Bahiyya Khan won the Best Student Game Award for after HOURS, an interactive, full-motion video game at the Independent Games Festival.

WITS alumnus Bahiyya Khan, along with her team members Tim Flusk, Abi and Claire Meekel, won the Best Student Game Award at the Independent Games Festival (IGF) in San Francisco on Wednesday, March 20.

Khan and her team were given the award for their work on after HOURS, a full-motion video game that uses animation and film footage to tell the story of Lilith Grey, a young woman, with borderline personality disorder who suffered sexual abuse as a child. 

SNEAK PEAK: Bahiyya Khan as Lilith Grey in after HOURS, an interaction full-motion video game about a young woman who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. Photo: Provided

Khan, who wrote the script, told Wits Vuvuzela that the aim of the game was to “show how survivors of sexual abuse and people who live with mental illness respond to everyday situations”.

After HOURS was created as part of Khan’s BA Digital Arts (Game Design) honours degree.

During that time, Khan said she had noticed an increase in gender-based violence in her community of Lenasia in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

In that community, she said, women are often blamed for the sexual assault they experience. Khan said: “As a South African woman, our number one fear is being raped. I felt I needed to do something about it.”

Through after HOURS, Khan wanted to give women who have experienced sexual abuse “an existence beyond being another statistic in the paper”.

Claire, who was the visual artist, said she finds that sexual abuse and mental illness are issues that are “relevant presently”.

“It is important for women to have a voice and a platform where they are able to speak about their traumas openly,” said Claire.

To team member Flusk who programmed the game, the win illustrates that all marginalised people that produce media and art are being “recognised by a mainstream audience”.

He also said, “South Africans can produce what is reflective of themselves.”

Despite the positive impact after HOURS has had on players thanking the team for making it, Khan feels she carries the weight of the experience of making the game. She said the process was difficult because she played Lilith Grey, the protagonist in the game.

Nonetheless, Khan said, “It’s the biggest award we could win as an independent developer.”

The team won $3 000 and were further honoured with the Excellence in Narrative Award.The IGF is an awards ceremony that takes place annually at the Games Developers Conference, the largest gathering of the indie video game industry in San Francisco.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits alumnus and game designer Bahiyya Khan at the Wits School of Arts. Photo: Imaan Moosa