“COVID fatigue” may be real, but one Wilton business has created a way to bring some levity to this angst-ridden era, while also stimulating constructive conversation about some important or overlooked aspects of the pandemic.
Wilton resident Shahan Islam, pictured at left, is the founder of CategoryTen, LLC, and creator of the new board game, Covidopoly19.
Islam tells GMW he has lived in Wilton with his family for about four years, and is also employed by Pfizer as a corporate lawyer. Prior to his role at Pfizer, he was in private practice in New York City.
A statement on the CategoryTen website explains the inspiration for the game:
“It has become apparent that the more that people know about the pandemic, i.e., how the virus is spread, what is good social behavior, etc., the more lives that will be saved. During the pandemic, families and groups were ordered to stay home… The need for greater numbers of in-home activities have also grown. It would be advantageous if such activities included an educational component, particularly relating to the pandemic. That is the climate in which Covidopoly19 was born.”
With the tagline “Staying Safer During the Pandemic,” the game aims to educate as well as entertain. Islam told GMW, “I don’t think there are any other games out there that encourage conversation about COVID” in such a constructive way. He also notes the game does not dwell on morbid aspects of the disease but encourages fact-based discussion and positive behavior.
The format of Covidopoly19 will be familiar to anyone who has played Monopoly® (a Hasbro game), but the content is tailored for COVID. Instead of railroads, for example, there are leading hospitals of the world; instead of “Chance” or “Community Chest” cards, there are “Ventilator” and “Mask” cards which include facts about the coronavirus and pandemic, with accompanying rewards or penalties.
Islam uses the Navajo nation as one example of how the game serves to educate players about places hard hit by the pandemic. The Navajo Nation has been “absolutely decimated” by the pandemic, says Islam, and “it’s so sad.” He believes the game can help families discuss some of these lesser-known facts about the pandemic.
The company is somewhat of a family affair. Islam’s cousin, Javed Siddique, serves as an advisor, with particular expertise in digital marketing. Kari Eisenberg, a member of Islam’s blended family, is acting as chief operating officer.
Eisenberg takes pride in the deliberate choice to feature female leaders, such as Angela Merkel and Kamala Harris, in the game. Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, is also included as one of the game pieces.
In a press release, Eisenberg said Ardern was chosen because “[she] is an outstanding role model for women and everyone” and for her “exceptional leadership during this pandemic” which included some of the most aggressive steps to prevent the spread of the virus of any country in the world.
“While the game pieces of Covidopoly19 provide a snapshot of history, we take particular pride in the accomplishments of these women,” said Eisenberg. She went on to say that “as history unfolds before our eyes, we will definitely consider adding or removing game pieces as history dictates.”
The CategoryTen team also includes former Wilton resident Sarah Elizabeth Nugent as director of marketing.
The game hit the marketplace in October, and Islam says reaction has been “all positive”. For now, the game is available exclusively online but some retail stores may be added soon. The game is for 2-6 players and is recommended for ages 8+.
CategoryTen sells more than just the board game. Among other things, the product array includes masks (one pays homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and hand sanitizer, which serve to reinforce the “save the world” message often referenced in the company’s marketing.
Coming soon is a 1,000-piece puzzle (shown on the photo below) as an extension of the Covidopoly19 brand which urges “Let’s Talk About Covid”.
Islam says the company intends to donate a portion of the sales to Helping Hands Outreach, a program with which he became familiar through other members of his church.
CategoryTen’s Wilton headquarters are at 26 Cannon Road in Cannondale Village. They plan to announce select dates when merchandise will be available for pickup at the office, so that customers can avoid shipping orders.