Innovation Lab Student Projects: IGBO, An Interview with Sam Cowdery (ESTEEM '20)

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

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What first got you interested in building board games?

I have been creating games since I was a little kid, it was my second serious passion after football.  For a few years in high school, I remember having a little table in my room constantly devoted to whatever game I was tinkering with and building. I loved the ability to create little worlds straight out of my head and watch how the stories would play out with my friends. I was especially obsessed when the gameplay would involve strategy, because I always loved the chance to bring creativity and analytical thinking together into something fun! That is why the story of a strategy game built around teaching sustainability and bringing more awareness to issues facing forests and ecosystems was the perfect project for me to jump into and bring my full talents to bear.

Igbo Paint

How did you get started on this project?

When I first was brought onboard to IGBO, one of the team members showed me the most recent prototype of the game and it looked incredible, I also really loved the mission behind it as well. It was still in early stages, but I asked if I could take everything back to my apartment to see if I could come up with some new rules and additions to the gameplay. That night I stayed up until about 3am playing with the pieces and the board and dreaming up new rules until almost the entirety of the gameplay had been pieced together. It felt just like old times!

Igbo Painted Boards

What were some challenges you found while working on it?

I thought the biggest challenge was going to be designing and manufacturing the game, but being connected to the IDEA Center and the fab lab was such an incredible resource to use and they helped on every step of the way. Tony and Matt were incredible to work with and they helped us to re-design the board with new pieces, new dimensions, and even helped us add higher-quality materials to our build. I got the chance to learn first-hand about laser-cutting and the manufacturing process as well as the the details that arise when transitioning from idea to functional prototype. It was an all an incredible experience, and at one point a teammate and I spent two long nights in a row manufacturing IGBO boards from 6 PM to 7 AM to meet our pre-Christmas deadline for orders. The timeline was definitely brutal but it is safe to say IGBO passed the “all-nighter” test for me.

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What are the next steps?

Grow grow grow! We are still selling and shipping boards and the team is starting to find its rhythm. We have set some initial markers set for the month and are gearing up for our second round of the McCloskey Business Plan Competition in early February. This spring I am also excited to be taking the Object Fabrication class taught through ESTEEM in the fabrication lab which will definitely add some serious value to what we can get done as a team. It is going to be an awesome few months!