Surrey nurse Pauline Kong helped create a food-themed board game that aims to entertain and also educate players about Asian culture.
Based on the Chinese breakfast/lunch feast of dim sum, Steam Up includes cards, tokens and tiny plastic parts that resemble dumplings, steamed buns, sticky rice and more, along with the baskets they’re served in and chopsticks.
Kong came up with the game concept with Richmond-area friend Marie Wong, and together they launched Hot Banana Games a couple of years ago.
One of their primary goals is to create and publish Asian-themed games by Asian game designers.
“Our hope is to use the platform Steam Up creates as a positive force to build bridges of understanding to Asian culture,” Kong said, “so that gamers of all races can learn about and discover Asian culture and customs via fun and immersive board games.”
Physical copies of the game won’t be available until they raise money in a Kickstarter campaign set to launch in October, but a “Tabletop Simulator” version of the game can be played online, for free.
First conceptualized in November 2019, Steam Up has already earned awards in game-design competitions, Kong noted.
“We have a physical copy, a prototype that we were play-testing,” she explained, “but because of the pandemic, we couldn’t do that anymore. And now we’re working toward launching the physical game. It’s been a long journey.”
Kong lives in Surrey and has worked as an ICU nurse at Surrey Memorial Hospital for more than a decade.
Years ago she moonlighted as a magician and performed fundraising shows, but she’s since retired from that.
She met and befriended Wong while playing badminton.
“Initially Marie didn’t know much about board games,” Kong recalled, “and I got into it first. After I retired from doing magic I needed to pursue a new hobby, and it became board games. I started playing them because it’s a nice way to relax and get away from work – to stop thinking about the deaths and sadness of the (nursing) job. It’s just fun. We have a lot of games we play now.”
With Steam Up, the goal is to raise as much as $40,000 on Kickstarter.
“It’s basically a pre-purchase platform, if people want to look at it that way,” Kong said. “It’s where project creators like us present their projects on the platform and ask for funding, so we’re looking for people who believe in this game. We don’t have a set amount we’re trying to raise, and right now it’s zero, but we have followers and so far we have over 1,000 subscribers, people who are interested in the game. I’m pretty confident that we’ll be funded.”
While Steam Up is the first game for Hot Banana, it might not be the last.
”We started this company when we came up with the game, because we want to self-publish it,” Kong explained. “There are other people who have a game idea and then sell it off to a company and just get royalties. But for us, we want to be able to watch this baby grow, basically. We want to give birth to this board game and watch it go into the market.
“We hope the community supports us with our first game and see how it does, and if it does well we will proceed with the other ones.
Online, the game has introduced some players to the delights of dim sum, mostly in parts of the United States where such meals aren’t available in restaurants.
No question, the board game could make people hungry.
“The reaction we get is people like it because it’s a medium-light game, something that’s family-friendly and you can play it with your kids, for sure,” Kong said. “And another reaction we get is that it’s so cute and people want to eat the parts,” she added with a laugh. “But of course it’s not edible and it’s a choking hazard – don’t eat it!”
She added: “Sometimes we play the game and have real dim sum, and the rule is you can only eat if you win the game.”