The story of the game created by a couple on a quest to bring Malaysians together.
Stephen and Trixie founded Rojak Culture, a social enterprise aimed at uniting Malaysians through play. They developed The Lepak Game, a simple word-matching game designed to celebrate what it means to be Malaysian. Through this game they hope to spark a movement of friendship among multi-ethnic Malaysians by encouraging fun and meaningful conversations.
As an American, Stephen may seem like an unlikely person to develop a game made specifically for Malaysians. His process in understanding Malaysian-ness for himself began nine years ago when he moved to Penang. For expats Malaysia can be a very easy place to live. You don’t need to learn the language or culture to get by. You can even eat at western restaurants any time you want.
Stephen decided though that if he was going to live in Malaysia he wanted to understand what it meant to be Malaysian. “That decision was the beginning of a long process that continues until today,” says Stephen. “The first issue I ran into was that when I looked around I saw three different races; Malay, Chinese, and Indian. I didn’t know which one I was supposed to learn and adapt to.”
Along the way Stephen came to understand that he couldn’t pick and choose. “If I wanted to really understand Malaysian-ness I realized that I had to value each culture and how they contribute to the whole Malaysian identity,” Stephen explains. A couple years into living in Malaysia Stephen met Trixie and they eventually got married. In many ways Trixie became Stephen’s guide to understanding and exploring Malaysia.
Trixie’s experience as a Malaysian is more familiar. With all the issues that Malaysia has been facing in recent years, her pride in her Malaysian identity was fading. It was through the process of helping Stephen to understand and adapt to the various sides of Malaysian culture that she was able to rekindle her love and admiration for her Malaysian-ness. Trixie explains, “It’s so easy to get sucked in to all the negativity, but as I saw Stephen enjoying so much of what it means to be Malaysian I began celebrating my own Malaysian identity all over again.”
Typically we Malaysians feel a great sense of together-ness over our love for food and our support for Malaysian athletes. Rojak Culture believes that there is so much more that unites Malaysians.
Many of the experiences we Malaysians share are so specific to us that no one else will understand. Vegetables usually don’t evoke an emotional response to most people but we Malaysians will never see kangkung the same way again. Our rojak language is the perfect picture of the different races uniquely represented and essential to the whole. No one else can weave together four languages so effortlessly, “Macha you want to tapao or makan?” As Malaysians we naturally know a little bit of
Malay, Chinese and Tamil and sometimes we get confused over whose it is. And of course our one-of- a-kind sense of humour. Being Malaysian can be stressful. With so much in the news that drives us nuts, many of us have become gifted comedians. Malaysians resort to puns, memes and humour to deal with the stress.
During the recent Rio Olympics our dear Dato’ Lee Chong Wei’s initials, DLCW, became “don’t let china win!” all over social media when he played against Lin Dan. Every year during Ramadan we may have either heard or cracked jokes surrounding the seductively whispered “Yusof Taiyoob…..”. It’s this celebration of Malaysian-ness that Stephen and Trixie desire to share with Malaysians through The Lepak Game. The Lepak Game is meant to emphasise various elements that make us Malaysian. The different races contribute such distinct flavours to our Malaysian identity and it’s the sum of them all that makes our Malaysian culture so unique. We owe our collective identity to each other.
The Lepak Game is also made for encouraging conversations. Towards that goal, part of the game- play has players trying bodek the Boss to pick their cards. Because of its highly subjective nature, it becomes a battle of wit making the game fun and hilarious. Through the game we can indulge in constructive arguments and even embrace our kiasu-ness! At the same time Stephen and Trixie hope that meaningful conversations may take place. The game contains Malay, Chinese and Indian words/slang to encourage the different races to play together and hopefully learn from one another.
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