Thursday, March 13, 2014

You Say Pigeon, I Say Pijin

Featured Kickstarter Interview

Interview with Game Designer Travis Feldman

Travis, thanks for doing this interview. And thanks for creating a word game where I don't need to know how something is properly spelled (never one of my strong points). Pijin is currently 100% funded on Kickstarter!

Q- Tell us a little about your background Travis and what lead you to create Pijin?

Awesome, thanks for talking with me, Landon!  I have a PhD in Comparative Literature and have been teaching English since 1999.  I've been making games and electronics projects on my own since I was a kid, and in 2012, during a slump in the academic job market, I decided to try a Kickstarter campaign for a musical instrument that I invented, and I launched Molecule Synth in September 2012.  

Since then I've been teaching workshops on interactive electronics and DIY electronic musical instruments all over the place.  This past summer I put together a DIY electronic music festival in Portland, OR, where I live — I called it the Battery Powered Orchestra Workshop, BPOW!! It brought all kinds of creative people together for a full weekend of building, hacking, coding, circuit-bending, and performing.  That weekend got me thinking about what I was doing with workshops, and the connection between experiencing a (musical) performance and learning in a classroom. Most importantly I had a direct experience with the way that these things relate to playing games, especially tabletop games.  With board or tabletop games there’s an inimitably social environment that gets created when the game is really buzzing along — everyone's talking and sharing ideas in the moment, keeping track of the game’s progress, and yet, everyone’s also doing their own thing.  We had more game nights in the weeks that followed, and although I have other projects going at the moment, I felt like it was time to work a bit more on my own games.  I had been working on Pijin in various forms for about a year already at that point, and so I got more serious about it’s design, and got it into shape within a couple months, and….started forcing all my friends to play it, of course!  

Q- Do you really like Pigeons? Why the title?

The title is from the word “pidgin” - a pidgin is a spoken language that often takes shape in places like port cities where people meet and do business and have to get things done, but don’t speak each other’s languages.  I like the association with birds, too - the bird sort of brings to mind the ancient phrases like “winged words” and the images of messengers or message-bearers in myths and stories.  It’s sort of evocative of a bunch of things at once, so I just went with it!

Q- What is your dream job?

My dream job is being an inventor.  I want to create cool, inspiring stuff that improves some portion of everyone’s experience, and I see that as an artistic as well as a scientific exercise.  I am kind of doing that these days, but not really making enough money to call it a “job”… it’s more “dream” and less “job” at this point -haha.

Q- What is your favorite word game besides Pijin?

Anomia is brilliant for its mix of pattern recognition and word association, but I love the speed and open-endedness of Apples-to-Apples/CardsAgainstHumanity (I see those as twins joined at the head).  
Q- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Indonesia would be pretty amazing.  There’s incredible language diversity there, fading fast as modern technology spreads across traditional cultures, and its got incredible bugs, crazy landscapes, great food, and all kinds of wild stuff happening in the music and performance cultures.  

Q- Hungarian is a pretty cool language as it is almost a perfectly phonetic language. Do you speak any other languages? What language would you like to learn?

That’s really funny about Hungarian, i hadn’t thought of it that way.  I speak a little German and read Spanish and French. I studied Ancient Greek and Latin in grad school.  I’d like to learn Japanese… I’m eager to check out the recently Kickstarted card game for that!

Q- What would be your favorite word? Favorite letter?

Favorite word: Nostalgia.  “the pain [algos] you feel for home [nostos].”
Letter: I like Z, zed.  

Q- Can you name the famous Sesame Street character who has a pet pigeon? (Bonus points for the name of the pigeon.)

Haha - oh man, I love Sesame Street, and we had great fun putting an Electric Co piece in the Kickstarter video, but….nope, don’t know which character that is.  

For anyone curious - and the pigeon's name is Bernice
Q- I think this looks like a really fun game and one where my bad spelling wouldn't hinder me one bit! Tell the world why you think they should back Pijin and let us know anything else we should know.

Well, first of all, it is a super fun game - you’re gonna love it!  The world should back the project because what we plan to bring into existence is a new experience of language and an empowering way of viewing speech.  It’s game that could find itself being the center of a loud party (we’ve had several of those!), or it might be the center of lessons in an ESL classroom that has students moving between several languages, or a fourth grade class that’s working on reading…  The future of the project will include customizable boards, expansion card sets, and an ever-growing number of possibilities for gameplay — backing the Kickstarter is simply the best way to be a part of that, to participate in deciding how the game will look and feel, and for staying up to date as we grow the project.  

Thank you for the questions and for taking the time to meet with me — if anyone has any questions at all, please send me a message through our Kickstarter, since that’s where my attention is focused for the next few days :)   THANKS!!

Thanks Travis for sharing with us how you see things! If you are interested in backing Pijin, head on over to its Kickstarter page to find out more.

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