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Interview with the Inventor of Tradewala, the Fast-Paced Game of Social Satire

If you’ve ever played a board or card game – and I pray that you have – you’ve probably thought to yourself “I bet I could come up with something better than this.” But you don’t, do you?? If you’re Rita Schultz, inventor of the new, fast-paced social satire card game Tradewala, you sure as hell do! I had some questions for Rita about Tradewala, and she was kind enough to answer them.

Amateur Idiot/Professional Dad: Let’s start with the question I have to ask, how did you come up with the idea for Tradewala?

Rita: My husband and I were celebrating the holidays with my family and found ourselves in need of some excitement, so we decided to play a game called Pit. As we played, we all brainstormed different rules, themes and ideas. We found that the 113 year old game is fun but we can make a different game and have it be more relevant in our world today. Games are one of the best methods to unite people, whether it be family, friends, or even strangers. I wanted to create a game that would do that quickly and be really engaging for the players. A fast-paced trading game was the answer. At the same time, I wanted the game to have a bigger impact. It organically creates a positive and friendly environment to discuss important social topics.
I started by creating a list of themes for Tradewala and really liked the idea of folding social topics into this really fun game. I tested that idea, along with other themes, across several focus groups. I found that social issues engaged, excited, and sparked interesting conversation among players. The topics presented like politics, the environment, and gender inequality are relatable to players on a global level and impact their lives everyday.
AIPD: I did my research (BOOM!) and Googled “wala,” so I know it means “pertaining to or connected with,” but what is the significance to you? I guess what I’m asking is: why “Tradewala”? How did you come up with the name
Rita: The name Tradewala stems from the word “wala,” meaning an expert in their area of skill. Since trading is an integral part of the game, the winner is crowned the Tradewala.
AIPD: Yup, that checks out. So, what would you say is the perfect round of the game? What happens that’s not on the cards? What conversations happen?
Rita: People really get into the game and they get energetic. Some of the soundbites we’ve gotten from players are the game was such a stress reliever, even their friends that hate games loved it. And who doesn’t love satire and shouting at their friends and family? Specific to the theme on the cards, when someone wins with Education, for example, it sparked someone to mention their student loan debt and another player shared how they refinanced their student loans. When someone won with health, they shared a story of how they lost 40 lbs. When the politics card comes up…as you can imagine a variety of topics usually are discussed from a local to global level. People are energetic and share these stories after each round. It causes people to always end up learning something new, sharing a viewpoint or understanding a viewpoint better, or having a good laugh at a funny story.

AIPD: Clearly, this game is intended to go beyond just the deck of cards (and bell) in the box. Other than people laughing and having fun, what are you hoping the game elicits?

Rita: Besides laughter and fun, I’m hoping the game unites people. In doing so, I hope the game elevates the conversation and awareness around these important social topics.
AIPD: Have you always had an interest in politics and social issues?
Rita: Generally, I’ve always tried to stay knowledgable and aware of important social topics. I also like to travel and seeing various parts of the world has allowed me to broaden my perspective and gain interest in how others live their lives.
AIPD: In the game’s press release, it notes that you are a first generation Indian American. How has that affected your approach to “taboo” subjects, the things you’re not supposed to discuss at parties?
Rita: My mother was pretty open with me and encouraged me to always talk about things even if they’re difficult. On the flip side, I also experienced the Indian cultural tendency to not discuss the “taboo” topics or at least not discuss them too openly. I think a critical part of opening a dialogue about these important topics is the approach to opening that channel. It doesn’t have to come from a place of aggression or judgement.
AIPD: People “talk” about politics all the time these days on social media. But we’re usually either preaching to the choir or trying to shout over someone who disagrees with us, proving we’re right. I get the sense that you think there’s a better way. Teach me the way! How can we break through these barriers? How is your game designed to help?
Rita: Tradewala raises dominant social issues like the environment, politics, and gender inequality but in a fun setting. It’s important to share how we or people we know are affected by what happens in our world to foster ideas for positive change. Tradewala gives us an approachable platform to do that face-to-face and out from behind screens. Folding these social issues into a game was risky in that we didn’t know how it would be received. We tested it across different groups to ensure we got the reaction we were looking for. I also wanted the game to be fun and elevate positive emotions. To that end we added a dollop of humor in the satirical illustrations of social issues on each card to make them more inviting to talk about.
AIPD: A portion of your profits go to an organization called Bookwallah. Can you tell me a little about Bookwallah and why it’s important to you?
Rita: I first heard about Bookwallah from the founder at a friend’s charity social. I loved the idea, what they were trying to do, and how they were going about it. Bookwallah is a non-profit organization that creates libraries around the world to bring the magic of storybooks to orphans and children of trauma so that their sense of imagination, possibility, and hope can come to life. The circumstances for these children are not good, to say the least. I loved the idea of bringing joy, hope, and a sense of safety to their lives through storybooks and colorful libraries.
AIPD: What does the future hold for Tradewala? How is this game going to take over the world??
Rita: I want to continue to create relevant games and that will come to fruition through our future products.  Part of being relevant is allowing the game to be leveraged in multiple ways. We targeted playing Tradewala in people’s homes, breweries, bars, and hotels. Interestingly, we also have companies looking to use Tradewala as a team building and/or networking tool and teachers using Tradewala as a fun educational tool.
Tradewala is currently sold on Amazon (with Prime shipping) and in the following retail stores: Dice DojoGamers World, Omega Station and Games Plus, as well as on the Tradewala website. Tradewala will be exhibiting this year at the NYC Toy Fair.
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