Since graduating from CAMD’s Master of Science (MS) in Game Science and Design program in 2019, Alex Coburn has been focused on the launch of Urgency, his asymmetric strategic race board game. The two-player game is based on the oldest complete board game in the world, the Royal Game of Ur (dating back to 2600 BCE) – building on the tradition of that game to offer players a unique mix of new and old. Urgency is already gaining traction, with the Kickstarter campaign (which launched on Friday, May 22) reaching its goal within the first twelve hours.
To begin, Urgency uses the same board and pieces as the ancient game as well as many of the same rules that have been translated from a cuneiform tablet, which is the oldest rulebook in existence.
“Urgency feels comfortable for players who crave the simplicity of games like Backgammon and Cribbage, while providing a completely new gameplay experience,” said Alex. “The more modernized aspects come in as players add new rules throughout the game with rule cards that drastically change how the game is played, and make it so each game is a completely unique experience. Urgency is also one of very few specifically two-player strategy games in the market right now, which is especially nice for those who might be stuck in quarantine with a partner or roommate.”
The inspiration and planning for Urgency started before Alex joined Northeastern for his master’s, which included exploring the history of board games through educational YouTube videos and podcasts.
“During this process, I found inspiration for Urgency from Tom Scott’s YouTube video interviewing Irving Finkel on the world’s oldest board game, which I had never heard of before,” Alex said. “Intrigued by the fuzzy translation of the rules to the Royal Game of Ur and awed by the beautiful handiwork of the board, I stayed up all night following the urge to create my own set of rules for a modernized version of the game. The next day, I was playtesting the first version of Urgency with some friends and development hasn’t stopped since then.”
Alex then began his master’s program in CAMD that Fall, where he gained valuable skills that made Urgency an even stronger game, like how to get the most from a playtest and how best to iterate on rules.
His time at Northeastern, specifically the Games program, provided the resources and structure needed to move forward in the Games industry.
“I found it critical to find time to do the work that I enjoyed doing outside of school, which is how Urgency was born,” Alex said. “My school projects were excellent exercises in teamwork, design, and the scientific process, and having this passion project outside of school truly cemented the abstract concepts in my mind.”
The game continued to take shape from there. After graduating from Northeastern, he made steady progress on finalizing rules, design and artwork, and lining up manufacturers for a full production run once the currently-running Kickstarter ends on June 21.
“Sometime after the campaign ends, my goal is to sell directly through my website and talk with game retailers about purchasing copies for their stores,” Alex concluded. “Someday, I would love to start my own board game company to continue designing educational board games that bring people together. In the meantime, my plan is to work for a game development studio to gain industry experience. The success of Urgency is such an affirmation that I have made the right choice by switching careers and pursuing game development, and I hope that it is just the first step of a long journey.”
Now living and working in Denver, Colorado, Alex is also currently working remotely as an Operations Specialist for a Massachusetts-based investment advisory company – and has been working with Northeastern’s Dr. Casper Harteveld to continue perfecting his thesis for submission to the 2021 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) in Yokohama, Japan.