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Playing it forward: Pakistani woman makes it to Forbes list for ‘purposeful’ video games

RAWALPINDI: A Pakistani education specialist and entrepreneur, Mariam Nusrat Adil, joined the ranks of Pakistani Forbes honorees last week, making it to the Forbes Next 1000 List for using the “power of video games to educate, engage and empower people.”

The list celebrates small startups that have under $10 million in revenue or funding, like Adil’s Gaming Revolution for International Development (GRID).
“I feel immensely grateful and humbled to be on the Forbes list,” Adil told Arab News in a phone interview.
“Moments like these are a testament to the passion, purpose, and perseverance that my team and I have poured into GRID, but they are also the perfect refueling stations along the entrepreneurial journey,” the founder said.
“It’s a time to pause, celebrate the win, and then return to our mission with renewed commitment and conviction. This is just the beginning, and we are thrilled about the potential of our journey.”
GRID, run primarily by a team of Pakistan-based game developers and designers, creates low-cost mobile games that inspire positive behavior change. The company raised $75,000 in pre-seed funding from 11 Tribes Ventures and is backed by Ocean Accelerator.
In nearly seven years, the company has created games to educate people on reproductive health, climate change, pandemics, animal welfare, and STEM learning.
It has several new games in the pipeline that seek to enhance awareness about child abuse, financial literacy, and skills for the future. Under its not-for-profit arm, the organization has developed eight portfolio games in four languages.
“Having grown up playing games such as SimCity, I knew that games leave an impression on our brains that transcend the boundaries of the virtual world,” Adil said.
“I wondered to myself that if games on building cities can teach urban planning, can games focusing on environmental awareness promote climate action, those about women’s rights promote equality, or those building humane education improve animal welfare?”
Adil said she aspired to develop video games that were “purposeful.”
“These are video games that have a purpose beyond entertainment,” she said. “They have immense potential to influence industries like education, marketing, and training, though we do not see them being mainstreamed in these industries.”
GRID also plans to release a program called Breshna, which will allow people to create games without any coding experience at “lightning speeds.” The word “breshna” means lightning in Pashto, Adil’s mother tongue.
“Breshna empowers anyone, even with no coding or design experience, to create their own video games for educational, marketing, and training purposes,” she said. “Whether it’s a teacher making a history quiz, a not-for-profit leader making a brochure on animal compassion or a founder making a pitch deck, they can all leverage Breshna to create fun and interactive video games to engage their audience.”
In addition to GRID, Adil has also worked at the World Bank since 2010, focusing on education. Her job has taken her across South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East. She has master’s degrees in economics from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan and George Washington University in the US.
Adil is originally from Islamabad and currently lives in the US, though she aspires to return to her home country.
“Paying it forward is something that is deeply embedded in our organization’s DNA, and I owe a significant portion of my journey and success to my home country,” Adil said.
“I want GRID to demonstrate that Pakistan is rich in development and design talent. Global tech companies have an opportunity to tap into this high-quality talent and develop innovative solutions in a capital-efficient manner.”

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