Published: 16th November 2018
How this Bengalurean's college project led her to create India's first visual and verbal storytelling board game
This design specialist from Bengaluru has introduced India's first visual and verbal storytelling board game and she plans to make it affordable for children from rural areas too
Just imagine if you could play a board game that let you make up a story with every tile you put on the board. Enter Pitara. Jaishree Garg, a design specialist working at Vidyanext (a tutor-oriented company in Bengaluru), has created something so cool that it is not only fun but inclusive as well. As a part of her final year project, Jaishree had to come up with an idea that will benefit children or the society at large. “While most of my friends chose to develop mobile apps, I chose to bring out something tangible that can be used to create stories and narrate them too. It is a storytelling board game and I named it Pitara,” she says proudly.
Pitara holds within its 300 square icons the possibility of innumerable stories waiting to be unlocked. These icons have various pictures printed on them that help the user form stories, each time they place a tile on the board. So as each player places a new tile on the board, the person whose turn it is continues the story until pretty much all the blocks are on the board. Jaishree says, “In the electronic age, Pitara brings back the classic ‘magic of imagination’ in a new and exciting board game format. Anyone can use it irrespective of age and gender, even the deaf and dumb or literate and illiterate because it eliminates the need for written and readable language and gives the person a chance to use visual cues. This helps the user not only listen to others’ stories but also weave their own.”
Game Time: Children playing a board game 'Pitara' in one of the workshops conducted by Jaishree Garg
But Jaishree wasn’t always a design buff. She holds a BCom in Finance from Christ University with which she went on to work as an auditor for two years in Hyderabad. Having lost interest in auditing and finance, she joined a marketing company and began to learn about designing advertisements and the like. This sparked an interest in design and she joined Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology to pursue a Master’s in Information Design. It was here that she came up with the idea of the storytelling board game. “I spent months on research and visited schools in urban and rural areas, and spoke to students with learning, reading and other disabilities. This is what prompted me to make the design inclusive for all,” she explains.
Now, naturally, we need to know what Pitara means. "Pitara was a box or a basket used in the olden days to carry clothes or other objects. Similarly, my Pitara also has something to offer for everyone. It holds within its 300 square icons the possibility of innumerable stories waiting to be unlocked. These icons have various pictures printed on them that help the user form stories," Jaishree explains, adding, "In the electronic age, Pitara brings back the classic 'magic of imagination' in a new and exciting storytelling game. Anyone can use it irrespective of age and gender, even the deaf and dumb or literate and illiterate because it eliminates the need for written and readable language and gives the person a chance to use visual cues. This helps the user not only listen to others' stories but also weave their own. Isn't it wonderful?" Of course, it is!
Pitara can be used to address disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD, hearing and speech impairment, and autism in children and adults. One can tell more than 1 lakh stories using Pitara's 300 square icons.
Jaishree has also set up a website for Pitara, but in a first, you can't buy the game online. Email or WhatsApp are the only ways you can get your hands on this game. But why? "Pitara is like an after-6 pm job for me. When I displayed my project in college, everyone including my mentor Aparna Raman was ecstatic and they suggested that I design more games like this and provide them to schools and individual homes. From then on, I have been conducting workshops in many schools using Pitara and the response I have received is overwhelming.
Within three months, I have received orders for 30 Pitara boards," she says. Jaishree has designed two types of board. While the wooden set costs ₹3,200 and comes with 300 square icons, the other set has a thick board with the icons which cost only ₹1,200. "The wooden set is most suitable for schools, while the thick board can be used at home to help children tackle learning and reading disabilities," she explains.
Due to lack of time, Jaishree has not been able to produce the board game on her own. “I need extra hands to help me with cutting, fabrication and painting. I am also working on replacing the wooden board with a cloth board as the cost is high for children from rural areas. For the time being, I have introduced it to students in Bengaluru,” she concludes.