Nov 28, 2014

The Wongamani Design Story: The Genesis of Wongamania (Part 1)

After graduation, I didn't want to follow the same corporate path taken by most of my friends. I always wanted to start my own company. It was 2003 and Singapore is just starting its evolution towards a financial hub after experiencing a deep and long recession. I have some ideas to start a children financial education company with a good friend at that point of time. However, we were concerned that we have no money, no connections and no knowledge at that time and we decided to work in the corporate work briefly before coming back together to start the company. He went on to join a marketing and event company while I joined a wealth management firm.

My friend enjoyed his work in the corporate world so much that he decided to stay for good. We never got down to starting that company. On hindsight, we should have started the company there and than. Who knows, we may have already established a pretty good brand name by now.

Even though I am enjoying my work in the wealth management firm, the dream of setting up a financial literacy company is still alive and always at the back of my mind and I started giving financial literacy talks around the country. After a few years of giving talk, I started to think about how I can reach out to more people rather than speaking to 20-30 people at a time. Why not design a board game instead to teach people the ins and outs of money matters while allowing me to continue doing the money management work which I enjoyed so much?

I always wanted to create my own board game, but a series of unfortunate events kept delaying my progress. The first game that I developed in 2007 was a financial history simulation workshop game. It won kudos from everyone who played the game but I never got to commercialize it, because the game is meant to be conducted in a room full of people with detailed explanation of the various scenarios behind it. The financial concept behind the game is too advance for the man on the streets and I was too lazy to conduct weekly talks on the subject so I decided to keep it as it current form until a future opportunity arises. The name of the game is called Capital Gains Investment Game and that's what inspired the name of our current game company.

Conducting Capital Gains Investment Game

The second game I created was called "$trategy". It's a hybrid board game between "Life" and "Cashflow 101" and it has been pretty extensively tested. However, due to a disagreement with the partners involved, the game never got launched. The prototype is still sitting in my cupboard somewhere. Now that I look back, the game is not really perfected yet and there is still a lot of improvements to be made to the game. Maybe I will visit that game again sometime down the road.

The Unfinished $trategy Game

Due to a disagreement with the management, I decided to uproot from the company which I have stayed for 6 year and decided to start afresh in another wealth management company. As a self employed, it also means building the income and clientele base from bottom up again and the global financial markets were still reeling in shock from the global financial crisis. It's a pretty bad time to migrate. After spending one year of migration, things finally settle down and before I can turn my attention back to games design.

It is than, my health problem started.

I was sick for 2 years, plagued by high consistent fevers, hormone problems and aching joints. At one point of time, I had to undergo radiology and guess what, that procedure nearly killed me! After narrowly survived death, I decided to throw caution to the wind and spent one year traveling to different parts of Europe and Asia. After getting a lot of cultural immersion (and spending a lot of money) I once again turned my attention towards game design.

What kind of game should I create? One of my main purpose of the game is to create financial awareness among the average man/woman on the streets who has absolutely no interest in money matters. I noticed many people playing Monopoly deal for fun and by the end of the day, they are able to recite the names of the important real estate areas in UK and US. Can I create a game on a level of difficult just above that of Monopoly Deal and help people take notice of things like interest rates, inflation, stock, property and bond?

So I set the following objectives for my new game:

- A game which is fun to play and slightly more difficult to learn than Monopoly Deal
- Portable so that it can be easily shared among friends in a cafe setting in land scarce Singapore
- Touch on basic principles of modern economics with the intention of sparking of interest rather than overloading the players with information
- Introduce certain strategic elements that will appeal to more veteran players
- Have graphic which will be well liked by ladies, as they are one of the most important group that needs more help on financial literacy.

Essentially, I have to create a game that follow the most basic principle of all great games "Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master, Fun to Play"

By than, I have piled up a pretty thick stack of game ideas and blueprint which I never got to develop. I started throwing out all those 2-3 hours heavy strategic board games and those games with too much technical financial details. I came upon this blue print with a rough economic cycle drawn on it and I was thinking, "Hey, everyone should be familiar with an economic cycle. This should make a great theme!"

And Wongamania is born... 


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