BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA- Monopoly is a legendary game, both in popularity and in longevity. But Niska-Game is giving it a run for its money — pun intended.
“This has been going on for at least thirty years now,” said Linda Sciocchetti, a volunteer with Niskayuna Community Action Program, which organizes Niska-Game.
For one weekend in the fall, the Game transforms the cafeteria at one of the two Niskayuna middle schools into a life-size Monopoly board.
Each property is sponsored by a local business, the ‘jail’ is a trash can, there is a makeshift bank where players can exchange Niska-Game money and there are two giant dice that players take turns rolling in the center of the board.
Starting in October, students create teams of anywhere from three to ten students each. Then, each team strives to fundraise for the Game, usually asking local businesses and family members for donations.
For every $1 the teams raised, they received $5 in Niska-Game money.
“It’s usually the team that brings in the most donations that wins,” said Sharon Wohl, a volunteer with N-CAP.
This was true for the 16 teams that played on November 4 and 5.
Altogether they raised around $5,000. This will go towards N-CAPs community and school programs, such as Niska Day.
While students say they felt good about raising the money, when it came time for the start of the game, it was all about strategy.
Matthew Jost, one student on team “Hungry, Hungry Hippos,” was one of the game’s most enthusiastic players on Friday, November 4.
He cited his competitiveness to his experiences playing the game with his brother.
“Our games our a little different from how other people play. We focus on business and strategy,” Jost said.
Thus, when it came time for his team to take a turn and roll the die, he was the team’s chief strategist.
This left Lauren Gabriele, a high school volunteer and the team’s coach, with the sole take of keeping track of the team’s money.
“I did this when I was in middle school and I loved it. I volunteer every year to be a coach and I love it,” Gabriele said.
Once the teams had made it around the life size board once, new ‘challenges’ are added.
“Sometimes they have the option to do a skit or sing a song together. They get extra points for doing that,” Wohl said.
This is where the judges really come into play. The Niska-Game judges for this year were Town Supervisor Joe Landry, Iroquois Middle School Principal Victoria Wyld, a middle school teacher Jacquie Giaconne and Deputy Chief Mike Stevens.
It’s the judge’s’ job to ensure that the rules of the game are followed and to judge the various skits and songs that the players perform.
“This is the first year I’ve seen where every team has a team name and a theme,” Wohl said.
Each of the 16 teams that competed, had a costume or had some sort of team cheer.
“I think that really helps to build team spirit and get them more into it,” Wohl said.
While the games lasted about three hours each evening, some parents of the players stayed to watch and cheer the teams on.
“They should have this for adults too,” one parent commented.
It’s something that N-CAP has thought about before, according to Wohl. But for now, Niska-Game is all about the kids.