Malaysia is known to be Asia’s cultural melting pot because of the different races and cultures that they have. Diversity is beautiful, but without understanding and acceptance, this can lead to chaos. Trixie Khor Hanlon and Stephen Hanlon, founders of Rojak Culture, created a way to achieve unity in Malaysia in a fun way. They invented a card game, The Lepak Game, that contains all cultures that Malaysia celebrates. The game helps Malaysians to understand and accept their cultural differences, and at the same time, embrace what they have in common as people from the same nation.
Faces of ASEAN SMEs team (F) was able to talk with Trixie and Stephen, here’s their story:
There are a lot of different cultures in Malaysia. Unity is very important, especially in a land full of diveristy. Trixie Khor Hanlon and Stephen Hanlon, founders of Rojak Culture, created a way to achieve unity in Malaysia through a game. They invented a card game called, The Lepak Game, and this helps Malaysians celebrate their diverse culture. "There will be many challenges that will make you want to quit, but always remember your purpose. Learn as much as you possibly can and talk to other people about your ideas."
Posted by Faces Behind ASEAN SMEs on Tuesday, January 14, 2020
F: Why did you start your business?
S: It’s started when we were getting to know each other years ago. Trixie was helping me to understand Malaysia and as she was doing that, she was re-experiencing Malaysia for herself. Malaysia is a multicultural society in ASEAN, this by itself is a unique strength that draws on different races’ quality. Since we are a multicultural couple going through our own ups and downs in an inter-cultural relationship, we wanted to invite multicultural Malaysians along our journey – of accepting and celebrating our diversity. We realize we wanted to do something towards promoting unity. We want to promote friendships between people of different races. We desire to help people value having conversations about multiculturalism and diversity. We wanted to help cultivate cultural curiosity, empathy towards each other, and grow in learning to agree to disagree. Our social enterprise, Rojak Culture, is aimed at uniting Malaysians through play and we desire to pursue a movement of friendship across the races.
F: Why did you choose to develop a card game?
T: We initially thought of the more conventional route – hosting dialogues with multiethnic groups, but we thought this approach may not draw as many people. It may be intimating for many within our culture to speak our minds. It’s also complicated because it would rely very much on thoughtful facilitation. Observing the social media culture, it seems the value of agreeing to disagree and being persuasive in a constructive way is not as highly held as before. So, the solution for us moving forward is to make all these things fun in a non-intimidating way. We realized the solution was to help Malaysian play together and to have conversations that celebrated our inclusive Malaysian identity. Therefore, we developed an easy party game called the Lepak Game.
S: The content of The Lepak Game contains a lot of shared culture and humor, and those elements are taken from different races (Malay, Chinese, and Indian). It’s an opportunity for people to share their culture with others. It’s a good way also to realize what their culture contributes to the Malaysian identity, and at the same time, understand the contributions of other cultures. We believe being physically together is a high value in building friendships. It’s important to sit together and interact face to face.
T: The game is a tool to remind Malaysians that we have so much in common and that our national identity should be celebrated, rather than for it to become the cause of separation. Playing together helps build trust, social reciprocity and it promotes optimism. Our game is so much about persuasiveness and being able to tell a story so other people can see your side. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s about persuading other people to like your answer. We value being playful and playing together to help build relationships. We value building bridges through our commonalities – shared experiences, humor and language. When we sincerely value each other, we can move from tolerance to acceptance.
F: How do you make sure that your context of culture is accurate?
S: Trixie knew about all the differences but as she was helping me understand, I kind of became the outside perspective of the whole situation so I find it easier to distinguish one culture from another.
T: We gathered our friends from different races and asked them about their culture. We got a lot of great feedback. Some people would ask for glossary, but we encourage them to ask their friends or make new friends from another culture to help them understand what those things are.
F: What is the greatest lesson that you learned from Rojak Culture?
S: We are not originally from the board games industry. We got here solely based on our social vision because we believe a game can be a great platform. We’ve learned a lot from other game designers in Malaysia. We only have one product only but we have to learn all the industries around that. We also relied a lot on our friends, many of our friends, neighbors, and family supported us throughout our journey and we are very thankful for them.
T: We also learn to believe in our social vision. There were many challenging moments where we felt like quitting but because we feel called to do what we do, we persevered. Until today we still feel like we’re just at the tip of the iceberg in trying to do our part.
F: What is your advice to those who also want to start their own business?
S: Learn as much as you possibly can and talk to people. One of the things that we did wrong is that we didn’t talk to other people as much as we should have. At first, we were kind of hesitant to share our idea because others might not like it or they might even steal it. But we could have done better if we talk to other people. It might be a little bit risky at times to share our plans, but most of the time, we receive good quality feedback.
T: There will be many challenges that will make you want to quit, but always remember your purpose. Having clarity of your vision will help you to persevere.