The Sound Cypher (TSC) was born out of a mutual love for music between two people getting to know each other! I guess you could say that it’s a part of their love story too! In its infancy, the game started as a way to share music and was the answer to the proverbial question of, “what do you know about this (song/album)?” What better way to get to know someone than to find out what music speaks to their soul.
When I first met Jilene (my wife), we used to sit on the foot of the bed and play music in an attempt to 1 up each other with a better song. This back and forth used to last for hours and became a regular past time, while also growing my music collection-adding a wealth of old school soul, rap, and R&B to an already extensive collection. Jilene’s favorite thing to do was play “who sampled this” and could easily tell me a songs origins. I nicknamed her the “music encyclopedia." As a matter of fact, that also lead to deejaying, hosting parties, and a variety of other things. Eventually, life went on, we got married, moved abroad, and experienced life the way adults do. However, it always came back to the music. No matter where we were in the world, when we needed to recenter or reconnect with ourselves and others, we played the game.
Fast forward a few years, I started thinking about a way to share this game with friends. This lead to me starting a note on my phone and anytime a music conversation would arise I’d jot down any thoughts that came to mind. These scribbles turn into a database of musical categories and topics. The first time the game was played was April 2018 when friends came to visit us in Dubai. This game had a total of 4 people, me, Jilene, Jiene’s college friend and her 14 year old daughter. The game went very well and from that point it became a standard activity when we had people over. During that time period, we had a lot of guests visiting so the game was played frequently enough that it continued to evolve, with minor tweaks being made along the way-including rules and game play elements, based on the feedback we received.
However, I still didn’t see the game as anything other than a fun something to do when guests were at the house. Again, it was our way of connect to music. We didn’t think of it as something to be shared outside of our circle of friends. As more people played the game, repeat players started asking how they could play at home with their friends & family. That’s when the lightbulb came on.
My initial thought was, to share the spread sheet with those who were interested, but that idea didn’t really seem like the best way of sharing. The spreadsheet method could be tedious, and meant that someone actually had facilitate. No fun when you want to be in the mix too. So, instead of taking action, I tabled the conversation and thought to just keep the game as something that could only be played at our house. The last time we played the game on a spreadsheet was when one of my friends, a frequent player, gave me a friendly ultimatum saying, “if you don’t do something with this, I will!” That was the catalyst that prompted the development of what we know as The Sound Cypher. Well, sorta… Between the decision to turn the game into something more and it becoming a card game, we decided to move to Tokyo. As we proceeded with the transition from Dubai to Tokyo game development stalled out. A few months passed, and as we were getting settled into our new surroundings, we started attending a variety of social gatherings. One thing I quickly noticed during these social gatherings was that they tended to focus around 1 of 4 topics/questions.
Work: What do you do for a living?
Politics: What do you think about president…
Sports: Who’s your favorite team? (mostly football/soccer internationally)
Music: Have you heard of (insert artist here)
Conversations about music prompted my wife to tell people about the game I was developing. This was the gaslight that prompted the first print of The Sound Cypher cards. The initial set of The Sound Cypher was comprised of a single set of 170 cards. Since that point, The Sound Cypher has been played with a variety of people and with that insight the game continued to evolve. Now The Sound Cypher comes in 3 different flavors/editions spanning from Open Format, a version that works with all types of music to genre specific versions focused towards R&B/Soul and Hip-Hop. As we continue to play with different people, the database of possible cards continues to grow and future iterations of the game are being considered.
Here a visual history of the journey of the design of the cards...