About this project
Kickstarter is over but you can still get info and BUY a game set from the Pijin website!
GeekDad: "[Pijin]’s not strictly a word game, but also a social experience...seems perfect for exploring language and sounds while playing a game."
HowLouSeesIt: "I think this looks like a really fun game and one where my bad spelling wouldn't hinder me one bit!"
NoobSource: "I've never really fancied myself a word-nerd. Crossword puzzles, Scrabble, and even Word on the Street were always tough for me...[but Pijin] aims to change my point-of-view!"
WHAT IS PIJIN?
Pijin is a unique new word game of spelling with phonemes. Players spell what they hear and only what they hear in pronunciation. "Pigeon" is spelled /pijin/, "words" becomes /wurdz/, "spelling" is /speleng/, and so on. (There are more examples below, or check out the preview of the Player's Manual here). Words spelled phonetically look a little strange, but that's part of the fun as players explore and tinker with the sounds of language!
When playing Pijin, the familiar restrictive world of proper spelling and pronunciation opens out into a vast playing field of linguistic possibilities. That's not to say that Pijin encourages improper spelling (there's more on this in the FAQs below) -- rather, it focuses attention on sounds and players therefore develop a better understanding of speech and spelling conventions while creating words with phonemes, and no dictionary, no vocabulary list, nor any special expertise is required. Being a native speaker in any language is all you need. Bring to the table what you've heard and what you say, and then get ready to talk about it as you play!
Pijin is for two or more players, 8 years and up, and it takes between 20-60 minutes, depending on which module of Pijin is being played. The basic rules are a cinch to learn, but playing remains challenging and fun as you master the game. As in Bananagrams, Scrabble and Words with Friends, you spell words competitively to gather as many points as possible. As in Apples to Apples, Scattergories and Anomia, the evaluation of gameplay is up to the players in the game.
HOW DO YOU PLAY?
Pijin was designed to be modular and expandable. We've got one expansion that ships with the game and plans for more are underway!
The basic game is Pijin Grid. No board is needed, and it works like this:
(1) Each player takes 10 tiles from the GrabBag without looking.
(2) What remains of the 144 double-sided tiles are spread nearby where all players can see and reach. This is the Pijin Pool.
(3) Players take turns placing tiles to "spell" phonetically in an interconnected or intersecting crossword-style grid of words. Careful: words are spelled in Pijin as they sound, not as they appear in the dictionary! A point is scored for each tile in each word spelled, and score is kept as the game goes along.
(4) Any played word may be contested by other players, and the word's playability must be assessed by all players. Get ready: this is where lively discussion about regional or idiomatic pronunciations may arise! If there's consensus that the word fails to accurately "spell" the sound of the spoken word, then it is removed and the player who played it cannot replace it or play again that round.
(5) Each tile played is replaced by a tile from the Pijin Pool so that players always have 10 tiles to play. Players may strategically select tiles from the Pijin Pool so long as they are not selecting or switching tiles during their turn. (This rule can be modified to accommodate beginners or more advanced players).
(6) Players continue to play in order until no more tiles can played. The player with the highest score wins!
The Pijin Game Set includes 52 "Action Cards" for an altogether different tabletop game experience - the first of our expansion MODULE PACKS -called Pijin Sprint. It's faster paced than Pijin Grid, and it makes a fantastic party game, adaptable and easy to start or stop after each Round. Players race to phonetically spell words responding to a drawn card as follows:
(1) Each player draws 10 tiles without looking, and the rest of the tiles are placed into the Pijin Pool.
(2) The first Round begins when an Action Card is flipped over. Action Cards can have descriptive words or images. The drawn card sets the topic or thematic range for the Round.
(4) Players race to complete ten words of any length that relate in some manner to the drawn Action Card. Once any player reaches ten words the other players must stop and the round is over. Players may choose to go fast and choose to spell short words rapidly, or may go slow, spelling longer and higher scoring words -- it's up to you, but choose your strategy carefully, as soon as any player completes their tenth word all tile placement stops and that Round is over!
(5) Players may spell their ten words in single rows, or create one or more grid patterns of intersecting words. In a grid, each word played is a continuous row or column of tiles, but extra combinations of intersecting words may be formed alongside the word played. Those extra intersecting words are not counted as part of the Round's 10 words, and therefore do not have to relate to the Action Card topic. The points of those extra combinations, however, do count so long as the spellings are agreed to be valid.
