Travel entrepreneur Funmi Oyatogun (EnvSt, Geog’12) lives in Lagos, Nigeria. When COVID-19 put her travel business on hold in early 2020, she created “Fill in the Black,” a card game that focuses on Black histories, places, inventions, stories and cultures to help people stay connected in a casual and insightful way. “The game is relevant for everyone, no matter your race or background, who wants to celebrate Blackness,” she said.
Where did you get all of the information for the game?
I collated a bunch of words that I thought would be relevant using my experience living in Nigeria, the U.S. and the United Kingdom. These words were added to by a contributor, and then we worked with a team of 20-plus people from around the world to flesh out these words and collate the most common terms associated with the words. These common terms became the bases for our ‘forbidden’ or ‘buzz’ words. It was important that our collection was wide enough to celebrate a diversity of Black cultures and deep enough to enable learning.
How does the game work?
The game works very much like our favorite guessing or pantomime games. Divide your group into two parts (any size works) and set a digital timer. One person in each group has to describe the bold word on the card without using any of the forbidden words listed on the same card. It gets very exciting and informative when you're running out of time and trying to describe a word without using any of the first words that typically come to mind.
Can you give an example of what could be on a card?
One of the words that fascinates me is a simple word: visa. Depending on where you come from, your first thought about this word could be a stamp required to travel, or it could be a credit card company. Everyone knows both words, but under the heat and pressure of the game, we start to see how people interact with the world and how our experiences shape the way we tell our stories.
When did the game become available to the public?
The game was launched in Nigeria in August of 2020 and became available in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. in September 2020. It took us four months from conception to the launch in August.
Tell us about your career as a travel entrepreneur.
I started a travel company in 2016 to simplify travel to and across Africa. We wanted to create a service that made travel easy, hassle-free and memorable without costing a fortune. That's how TVP Adventures started and since then, we've become one of the leading companies designing experiences that make African travel a breeze. In many ways, Fill in the Black was an extension of the experiences we design every day. When the pandemic hit, we wanted something that could still keep people engaged and connected with the world.
What else should we know about you?
I'm very keen on helping connect people with the world; it is the geographer in me. When I am not designing travel experiences and games, I curate a micro-documentary series called Show Me One Thing, a weekly newsletter series where curiosity meets learning. You may have wondered what the nationality of a baby born on a plane is, the difference between a copyright and trademark or the difference between the Army and Air Force, for instance. We answer very curious questions about the world.
Buy the game at fillintheblack.myshopify.com.
Interview condensed and edited.
Photos courtesy Funmi Oyatogun