March 20, 2024

6 Min Read

inside ubisoft

Ubisoft’s Fawzi Mesmar Honored with Ambassador Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards

Every year at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, developers honor exceptional games from the past year at the Game Developers Choice Awards. Additionally, three awards - Lifetime Achievement, Pioneer Award, and Ambassador Award - are given to specific individuals. This year, Ubisoft's VP of Editorial, Fawzi Mesmar, is the recipient of the Ambassador Award, which honors an individual who has helped the game industry advance to a better place either through facilitating a better game community from within, or by reaching outside the industry to be an advocate for videogames and help further the art.

At Ubisoft, Mesmar works to help developers make their games a reality, but when he's not working his day job, he's often flying around the world to speaking opportunities to which he's been invited as a mentor, teacher, and creative leader. Before joining Ubisoft, Mesmar helped lay the foundation for game development in the Middle East by writing the first-ever book on game design in Arabic.

Ahead of the award ceremony on March 20, we caught up with Mesmar to learn more about what this moment means to him, which accomplishments he's most proud of, and how all developers can make a difference.

[UN] [Corp] GDC Ambassador Award - fawzi

What was your reaction to learning the news that you'd been selected for the Ambassador Award?

Fawzi Mesmar: It meant so much to me because I know how this award is selected. Nominations for games are by made by International Choice Awards Network (ICAN), a group of industry game creators, that I am part of as well. Every year, we get a ballot emailed to us, and we make our selection for game of the year and all the other awards, and then there's the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement, Pioneer, and Ambassador awards. There's no drop-down or short list of nominations, it's just a blank text field. So being selected for this award means that enough people all decided to write my name in that it reached a threshold to get to the committee, and then they decided to give me an award.

Why do you think people voted for you?

FM: This award is for people who are putting their energy into this industry, not just in their day job, but also outside of it. People that are actively making this industry a better place than when they first joined it. It's about impact, and I think if I reflect on the past years, there's a lot of impact in my day job. I work with lots of developers, on a weekly or monthly basis across several locations within Ubisoft on large-scale titles. Outside of work, I am heavily invested in giving back, and in the importance of taking a chance on others and helping people from underserved territories make games. I'm on the road a lot__;__ I'm in conferences, I'm in accelerators, I'm atuniversities speaking pro bono. I do these things because it's personal to me.

My book, Al-Khallab on the art of game design, also probably had a lot of reach and helped a lot of people get into the business. I made the entire book available for free on an NGO website, and it's one of their most popular courses. It's a week-long course in game design in Arabic. Over 30,000 people have taken it at this point.

When you look back at your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?

FM: The proudest moment I had was when my dad, may he rest in peace, read my book and, for the first time, kind of understood what I do. There were no resources from him to read it in Arabic, and I tried to explain it to him, but I don't think he ever understood before that. That was a moment that forever engulfed me. I remember my dad sitting there, reading my book, smiling the entire time.

So much of your work has helped advance the game development industry in the Middle East. How do you see it growing and evolving in the next decade?

FM: The growth has been exponential. When I made my first game, there were eight of us working in Jordan; maybe one other small team in Syria making a game, but that was pretty much it. My career took me to New Zealand and then Japan, and after that I came to Jordan for a visit, and I was on stage in front of 800 up-and-coming game developers at Jordan's seventh gaming summit. In a period from eight to 10 years, we grew from eight people to 800. Nowadays, when I come back to the Middle East to work with many of the accelerators there, there is an active community of game developers in pretty much every country, and I'm generally connected to all of them. I do talks for them. I'm on the jury for the pan-Arab game jam. Every time I go to these gatherings, they're growing more and more every year. There's a well-established development scene now, and one can choose between different companies and have a career there.

In 10-15 years, anything can happen. The growth potential is unlimited. Who knows what could happen? CD Projekt Red was a games store, and they grew to be one of the best-known game developers in the world while Poland grew to be one of the bigger game-development scenes in Europe, and I can see the Middle East following that path.

The industry is facing many challenges economically and socially. What can developers do to make it a better place?

FM: The way I see it is that everything good that ever happened to me was because someone stepped out of their comfort zone and took a chance on me. Everything that has ever happened to me in my career was because somebody believed that I had what it takes. They took a chance on me by giving me a job, they took a chance on me by allowing me to participate in a project, or they took a chance on me by wanting to teach me.

When times are the hardest is when I think we should be giving the most, because you never know how much everlasting impact it will have on someone if you say, "I have this job and I think you might be good at it, and I want to take a chance on you" or "I'm working on this project and I could use some help." Just giving and seeing how that translates into a better world for all of us.

To learn more about Fawzi Mesmar and his impact inside and out of Ubisoft, check out our interview, Leading with Empathy During Arab Heritage Month.

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