When Jennifer Guo (BA ’10) and her husband Adam Szakacs were expecting their first daughter, they thought of ways their child could connect with her Chinese and Jewish heritage in a personal way.
“At the time, our family was living in Canada, and we were living in New York, so we were thinking about how difficult it would be for her to see her family regularly,” Guo said. “We wanted a way to keep the memory alive of family members and the experiences that we had growing up.”
Guo recalled how, despite a language barrier, her grandmother was able to connect with Szakacs’s grandmother through their shared love of mahjong, a traditional game she had played as a child with her grandmother.
Reimagining a multi-generational game
So, Guo and Szakacs created Not Your Ma’s Jong – a devolved card version of mahjong – to connect their children with their heritage and celebrate their grandmothers’ shared love of the game.
Mahjong is a traditional, 144-tile game with different versions played globally that can take days. People can be substituted into the game so the first players can rest before coming back to play.
Not Your Ma’s Jong is a fast-paced party game in which players race to collect card sets and take their opponents’ tokens. From the colour of the cards to the food and activities illustrated, Guo incorporated Chinese and Jewish emblems in a respectful way that either resonate with card players or introduce them to two different cultures.
Today, Not Your Ma’s Jong is an international card game translated into different languages that is played around the world. Guo decided to have Hasbro license the game because the company kept it almost exactly like their original concept. “Their ambition was to really spread this message of being proud of who you are and your heritage and to celebrate different cultures.”
Building relationships within a community
Guo hopes the game can help connect people around the world and educate those who may not know any Jewish or Chinese people to give players, “a little glimpse of someone else’s life, upbringing and cultural experience — that is really humbling to know that could be a possibility.”
Guo also dreams of finally visiting her family again in China so she can play Not Your Ma’s Jong with the people who inspired the game.