Ex-teacher Seet Shu Yan was trying to find a better way to educate her children on interesting culture and history around the world when she stumbled upon the idea of using tabletop games. She is currently running a Kickstarter for her latest game, Bread Packing. We sat down with her to learn of her inspirations for the game.
Q: Give the readers a short introduction about yourself. What is your role? What is your “origin” story?
My first card game started out as a gift to a family. I drew activities that they liked on blank cards and I added short captions to each card, and the idea was that they could arrange the cards in any way they liked to make a story for their family. That first project led to The Pocket Tale, which is a story-telling card game. I played Pocket Tale with my kids, then ideas for all sorts of other educational games that I would like to play with my kids just started coming, hence the subsequent card games.
Q: What challenges did your company face when it first started? What challenges does your company continue to face now?
My “company” is very much just a mom who designs games for her kids. I design what I would like to play with them or what I would like them to learn about, and the establishment of the “company” is just a way to see if any other families might be interested in these games too. In other words, it’s a small business and I’ll see where it goes!
Q: Let us talk about your products and services. What inspires the ideas behind your games? What made you decide to offer this service?
Before I had kids, I was a teacher and I really enjoyed creating teaching resources. I suppose that transitioned naturally to creating teaching resources for my kids. I am interested in a lot of topics and a lot of things about the world, and so I make these games to introduce my kids to these things – math, the savannah biome, countries and continents, and many more to come!
Q: What is your creation process like?
I pick an idea from the various ones swimming around my head, plan the mechanics and do imaginary play-throughs, work on the illustrations, make test decks and test out the game. After the testing, I will tweak the game again and once I am satisfied with the result, I will plan the card designs and box design. After which, I will then eventually work on the digital file to send for printing. Depending on the complexity of the game, it may take a few months or more than a year.
Q: Breadpacking is a game about bread. That is some quite rare theme not really commonly seen in tabletop games. What inspired the development of this game? Why did you choose to make this type of game?
I love bread! And I love its place in the development of civilisations. Imagine a time in early human history when agriculture was in its early days. Imagine people harvesting their first grains and inventing a way to grind those grains into flour. They added water or fats to make the most basic dough and baked or steamed it to make the first bread. Along the way, they discovered yeast, they made cheese, they had more access to meat, and they started to travel and learn from other ways of making bread. That is why in our current world, there is such a great variety of bread. I wanted to help my kids appreciate the different types of bread that can be found in various countries and to have an interest in world geography and history. This inspired me to start on the development of Breadpacking.
Q: Other than Breadpacking, what are the other games that you have designed? Tell us more about them and what are the educational values you hope to impart with these titles?
"The Pocket Tale" is a story-telling game and it helps with language-learning and developing reasoning skills.
"Savannah Showdown" is a game about food chains and factors that affect survival in the savannah. It's our easiest game and suitable for kids as young as 4.
"Where's My Pizza?" is a fractions game. It's about customers who are asking for different portions of pizza, so you're practising addition in fractions while trying to complete their orders.
However, getting my kids to play games is not all about the mainstream education. What's more important are the soft skills that games impart. For example, the biggest "lesson" my kids are getting from playing tabletop games is learning how to accept losing a game and handling setbacks. It is also important to teach them how to celebrate someone else's win, amongst other things.
Q: Why did you choose to work on the serious or educational role of games rather than the more glamorous entertainment side? What is your opinion on the role of games in education?
I personally find these so-called “educational topics” very entertaining. As mentioned earlier, I was a teacher before I had kids and I really have an interest in creating teaching resources. I believe that games can be great teaching resources because they teach things beyond just the contents of the games itself; in the process of playing, you are developing decision-making skills, communication skills, interpersonal skills, emotion-management skills and more. I don’t think they can or ought to replace pen-and-paper practices, but I think they are a way of balancing out our culture’s fixation on assessment books. Kind of like having a balanced diet. It wouldn’t be good to just keep eating from one food group!
Q: Is the Breadpacking game suitable for young children?
Breadpacking is recommended for ages 10+ because the Challenge cards might have some difficult questions. Younger kids (age 7+) can also play the game if you play it without the Challenge cards. I play it with my 6yo, but with only the easy Challenge cards.
Q. Where can we find out more about your organization and your products?
You can find out more at www.thefunctionofx.com. All the games listed on the website are good to go! Meanwhile you can check out my latest game "Breadpacking" on my Kickstarter. The campaign will end on 10th May 2022!