Al Khaleej National School
GEMS Grown Azzan Farooq tells us the thrilling story of his design career
I accidentally stumbled upon the fascinating world of game development. It was one day at school, when I walked into former Al Khaleej National School principal Nigel Cropley’s office and asked him if we could have an after-school club for developing games. He told me to do more research and present the idea to him. He said I had good presentation skills and that he’d look into it for me. In the end, the project never happened, but he did always encourage me to strive.
I then discovered Discord and learnt about developing games. I created a group of almost 90 people, made up of a variety of people, from high school students to professionals in the field. We started working on a Star Wars fan game – but totally ignorant of the related copyright laws. We got really well known and were even asked to put our game on a platform and skip the entire approval process. It was unbelievable!
That’s when a team member received a ‘Cease & Desist’ email from Disney. Instead of immediately caving in, we sent them a copy of the game in the hopes of landing a collaboration. They liked the game and connected us with Electronic Arts, who are in charge of all their game developments. Our conference call with EA didn’t last very long; they said no almost immediately. It was heartbreaking, but the team continued working on the game nonetheless, removing all traces of Star Wars. Later, the current principal at my old school, Dr Ghadeer Abu-Shamat, saw a lot of potential in me. She asked me to go to different events with her to represent the school.
She encouraged me every step of the way to nurture my interests. She introduced me to Karan Deep, who headed GEMS X, what used to be the research and development arm of GEMS, and that meeting set the foundation for my career.
I got the opportunity to shadow Patrick Campos, from whom I learnt everything there is to know about business. I spent countless hours practising presenting and pitching; I even learnt how to sit and talk in a meeting! He’s been a true mentor to me.
If it wasn’t for my time at GEMS, I wouldn’t be here today. The support I got from them accelerated my career by a decade.