Greetings from GGJ Class of GDC 2023 Scholars: Mashael Abualnaja

This is an article series of stories about the GDC Scholar experiences in March 2023.

Don't underestimate the power of an individual to move the world, starting with you. Video games are another way to tell a story, a way to influence an idea, portray art and convey emotions. And most definitely a way to connect with others within the community from around the world.

Mashael Abualnaja is a game developer, and a passionate gamer, from Saudi Arabia. 

"My name is Mashael, from the Arabic مشاعل,  which means a collective of flames or torches, I mentioned this information as I am a huge believer that your chosen name is part of who you are, and without exaggerating, very much having a flaming and hot-headed personality. Basically what I am trying to say, I am actually a Pokemon (LOL). I am a gamer, and for the last few years, I have been doing my best to build game communities within Saudi Arabia. My first console was a red Gameboy Color with Pokemon Yellow, hence my social media handles "Pikamesho". "


At some point, Mashael realized how she and the game development events, such as Global Game Jam, she organised had a positive impact on the people around him. 

"I didn't realise it at the time, a lot of the developers who have known me or been to any of the events I have organised, started to refer or even connect "ANY" game development event to me, especially the ones from Global Game Jam, which was surprising and extremely flattering. I was actually making an actual positive change through these activities. People gather for a sole purpose to create games, have fun, learn new things, and of course lots of PIZZA!!

A few years back in Saudi we didn't have a huge base for game developers' communities, employment support, college degrees, internships that are more dedicated to game development as education and as entertainment channels, you name it. I started out my first Jam 2017/2018, awkward-shy Mashael who usually hides from being the center of attention, applied within the last 3 days of the registration closing, me and my friends got our site accepted as a group, and I knew right then and there. I want to do this forever. I carried on connecting people from that point onwards through these game activities, knowing that I have seen the raw talents of Saudi game devs, I wanted to do more, become more, their energy, each and every one of these developers and game content creators, got me fired up into doing more and more."


In 2023 Mashael became even more visible not only by her social media handle, but also by her actual name and face as the Saudi lady who wanted to change the world through a video game contest.

"I applied to the GGJ scholarship to attend GDC simply as I wanted these talents to be visible to the world, and wanted to learn how to become better at building a community to cater these developers' needs of knowledge, workshops, jams, contests, and networking. An ecosystem that caters knowledge and benefit for all. I also applied as each of these developers have given me a reason and a purpose to grow into the person I am today, they have equally given me the motivation to get out of bed every day, essentially, without them I wouldn't be here doing all of this. 

My experience with GDC was mind-blowing to say the least, I didn't realise how many things I still needed to learn, too many people to talk to. A bit overwhelming for my little brain. However, definitely coming back 2024! If I can as well express how much I appreciate GGJ for allowing this opportunity to happen, I am both grateful and thankful for all that you are doing for everyone within the games industry."

Mashael's Key learnings from GDC 2023:

"Definitely get there as early as possible for each day, wear walking shoes, and talk to as many people and experts in the industry as possible, exchange and share knowledge, join more roundtables and social events with different groups. Also, try more games and check more demos from students and indie devs. Take in as much GDC experience as possible, in the future maybe even deliver talks or workshops at GDC! :)

What took my heart is despite this being my 1st time at GDC, I felt like I belonged, having giants in the industry sitting on the same table beside me was boggling. Taking a selfie with a lot of them, GGJ's Executive Director, Tim Cullings. IGDA's Jakin, Suzanne, and Vesa. and more!"

Mashael and Tim

"Meeting other GGJ members was exciting, I missed the first roundtable as I was still at the airport at the time, but got the chance to meet them again at a couple of the sessions towards the last 3 days. I have met Charlie, JC Lau, as ladies in the industry. I am looking forward to meeting them again.  I look up to them as well!"

Mashael's greetings to the GGJ Community:

"Don't underestimate the power of an individual to move the world, starting with you. Video games are another way to tell a story, a way to influence an idea, portray art and convey emotions. And most definitely a way to connect with others within the community from around the world. I would love to get to know all of your stories and I am extremely happy that I am a part of this amazing community. Hello GGJ community, this is Mashael from Saudi Arabia!"


Mashael's personal Twitter and Instagram: @Pikamesho


Twitter: @DevPlayGo

Instagram: @IGDA.Riyadh

Global Game Jam 2023 site:

Youtube: Global Game Jam Jeddah 2023