(6) Scores are totaled at the end of the Round. The player with the most points wins!
WHAT EXACTLY IS INCLUDED IN THE PIJIN GAME SET?
- 144 double-sided phoneme tiles
- 52 Action Cards
- 1 GrabBag
- 6 Player's Mats (AKA, Cheat Sheets!)
- Player's Manual (see here for a sample preview)
>>>NEW $10 ADD-ON!! 52 Card Deck of IPA Symbols<<<
WHO IS PIJIN FOR?
Pijin makes a lively, thought provoking game for parties of 6 or fewer, and with more tiles, more players can easily be included (we've play tested a set of 196 tiles for 8+ people). Pijin's consensus-based system of deciding which played words are valid means a fun, crucial part of gameplay is players' conversation about language and sounds. It sparks all kinds of discussion and wide-ranging observations, and makes Pijin an excellent party game. It's a learning experience in the best sense that assumes the experiences and insights of each player are important. Pijin over drinks? - apertivo, ah, perfecto! How about Pijin after dinner? - absolutely, dessert for thought!
Some word games can turn into a competitive didactic slog through official lists of exotic words (memorized all those unusual two-letter words? how many playable words start with q?... meh...), but that doesn't happen with Pijin. Pijin players learn from each other, stretch each other's horizons as they play, and it encourages collaborative effort, even as players compete to make high-scoring words.
In Pijin, no player and no outside reference source are held more authoritatively than the consensus opinion of the entire table. If an outside source is consulted, then players must reach an agreement about its legitimacy and pertinence to the game at hand. This makes Pijin an excellent game for every native speaker of any language who likes to think and talk about their experience with the spoken word.
Pijin is brilliant in the classroom -- kids love playing Pijin! We've been playing with friends and family ages 9 to 90, and its amazing how quickly kids catch on to playing with phonemes. Pijin's focus on words and it's "roundtable" equalization of all players make it an excellent teaching tool in many language classrooms. Speech therapists, ESL instructors, and English teachers will appreciate the self-directed fun that this game generates, as students learn constructively by playing collaboratively and talking about each play as they go. Other specialists and educators will find it a fun, unique and useful "gamification intervention" for deep learning and educational objectives that go beyond simple skill building or test results. Game on!
WHEN WILL IT SHIP?
We will send the PDF of the game to backers upon the completion of the Kickstarter campaign. We are already working with manufacturers to get the best quality wooden tiles available so that we will be ready to place the production order as soon as the Kickstarter has concluded. We have been told to expect a six-week timeframe for production order fulfillment, so that means within ten weeks of the completed Kickstarter campaign we should have the tiles completed and ready to ship. The grab bags are on a similar schedule. The printed materials will be easier to fulfill (player's mats and action cards) and they will take less than four weeks. We plan to be shipping game sets in June.
WHY DO THIS ON KICKSTARTER?
I’ve had two other projects on Kickstarter, and both introduced me to large communities of like-minded, supportive, amazing people from all over the world, and I honestly wouldn’t want to do this in any other way. I want to put this project out there, I want people to play the game with their friends, at game nights, in classrooms and wherever else, and I am eager for more feedback. Also, to do this right and to get the best materials for producing the game set, we need to order at least 1,000 units for the production run, so I’ve created the PDF Game reward as a way of distributing the game without needing extra money for production or shipping. I've set the goal at $15,000 to make the minimum first orders — that will cover the costs of materials (80%), shipping and handling (10%) and transaction fees (10%) — but we’d like to raise enough to do more than the minimum, and we've got expansion sets in mind that will improve the range of playing modes of the game if we find enough support.
WHY DID YOU MAKE THIS?
The child has a hundred languages/ a hundred hands a hundred thoughts/ a hundred ways of thinking of playing, of speaking./ A hundred always a hundred ways of listening/ of marveling, of loving/ a hundred joys/ for singing and understanding/ a hundred worlds/ to discover/ a hundred worlds/ to invent/ a hundred worlds/ to dream. -L. Malaguzzi (trans., Lella Gandini)
We learn language by hearing it, sharing it, by passing it back and forth, modifying as we go, and adding things along the way. Pijin was made to be a word game that embodied that. While the ever-changing, ever-moving spirit of language has vexed grammarians and baffled philosophers since the arrival of the Greek alphabet in 775 BCE, practically every native speaker who learns to read and write readily experiences first-hand the great gulf between the written word and spoken word. This profound philosophical problem is recapitulated in nearly every child's development.
