tried to know what mistakes are made and what is useful in making video games.”
‘Even a housewife can make games’
Sadia realised that whatever she had learned from education and research was not available to many young people.
She abandoned her job and started an institution named Pixel Art Academy, where she trains young people in how to make video games.
“There is no game design concept in the gaming industry in Pakistan. People have great ideas – but how to turn those into good games is the skill they lack. This is what we teach our students.”
Designing is not down to special education or skill, she believes.
“We tell people that this can be done by anyone. Whatever your education, even a school student or a housewife can make games.”