Meet the Nigerian board game creator trying to change an industry
Kenechukwu ‘KC’ Ogbuagu is trying to improve the tabletop game industry in Nigeria.
Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Kenechukwu Cornelius Ogbuagu has been obsessed with playing and building games his entire life. As a child, he played board and card games including Snakes and Ladders, Whot, and Ludo with the kids in his neighborhood in Enugu, southeastern Nigeria, where he was born and raised.
Yet in a country that loves games such as chess and Scrabble — even fielding a world champion Scrabble team — Ogbuagu noticed a lack of Nigerian-made games. In 2013, he decided to create his own game while studying at the University of Calabar in southern Nigeria.
“There was a nationwide strike at government-owned universities in the country at the time, so nobody was going to class,” Ogbuagu, now 29, says. With nothing to do, “eventually, we started playing tabletop games.”
At the time, he was not sure how to create games, so he used cardboard, stones, and dice from an old Ludo game to make a dice rolling and card drafting game for him and his friends. Many of Ogbuagu’s friends in school enjoyed playing the game, inspiring him to turn his passion into a profession.
Created in 2017, “Homia” is a memory and recognition game card game where players race to build their Nigerian home to win. In 2016, a few years after making his first game, Ogbuagu founded a game production publishing company called NIBCARD, which focuses on tabletop games such as board and card games.
“I eventually learned to make games on YouTube,” he says. “I learned how to make boards. I learned about direct imaging printers. I also found stores where I could get material to make the games I wanted.” That same year, he started an annual convention in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, called the Africa Boardgame Convention, or “AbCon” — a gathering of tabletop game lovers from across the country, which Ogbuagu says is the first of its kind in West Africa.
“Wan wan touch” is a football-based board game. It was created in 2018.
“Many Nigerians hold stereotypes about board games. They say, ‘oh, it is a woman’s game.’ The convention exists to cancel those types of stereotypes,” Ogbuagu explains. Roughly 500 people attend the convention every year, he adds. But his big break came in 2017 when charity organization Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) hired NIBCARD to create 2,300 copies of a game called “Luku Luku” for an education project it was running in the country.
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Ogbuagu had been working with VSO as a volunteer when the group found out he was into games. “I met British colleagues who liked to play card games. I became inspired by their games and wanted to make something like that in Nigeria,” he says. Since making Luku Luku for VSO, Ogbuagu says NIBCARD has created at least two dozen tabletop games for sale across the country and received grants from organizations including the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“With the (IOM) grant, we were supposed to, in an artistic way, create an activity that will create awareness on migration,” Ogbuagu says. To achieve this, he created a tile-placement game called “My World Trip.”
“Gbosi,” debuting in 2018, is a tile placement war game. “The game has maps of different countries and the names and continent of the countries,” he explains. “As players are jumping from country to country trying to win the game, they are forced to learn new countries that they probably have never heard of.”