Growing up in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, near Pikeville, Nathan Wright has been a big fan of University of Kentucky sports since he can remember. Even his room was painted and decorated in UK colors. Yet his a nity for Big Blue is not what sold him on UK as the place to pursue his engineering education.
“I toured the campus and the College of Engineering and it was magnificent,” he recalls. “It also didn’t hurt that I received a bit of VIP treatment from UK staff after they learned I had a 35 (out of a perfect 36) on my ACT.”
Nathan found himself recruited by big-name engineering schools like MIT, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and others, but they fell short of what Nathan saw in UK.
“UK just felt right and was where I needed to be,” he a affirms.
Nathan settled on mechanical engineering for a major and gained research experience by working with associate professor Alexandre Martin. He later added an MBA from the Gatton College of Business and Economics. Along the way, he discovered a way to blend his lifelong love of tabletop games with his concern about energy awareness.
Game of Energy, a board game Nathan has developed to get people thinking about energy, has its origin in a conversation Nathan had with his father, David.
“My dad was managing several surface mines in Eastern Kentucky while also watching the stock market,” Nathan recounts. “One day, he started asking questions about the various energy industries of the world. Thanks to classes I had taken at UK and some additional research I had done, I was able to provide some thoughtful answers to him. My dad said, ‘This is really interesting stuff . There needs to be a way to bring this to the masses.’ I was thinking like a book, or a blog, but instead he said, ‘a board game.’ And it simply clicked in my mind.”
Nathan saw a huge challenge before him: how to address each sector of the energy industry without bias in a fun and easily accessible package. He set out to meet the need. His mother, Tammy, also loved the idea and encouraged her son to pursue it. Nathan says the support has been invaluable.
“Taking this journey as a family has allowed us all to learn together and become even closer. In fact, the three of us have spent many a night play-testing the game together.”
Game of Energy is designed as a highly thematic strategy game of medium-to-light complexity. The primary methods of play are placing different sized tiles to control space on the board and managing resources. It involves one to four players and usually lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. All modern, widespread technologies are represented in Game of Energy: biofuel, fossil fuel, hydroelectric, nuclear, solar and wind.
Nathan launched a Kickstarter campaign in an attempt to showcase the game and garner financial support. He met his goal of raising $15,745 by August 30.
In addition to families playing Game of Energy at home together, there is a strong potential market for educators to employ the game in their classrooms as a way to teach students about the growing energy needs of the world.
Nathan says, “I think the youngest person who has played the game is nine years old. Even though our initial recommendation is for ages 14 and up, the numbers used in Game of Energy are either based on fives or 25s, so the math is relatively easy to understand.”
In our digitized world where video games are front and center, is there really a market for a board game these days? Nathan says the evidence points to yes.
“Several recent national surveys indicate that board games are enjoying a renaissance. While electronic based games dominate the overall commercial market, studies show that board games’ share of that market is up to around 11 percent from 8 percent a few years ago.”
While working hard to launch Game of Energy, Nathan began working for Belcan Corporation, where he redesigns aspects of military and commercial jet engines. He is proud to call himself an alumnus of UK.
“This university has given so much to me and so many other people,” he shares. “And you better believe I will be recommending my future children attend this gem of the Bluegrass.”