As children acquire language, learn, and gather up their vivid sensations of life into pliant, overflowing expressions, they demonstrate incredible powers of language invention and imagination. And yet, this too soon gets tangled up and children find their creativity drying up -- so although it really ought to be expanding along with their language skills, vocabulary and overall cultural mastery, it contracts, shrinks, and withers away and all but disappears for many by the time they reach adulthood. I'm thinking of Reggio schools' founder, Loris Malaguzzi's famous poem, "The Hundred Languages" which puts the matter starkly, if honestly, in terms of our faulty institutions of learning: "The school and the culture separate the head from the body. They tell the child: to think without hands to do without head to listen and not to speak...and of the [child's] hundred [languages] they steal ninety-nine."
My point is that the distance between the written word and the spoken word grows as we get older. But there are schools of thought that have developed in the last thirty years which underscore the importance of language's physicality, tying together the pronunciation of words and the action of speaking or making gestures in our experience of symbols and meaning making. I made Pijin to be a leisurely pursuit of getting back into that more physical experience of language.
Also, it's utterly gratifying - at times even hilarious - to have a game in which you set out let go of “proper spelling” and invoke everyday idioms and pronunciations that aren't necessarily your own. That we all take pleasure in that is obvious in everyday tweeting, chatting, texting, messaging, and emails where abbreviations, acronyms, emojis, and a quick mix of languages and inflections are picked up, absorbed or made up on the fly. At their best, these quick alterations and additions to language expand and enliven communication - they give to written language the sort of rapid mutability that is common in the spoken word. I wanted Pijin to be flexible enough to handle some of those internet-influenced realities seen in contemporary written language practices.
As for the word games that exist already, what does it mean that our most popular word games rely upon reference to "official" written lists of words? Can a game designed with an authoritative list at its core ever hope to catch up with or engage our actual lived experience of speech?
I feel like it can't, and so I felt there was something missing in several of the word games I love playing. I wanted to solve two problems: (1) players who memorize "trick" words in spelling games, for instance, two-letter words, words that start with "q," and others that never occur in daily speech. (2) The ban on idiomatic expressions, improvised sayings, slang, dialects, pidgins, patois and creole, regional accents, sci-fi and fantasy made-up languages. Also, I wanted to have a word game that moved faster and that could be played in shorter periods of time. So I started working on Pijin!
HAVE YOU PROTOTYPED THIS?
OH YES we have! -- we've gone through lots of iterations, different game mechanics and designs, and played a TON of trial games this past year. Here are some photos:
I couldn't have gotten Pijin this far without a spectacular group of friends, fellow gamers, teachers, autodidacts, savvy world travelers, speech therapists, and years of playing games with students and inspired kids. Here are a few that deserve special mention: Androooooo Meyers, Simon "Krimptork" Yuen, Mia Butzbaugh, Frank & Lucretia, Dawn Salgado, Andy White, Alissa Ball, Steve, Lara, Cat Poole, Sahrene Feldman-Buckwalter, Abigail Buckwalter, Alan Buckwalter, Dan Feldman, Jill Grotzinger. Also, special thanks to all my students who've shown me what we could do with games in the classroom, inventing their own games and playing the games of classmates. Thank you to you, too, for reading this and taking the time to check out Pijin!
MORE DETAILS, BACKGROUND AND GEEKERY
Risks and challenges
The game design has gone through nearly a full year of play testing and prototype iterations. At this point, the risks and challenges before our project are those inherent to production and manufacturing itself. The Pijin game set is made of pieces and materials that are readily available and close to designs already in production. That means explaining our needs to suppliers, factories and manufacturers is uncomplicated by problems that arise with unfamiliar designs and technologies. Also, as an experienced maker and designer I am experienced with the risks and challenges that arise in moving from an idea to a manufactured product. I lived in Shenzhen in early 2013, participating in HAXLR8R Hardware Accelerator, and while there I made contacts with many factories, contract manufacturers, suppliers, entrepreneurs and makers from around the world, all of whom shared insights and solutions to problems that can arise when bringing a new product to market. That experience and my success with two other Kickstarter projects makes me confident that we'll be able to ship Pijin game sets as specified and on time. I know how important it is to communicate with backers and share what's going on during the project's evolution, so if any unanticipated setbacks should happen along the way, I will let everyone know immediately.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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