Author’s blurb: Because I’m primarily an English speaker, classes that were conducted in Mandarin and Malay back in my schooling years were dreadful. My difficulty in understanding them coupled with a lack of interest and practice were some of the reasons I now struggle to converse in these languages as an adult.
On the flip side, as a corporate trainer, Firdaus recognised the incompetency most Malaysians had in the English language.
He wondered why most Malaysian school children weren’t using English on the daily and identified a few observations:
- They weren’t reading enough, resulting in poor vocabulary,
- They had no reason to, as English wasn’t spoken at home.
Marrying these observations and a passion for board games, he created one that encourages its players to pick up a dictionary.
Firdaus told Vulcan Post, “My design objective for the game was to create one where kids can play with their families at home, so that even parents wouldn’t be embarrassed if they lost either.”
If Scrabble & Uno Had A Baby…
That would be the WordBreaker Spelling Card Game (WordBreaker).
In WordBreaker, each card displays letters tied to points, like scrabble. Players will use them to build words. The longer the words, the higher the points.
But be warned, other players can steal cards from your word to build a longer one. This sabotage mechanic helps increase engagement levels, according to Firdaus.
“What do I mean by this? Remember the feeling when you almost win in Uno, and then a friend throws you a Draw 4 card? Exactly,” he explained.
“There are also power cards that allow you to do crazy and fun things that most word tile games don’t.”
Additionally, instead of taking letter tiles blindly from a bag, players have something called a Spell Field. These are 9 cards placed faced-up in the middle of the table for all to see and pick from.
Choose wisely, as the cards you pick will determine how many points you gain during your turn. Fortunately, this game allows and promotes referring to the dictionary.
Meant to prioritise fun over education, it’s converse to most educational games out there that focus on education first. Firdaus shared that he’s choosing this method to commend social interactions, something he found was lacking in an app.
Citing the resurgence of board game cafes, he’s confident that there is a market demand for WordBreaker, especially in the educational sphere.
He thought, “WordBreaker is not about improving grades but creating interest. If your child is interested in learning, would it improve their grades?”
Teaching Through Games
Even in his training, Firdaus would apply similar principles that made board games both engaging and educational for participants.
He joked that participants who’ve joined his training have no choice but to engage in his mischief. After the game ends, he’d engage them in a postmortem, allowing participants to reflect and share their learnings.
This method is known as andragogic learning, where instructions for adults need to focus more on the process and less on the content being taught.
Learning from each other is more impactful than me giving a very dry lecture. I am not the smartest in the room like a teacher, I merely facilitate valuable learning from the most knowledgeable people in the room. This makes the lesson learnt more authentic and receptive to the participants.Firdaus, creator of WordBreaker Spelling Card Game.
He’s hoping this method carries across the target market of children aged between 10 to 18 and their caretakers, whether parents or teachers.
Since starting this venture, he’s sold 200 prototype units to parents and teachers passionate in English. However, one may argue that to sell more units, he should go through distributors, agents, or bookstores, etc.
“Which I have tried,” he responded. “My learning from the attempt is that I need a product line to leverage on a distribution channel. One product is not enough. And that is assuming my product is good enough to be marketed anyway,” Firdaus said.
Meaning, before he goes through distributors, he would have to first create different versions for each subject like math, science, history, etc. for a full product line.
As this isn’t his full-time job, he admitted that it would take him a long time to design more games under the brand. Up to 2 years even, which was the duration he used to create WordBreaker.
For now, he’ll continue improving WordBreaker’s game mechanics and product packaging.
Bottom line: Of course, targeting a market of non-English speakers can be a great start to sell the game. However, I think the next market to capture are English speakers who want to expand their vocabulary in a competitive setting. It would be a great way to further develop one’s command of the language.
- You can learn more about WordBreaker Spelling Card Game here.
- You can read about other startups we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Firdaus, creator of WordBreaker Spelling Card Game