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Fatima Atie is a partner in the company Hybrid Vigor Studios, which creates mega-games for players to adopt characters and physically interact.

As a self-proclaimed introvert, Fatima Atie has always found her way to communicate with the world through art.

So, when Atie met Cameron Gramarye at a board game event in 2017, it was a perfect match.

Gramarye is a former biology professor turned DHL truck driver, and Atie is originally from Beirut, Lebanon, and came to the United States after her husband got a job in Columbia.

After taking an art class, Atie was introduced to REDI, a non-profit in Columbia that promotes economic growth in Boone County.

REDI — Regional Economic Development Inc. — helps companies find successful business practices. The companies may have millions in revenue, or just ideas but no groundwork.

“That’s the day-in-day-out version, said Jay Sparks, entrepreneurship coordinator for REDI said. “People come in wanting to hang out a shingle, build a better mousetrap and are ready to try to show that off to the world.”

“[REDI] had a game jam, and that’s where I met Cameron,” Atie said. “We made a game, we won third place, and we just kind of hit it off. Like hey, let’s keep doing this.”

Thus, Atie and Gramarye collaborated to develop Hybrid Vigor Studios, a board game creation company in Columbia. The company specializes in mega-games using Atie’s love of art and Gramarye’s knowledge of mechanics.

Mega-games are a combination of of role-playing and board games, using large numbers of players to physically interact with the game. Each time a player competes in the game, the situation changes and a different outcome results.

Mega-games typically run for a few hours and can be an imaginative experience for the players.

The biggest one to date for Atie and Gramarye happened when they traveled to Kansas City for the Midwest Game Fest, a four-day event dedicated to the table-top gaming industry.

“With the mega-games, there are different outcomes,” Atie said. “It was very funny watching them get bad news and panicking, then trying to find a solution.”

Hybrid Vigor Studios is also planning weekend jam events where each participant fulfills a role in the game.

So far, however, the pandemic has reduced the company to a startup idea rather than a fully functioning business, and it has not yet realized any profit. For the time being, Atie and Gramarye are stuck in a loop, trying to make ideas stick and come to life.

“We don’t really want to just sit and sell,” Fatima Atie said. “We actually want to keep going with the mega games, and maybe have an online website to order the board games.”

It is the beauty of the mega-game to have players, regardless of background, explore a different side of humanity. In many ways, the experience of having to collaborate with people you might not be around in everyday life can be a lesson in humility and teamwork.

“People from all kinds of places can participate,” Atie said. “Anyone can participate as long as you can be in character. That’s all it takes.”

  • Elyssa Gerstel is a political journalism student minoring in criminology. You can email her at egerstel@umsystem.edu.

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