Back in the day, Sega’s reputation as the king of arcade games was sealed by a certain little drive-em-up called Crazy Taxi. Despite the fact that it was based on hell-for-leather fare searching that ignored most of the rules of the road, there was never a Crazy Taxi South Africa Edition, which would no doubt have sold quite quite well.
There is, however, a boardgame in the works which somewhat rights this despicable wrong. Tsitsi Chiumya’s After Robot is a prototype dice rolling game which puts players in the role of a taxi boss, trying to establish themselves on routes throughout Gauteng against up to three other players with the same mission.
Chiumya’s game uses a whopping seven dice – because that’s the number of dice rolled in street corner betting games – which move players from Alberton and Tembisa to Krugersdorp and Soweto. Taxis are distinguished by a hand signal printed in the door, which is colour matched to a destination. As you successfully move a taxi to its mark, picking up customers on the way, you claim routes and gradually take over the board.
Taxis and routs are a difficult topic at the moment, after a tragic outburst of violence last week over real-world routes, but Chiumya says that the game has an ulterior motive in that it should educate people who don’t travel by taxi – nearly two thirds of all trips on public transport are made by taxi in Gauteng – about how the system works. There’s no value judgements – you don’t get bonus points for not running reds – but Chiumya has spent a lot of time talking to drivers and trying to figure out why things are the way they are. And through understanding, he says there’s the potential to come up with realistic solutions.
A prototype of the game has been shown off at A MAZE and rAge in Joburg, and Chiumya is still looking for a local distributor to take After Robot on, but if it’s successful he says he wants to add boards for Durban, Cape Town and other cities in Africa where, like them or loathe them, the minibus taxi is an integral part of every day life.