IGDA Spotlight: Indie Developer Ashraf Abouhaikal13 Oct 2020
Today we would like to spotlight one of IGDA’s indie developers—Ashraf Abouhaikal, the co-founder of an indie game development studio, Youmaku Games, and creator of the game Skelewton’s First Law.
Ashraf’s passion for creating game art has developed at a young age. As a child, playing games not only brought him joy, but also caused him to question how they were made. He wanted to know how the animated and interactive worlds he loved were created.
Though Ashraf’s family are all members of various medical fields, he decided to embark his own journey into art to fulfill his dream to become a video game artist and create magnificent worlds for others to enjoy.
In 2013, Ashraf left his home, Alexandria, to join MSA University’s Faculty of Arts and Design in Cairo, Egypt. He joined the art school against his family’s wishes so he could pursue his dream career and further explore the aesthetic world of arts and design.
“I’m always interested in the medical field from a knowledge point of view, as I grew up in a family of doctors,” noted Ashraf. “But I never wanted to become a doctor, so choosing art school instead dentistry was a huge disappointment to my parents.”
In 2014, Ashraf joined forces with his childhood friend, Youssef, to create their first ever game project, Skelewton’s First Law, and establish their indie game development team, Youmaku Games. Youssef not only was a great collaborator for their studio, but also taught Ashraf a lot about work ethics, principles and discipline that continued to benefit him along his career path.
Skelewton’s First Law is a survival 2D-platformer that takes place after Newton’s death. Newton wakes up in the afterlife as a skeleton named Skelewton, he uses his newly acquired powers of gravity manipulation to collect apples.
Skelewton’s First Law won Run Double Jump tournament in 2017, which is the biggest indie tournament in Egypt. Run Double Jump gathers creatives and indie development teams across Egypt and is organized by the Information and Technology Institute. As the winner, they were invited to compete in the annual Indie Prize organized by Games Daily Connect.
They were a finalist at Indie Prize 2018 finalist, which helped earn the team and Skelewton’s First Law international recognition before its September 2019 release on Android, IOS Users and web users.
Ashraf’s career growth was also furthered by two programs which sent him to GDC—Glitch’s Power Leveling Program and the IGDA Foundation’s Next Gen Leaders Program. Both programs are extremely competed and targeted to help promising new leaders within the game industry get the connections and knowledge they need to succeed.
Ashraf is still active in Next Gen Leaders, as it is a multi-year program that supports participants with personal and professional development opportunities, coaching, and mentorship. Participants are invited back to GDC the following year, provided with a GDC pass and travel stipend and additional workshops, and are offered the opportunity to share their experiences as mentors and leaders with participants in other IGDA Foundation programs, including IGDA Scholars, Velocity, and the incoming Next Gen Leaders cohort. This program is designed to provide a range of knowledge, experience, and tools to keep members of under-represented communities in the game development industry.
“I met a great deal of friends and mentors in the next gen leaders program, and went back home to Egypt with high hopes to benefit my community and myself” commented Ashraf on the program. “NGL was indeed one of the greatest miles tones in my journey in the games industry.”
In August 2019, Ashraf decided yet again to embark on a new journey to settle down in Chicago to further his career by connecting with local game developers. By meeting up with other game industry mentors, he has been able to broaden his knowledge of game art and strengthening his connections, giving him future collaboration opportunities as well.
“No words can describe how amazing and lively Chicago is,” said Ashraf fondly. “Since day one I have been in contact with members from IGDA Chicago chapter, Mentors from Zynga, Sugar Gamers and other groups, by attending gatherings, game jams, workshops and talks. And it was indeed a great opportunity to benefit from these groups face to face.”