Interview: African Board Game Convention (ABCon)
The African Board Game Convention (ABCon) is back for the second year in a row. Run out of the heart of Nigeria, it’s the first of its kind in a region lacking a gaming community of any kind. Kenechukwu Ogbuagu KC, a local developer and the organizer of the con, is running an IndieGoGo campaign to support the free event. He recently spoke to us about his passion for gaming, what it takes to develop a board game with no resources, and why conventions like ABCon are important to the future of the country.
Tell us a bit about who you are! What do you do? What games do you make?
My name is Kenechukwu Ogbuagu KC. I am a 24 years old board game designer from Nigeria. Since 2013 when I first sketched my first game, I have gone on to publish 7 games, been accepted as a Board Game Designer on BGG, organized several free board game activities, and recently been accepted as a puzzle columnist for a Nigerian Daily newspaper.
Designing games for me is about telling a story in a fun way. And that defines the games I make. I try to share my experiences as a Nigerian - as an African. I love games that involve almost both an equal amount of chance and choice.
What’s your favourite board game, and what do you love about it?
The truth is I haven't really played a lot of games and this is because of a lack of accessibility. However, I have gotten some games from really nice people. As much as I love every one of them, Tiny Epic Kingdom took me to another realm. The mechanics were superb and it opened me up to more possibilities about gaming. I love the art too 😂.
Is there a strong board game scene in Africa? Are there regular players and meetups?
I am sure there are really amazing board game scene in South Africa as well as East Africa. However, it's very low - almost invisible in Nigeria and at large, West Africa.
How do you get your games made with so few resources?
First it's difficult. No, very difficult. However, the drive and hunger to tell stories really sustain me. I put in everything I have. I make lots of mistakes building boxes or prototypes. I spend a lot of time on the internet watching YouTube and reading about games and how to make them.
I also have a very nice group of people that are crazy as I am. We mess everywhere up with papers and gums.
Why did you decide to start the African Board Games Convention?
#ABCon was a necessity. I started out wanting to share stories and link people to the amazing world of board gaming. But talking wasn't enough. Even selling games wasn't.
I needed to show them. To make them meet new people and play games with them. I needed to show Nigerians more games than the regular 7 games in the Nigerian markets.
I wanted to tell them that boardgames could be used to tell stories and facilitate learning.
And finally, I wanted to tell the world that we are good gamers too and we would love to join the community as well as present our stories and our narratives through board gaming.
What kind of people attended the convention last year, and who are you hoping to see this year?
Last year was our first and frankly, we were not expecting much. However, we had different people from different part of Nigeria, diplomats (it was hosted in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria) and colleagues from work.
This year, we are planning a much bigger event after so many feedbacks from last year's. We are expecting 1000 people to participate in a 12 hour non-stop gaming experience.
What games will be available for play?
We have over ten games sent from Europe, Asia, Australia and America.
We also have our own games (7 already published games, 2 new games and 5 prototypes).
One of our objectives is to give people as many options as possible.
What’s been your favourite response when you’ve introduced a new person to board gaming?
Wow! It's just so pure. I have seen people marvel when I tell them that there are literally up to one million games.
I have witnessed the laughter when people are playing a whole new game that they have never seen before. Those moments are magical and I want to see that continue on a larger scale.
You’ve spoken about your desire for board games to create jobs and be a force for good in your region - what do you see in the future? Game shops? Education?
Nigeria is made of over 200 million people. 60% of whom are young people. And so unemployment is a big issue.
Board games have the potential to create as many jobs as possible - starting with 15 thousand.
The future of board gaming in Nigeria has just started. Personally, my company's - NIBCARD NIG LTD - objective is to introduce 1 million homes to board gaming, and this opens us up to exploring all opportunities; from publishing other game designers to designing educational board games and creating game cafes & shops, conventions, and of course leveraging online channels and markets.
It’s important for you that Nigerian stories be told through your games - what untold stories do you want the world to experience?
Hmm… that is a very personal question. As much as I love Nigeria and am willing to defend her unity, I probably would say The Biafran story which is called a pogrom instead of a genocide (please Google what this is about). I just feel it should be talked about. And yes, I am from the Igbo tribe.
However, there are many stories about Nigeria that are only just single stories. There are a lot of folk tales, poems, and tales in Nigeria - many of which I intend to design about.
At the moment, I am publishing a folklore game about a woman and her journey to the stream as well as another game on slavery.
I hope they are able to convey my heart in the narratives and give players the opportunity to create their own story from the game as they are having fun.
In all, board gaming for me takes me to a fantasy island - I never want to leave. When am working on the mechanics, that's the most beautiful part. And when I think of the joy it would bring to people I probably would never meet, I am contented.
I want to help others from my country and continent see this too.
If you’re interested in supporting Kenechukwu’s IndieGoGo campaign, you can check them out here!