“I had an everyday job until two weeks ago.”
Omari Akil hails from Durham, NC, home to what he describes as a really solid gaming community, and within that: a great design community. It is the birthplace of his company, Board Game Brothas, which was developed from an offer to help his brother design a game he had an idea for.
“I didn’t do tabletop games for a long time. I was only playing video games until about 5 years ago, when I found a meetup for a weekly game night at a coffee shop.”
Once Omari began frequenting the weekly meetup, he discovered a group of people who welcomed him with enthusiasm. It was there that he first encountered modern gaming, which reshaped what he thought board games were, and what they could potentially be. He recalls his first encounter with the Dungeons & Dragons Board Game Lords of Waterdeep:
“That game shifted EVERYTHING in my brain.”
While Omari and his brother didn’t intend on starting a company initially, it made a lot of sense once they got the ball rolling.
“I was accidentally in that world and didn’t really know it.”
Once he started talking about designing a game in his new group of friends, he quickly realized that he was in the company of people who could advise him along his journey. After a year and a half of designing, and successfully funding their first Kickstarter, Omari has now begun working at Board Game Brothas full time to keep the momentum going.
His inaugural offering is a hip-hop themed strategic storytelling game called Rap Godz that puts players in the role of an up and coming hip-hop artist on their path to greatness.
“Our thinking is that we want to make games that touch cultures that aren’t getting touched, ones that we identify with and can speak to. We have another game called Graffiti Knights coming out that plays off urban culture, and digs into things that we are comfortable and familiar with.”
We spoke at length about inclusion in gaming, and how tabletop becoming more mainstream has led to an influx of new gamers from different backgrounds and experiences, and whether or not we thought that was a good thing (since many hobbies are wary of becoming too commonplace to stay ‘niche’).
“I’ve been exposed to more communities in the last year where it’s definitely happening. I think it’s changing. I hope so. It starts with the games. Making games more accessible in lots of different ways – not just the themes or the cultures represented, but also in the play style. We’re getting more diversity there, too. Being able to bring a diverse set of games so people can find something they attach to is helpful when onboarding new gamers.”
He also pointed out that a lot of people are very resistant to board games, explaining that maybe it feels like a “classic” thing to a lot of people, like something people used to do, or something meant only for kids.
“The resurgence of games as something more, hasn’t been widespread, yet… but I think that’s changing.”
You can find Board Game Brothas online at the following links: