RPS Studio: the art of making games that connect us and nurture our imagination
Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) is a games company co-founded by Rola and Rafah. Since I first discovered their charades game in Virgin Megastore, Dubai, it has been one delightful encounter after another. Virgin has always been the “it” store to see interesting concepts from around the world come to life in the United Arab Emirates. I remember standing in front of the game “without words” just delighted and enchanted and so proud that finally, someone thought to make such a fun, truly cultural and educational game in Arabic from such a simple concept. With the beautiful packaging too! I knew it would be the perfect addition to bring to family and friendship circles. It is, in essence, a charades game that uses proverbs that come from different parts of the Arab world and the different cards are color-coded as such. I have since played it a few times in adapted ways and everyone agreed that it was a most entertaining rendition of age-old and well-loved charades!
Even the name of the company, Rock Paper Scissors takes me back to a time of childhood where we happily played the game, making simple choices of who does what and just playing to laugh and enjoy the element of surprise that comes with not knowing if your choice will come on top or lose.
Their ethos of child-like wonder continues onto their Instagram account, @RPS_Studio. Their content and presentation make it among my top ten favorite accounts, if not number one or two. The visuals are gorgeous for one thing, and they focus on play as a way to connect people, nurture creativity, and develop more self-awareness. From these core values, we can grow to be better versions of ourselves. Actually, play has the potential to teach us to understand each other better as well and to build empathy that melts away ignorant prejudice.
Some of my favorite instances of their interaction with us, the followers, was when they did “fawazeer”/riddles of Ramadan for each day of that sacred month. This harkens to earlier days when I was a child and the shows that carried those riddles were of the highest seen shows on TV at prime time, right after iftar, or was it right before? Families would gather around the TV to watch them, be charmed by the talented performances and guess away amidst laughter and entertainment. Another instance was the set of posts introducing the members of the team. They are eight talented passionate women plus the only gentleman who happens to be the accountant. Each photo was a beautiful expression of the personality of the team member and then there was how they chose to introduce themselves with realness and a light touch.
Needless to say, I have every game they have created. I have also gifted different sets time and again to the delight of everyone who receives them, young and old alike. At some point, when I made one more order, I introduced myself and asked if I could interview someone on the team for this post, the next time I was in Jeddah. Their response was gracious and welcoming and in early November, when I planned to go to Umrah, I contacted them and made an appointment.
The reasons for the delight, humanity, and creativity that surround this beautiful project were all there, plain to see in the spirit and words of both founders, Rola and Rafah. I spent the most delightful two hours, or more, listening to their story and how this magical treasure chest of games came about.
Rola was always drawn to the idea of edutainment as the right way to teach. So, she took on the franchise for an edutainment project in Jeddah and ran the franchise from 2007 to 2011. However, she discovered that it was too early yet for such a concept, so she let it go.
Rafah meanwhile had gotten her degree in the psychology of play and had come back home to Jeddah, focusing on giving talks and workshops. Rola attended one of Rafah’s talks on the neuroscience of play and decided to book an appointment to speak with her further. Both recognized a kindred spirit and a partner, and they never looked back. What ensued was an exploration period of a few months when they had many ideas for play events, workshops, activities, and they talked to people to test their ideas. They ran mother and daughter playdates and they were successful but found they were difficult to manage and to scale.
Then the Lego foundation had a private event in April and 2015 where policymakers, entrepreneurs, and educators attended and worked with Lego. Rola and Rafah were invited to attend, and that’s when they realized that they wanted to create a game. The wanted to deliver an experience that would teach families in their homes.
They decided to present their game at Carnival El-Eid in May 2015, which didn’t give them that much time. But they did design and make six hundred boxes. It was a success and well received. For them, that was proof of concept. They went on to visit China to find a good and ethical factory to work with and achieve scale.
It wasn’t an easy journey, from game to game, as well as building a company. It takes a lot of time and effort to overcome obstacles and create games that are simple, yet impactful to nurture creativity and establish curiosity and openness. They are now working on an exciting concept of a subscription box that is themed and would offer a problem from a chosen discipline and it is to be solved by open-ended tools. The concept follows the idea of Samkara/ tinkering in Arabic, now that’s a delightful word I haven’t heard in a great while!
I hope I have done my job of introducing you to Rock Paper Scissors Studio in a way that will have you invite them into your homes and lives so that you too can enjoy these tools to play, connect and grow together!
LEARN more about RPS Studios
RPS Studios is a start-up social enterprise that was established to offer a new path to deeper connection with ourselves and the world around us. They aim to strengthen engagement in education and work. They believe in play as a powerful tool to create change. Therefore, we work to create an iconic playful experience that is packed with culturally unique content.
To RPS for the contribution of videos