The Games and Mobile Department sits in a wide, relatively high ceiling-ed room. Wadood Ahmad is at the far end facing the entrance to the room. To his left and right are the other team members. Often, a casual passer-by can see the team swiveling around on their chairs, animatedly talking to each other. Sometimes the Games and Mobile department is dead quiet as everyone works to meet deadlines. Sajid Ali Anjum, it is clear, is an integral part of the team. He has a palpably contagious energy and he seems to be always having fun. In fact you would be hard pressed to find a person more ready to have a laugh than Sajid. As Lead Game Developer, he brings a blend of maturity and childish enthusiasm to the team that appears to serve his job well.
Here we sit down to talk to him about the future of the gaming industry, how he fits in at Knowledge Platform, his hobbies and his secret plans for the future.
KP: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you come to be at Knowledge Platform?
I grew up in Saudi Arabia. My family moved to Jeddah when I was one so most of my early schooling happened in the Middle East. I moved back to Pakistan for my Bachelors in Computer Systems Engineering (Islamia University Bahawalpur) and then also did my Masters in Computer Science with a specialization in Intelligent Information Systems (SEECS, National University of Sciences and Technology).
KP: And then you started at Knowledge Platform?
(laughs) Well it’s an interesting story actually. My Master’s thesis was with Dr. Ashraf Iqbal. I worked very closely with this professor who recommended me to Mr. Mahboob Mahmood, the CEO of Knowledge Platform who at the time was looking to build a Games Unit at Knowledge Platform. I originally signed on with Knowledge Platform as a consultant on 2 July 2013. They wanted me to help build a team.
Originally, it was just Wadood and I. In December 2013 I was asked to come on full time as Lead Game Developer. And I’ve never looked back since.
KP: And why was Knowledge Platform a fit for you?
Well, the thing is I’ve always loved games but I think I’ve always felt more can be done with them. Students are so addicted to them. Why not harness their drawing power into something that can be useful? I also just loved that there was so much freedom to do whatever I wanted at Knowledge Platform. Most organizations have set paths and procedures in place, but here the Games department essentially has free reign to do whatever it wants and that’s where all the magical creativity happens.
KP: We’re assuming you’ve always been a game fanatic?
Yes. I started developing in 8th grade, or perhaps even before that. My older brother bought me a phone when I was fourteen years old. I was (and still am) really into smaller gadgets as opposed to PCs because I thought their portability was so inspiring. I copied the shell of Windows for the mobile my brother bought me. It wasn’t anything huge, or even useful, but it was an accomplishment for me. I also created my first Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) based game in 9th Grade for a Computer Science Class.
KP: Did any of these get famous?
Not the early stuff no, but when I was around 22 I created a game called Sniper Action. This was in 2011. It was for Nokia Store (and later Microsoft Store). In a couple of months I realized I’d earned approximately 8000 Euros from it.
(laughs) Yes, it was pretty crazy. I got 80,000 downloads in total including free downloads and I was very excited. But I still wanted to do more. This led to me work towards becoming a Nokia Developer Champion, a goal I accomplished in 2010. Basically at the time, Nokia was asking developers and tech enthusiasts to develop a community. I retained this title for the next four consecutive years. I was ambitious back then.
KP: And now?
I’m still driven I like to think (laughs). It’s just more channeled. I think I realised when I was developing that I loved it when people had to use their minds to get to the end of the game. It’s like a collaboration between game, developer and player.
KP focuses on educational mobile apps & games and it gives the department a free hand to experiment so we can see what works and doesn’t work in terms of games for kids. We’re always trying to get the collaboration just right. I really like the most recent game we developed, Mind Tussle. It’s interesting because it’s multiplayer and invokes interactivity at some levels. We haven’t hit the bull’s eye yet, but hopefully we’re not far from it.
KP: And how does the team work together?
Thankfully, we like each other and everyone is motivated. I’ll come into work some days and one of the guys will be showing me some new fix to a game he developed over the weekend. We enjoy the work so it’s a lot like play for us. We’re also honest about our reviews to each other because everyone wants to get better at what they’re doing. We do Friday lunches within the department and often get ice cream.
It all helps create a space where everyone is continuously driven to learn and open to constructive criticism.
KP: Can you tell us a little bit about the future of the gaming industry?
Well, this is a rather obvious question. The future is open ended, and so full of opportunity it’s kind of breath-taking. The blend of education and technology inside gaming is especially up and coming but it’s a field that hasn’t been very well researched. That’s where we want to chip in.
KP: We’re wondering if you can shed light on how women are doing in the gaming industry?
Sadly we don’t have a lot of women working in our department. It’s a field women are coming towards but very slowly. When I was doing Computer Science Engineering, there was a notable gender imbalance between the number of male students and female students. It’ll be interesting and good to see that change in the next few years and I’m confident that it will change. My experience working with female colleagues is always a great learning experience because they tend to approach problems with a much more artistic point of view so it’s nice to add that element into the mix.
KP: And what do you do when you’re not developing games?
When I’m not developing games, I’m playing games (laughs). I also read a lot of poetry especially Allama Iqbal’s poetry. I’m obsessed with expensive gadgets like different phones, tablets, smart watches, portable gaming consoles.
KP: Aren’t you worried about having it all stolen?
I actually keep them all in one bag. I take out the bag at night and pick one gadget to fiddle around with. I’m not going to lie, it’s a treasure trove. My secret plan is to keep everything until the market value goes really, really high and then? I’ll be a millionaire (laughs).