When Agnesa Belegu first picked up a Nintendo Entertainment System controller as a child in Kosovo, she says she could have sworn it was magic.
She spent many days playing Super Mario Bros., trying to complete the game.
“I thought, ‘I can’t believe I’m responsible for [Mario’s] life,'” the 23-year-old said. “I thought, ‘I need to save the princess.'”
The background helped Belegu, 23, develop an idea for a video game that will help others understand the situation in her war-torn home country. She’s now creating that game at Orlando’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy. It’s a prime example of a new national trend of more video games aimed at social commentary, as the first gaming generation ages.
Belegu enrolled at FIEA through a grant from the United States Agency for International Development and the nonprofit organization World Learning, which gives Kosovo students a chance to pursue post-graduate degrees in the U.S.
FIEA is University of Central Florida’s highly regarded video game development school, having recently been named the top video game development graduate school in the U.S. by Princeton Review.
Now, Belegu works with a team of UCF students to develop her game.
Although she didn’t want to reveal many details about the project – it’s still early in the development phase – the premise will have players see the world through the eyes of animal companions.
“It’s a mix of some of the things that happened [in Kosovo] and an exploration of that from the perspective of a non-hero,” she said.
FIEA Executive Director Ben Noel said Belegu’s game idea would likely be a tough sell commercially.
However, he said he was impressed by the game’s premise and message.
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