‘Board games saved my life, now I’m making my own’

Barrington Campbell, founder of Kagai Games. Picture: Dafydd Owen

Barrington Campbell, founder of Kagai Games. Picture: Dafydd Owen - Credit: Archant

An autistic man who says board games saved his life has decided to set up a business creating his own – but needs help to fund his dream.

Barrington needs help funding his new board game. Picture: Barrington Campbell

Barrington needs help funding his new board game. Picture: Barrington Campbell - Credit: Archant

Barrington Campbell, 31, was severely bullied at school in the East End and moved to Canonbury as a teenager.

As he was still not diagnosed with Asperger’s, and wouldn’t be until the age of 29, he struggled socially and couldn’t understand why. After a suicide attempt in his mid 20s, he rekindled his love of games in the hospital, and soon after joined a board game club with people with autism.

Although he was “kicked out” as he was too high-functioning, Barrington had discovered that board games allowed him to interact with people and understand them better. His favourite was strategy game Settlers of Catan.

“Board games serve a purpose,” he told the Gazette. “Computer games are amazing but board games give you social interaction. It is a way of measuring people’s emotions and physical states that is tied to something logical. It helps me understand people better.”

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When it came, Barrington’s diagnosis helped him understand himself better, particularly why he found it so hard to be sociable and make friends. In January his therapist suggested he focus on what he loves, so he created 57 board games in a month and formed Kagai Games.

“I went away and wrote a board game in two hours, complete with rules and everything,” he continued. “I’m hyper-focused but the games people played they enjoyed. They said: ‘Why don’t you help other people?’”

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Barrington’s new game is based on the story of Koi and the Yellow River, inspired by Japanese and Chinese folk tales. It comprises 20 individual stories that can be selected by players at random.

“The aim is to eventually form a travelling group, go round schools, play games with people and show them how much of a tool it is,” he added. “That it has that social involvement and joy without feeling left out.”

He has now launched a crowdfunder to help build his prototype and get his business of the ground. Rewards will be offered in return for donations and Barrington has vowed to give 25 per cent of profits to the National Autistic Society, which has helped him set up the campaign.

To donate, click here. A launch event will also take place tomorrow at Wusi Space, in Broadway Market at 6.30pm.

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