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It's Delightful, It's Discussion, It's the Ungame

July 15, 1993|PATRICK MOTT | Patrick Mott is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

If the welter of participation-through-hysteria games that are on the market are beginning to wear on you (you know the ones: They require shouting, contortions, incoherent babbling, or all three at once), you might be pleased to know that there is a locally produced board game available in which silence and contemplation are not only common, they're mandatory.

It's called the Ungame, and that's exactly what it is. There are no winners or losers, only participants, and it's over when you say it's over.

The Ungame, produced in Brea by Talicor Inc., is about communication, both light and serious, between people, and it requires as much, or more, listening than talking. The idea is, simply, to find out more about your family and friends by listening to their responses to questions provided in the game and by eventually asking them questions about their answers or commenting on them.

The game was born from enforced silence. In 1969, Reha Zakich, a wife and mother of two from Garden Grove, developed nodules on her vocal cords. When they were surgically removed, she was told by her doctor to remain silent for at least a week. He also told her that there was no guarantee that the nodules would not return. Facing a week, and possibly a lifetime, of silence terrified Zakich and, she wrote, made her realize that she and her family had never truly communicated their most significant thoughts and feelings to one another. She began to think of questions she would most like to ask them.

She wrote these questions down and before long had around 200 of them. She then visualized a board game in which the questions would be used.

"The game would be simple," she wrote. "Each player would roll a die and advance his marker. The player could land on a space requiring an answer to a question card, or a space allowing a comment to another player. There would be no talking out of turn, no winners or losers, only sharing and communicating."

Zakich recovered the use of her voice, but the Ungame proved so popular with her family and friends and her children's teachers that she began producing copies. The commercial version of the game has sold more than 1 million copies in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian. Pocket versions of the Ungame are also available in editions for teens, couples, children, families and all ages. There is also a Christian version.

The standard Ungame uses two sets of question cards. Deck One contains more lighthearted topics: "Talk about your favorite holiday and why you like it." Deck Two topics are more probing: "If your best friend wrote a book about you, what do you think it would be called?" There are only two limitations in the Ungame: You have to stop playing eventually (45 minutes to an hour is the suggested length of time for a single game), and if it's not your turn to talk, you have to shut up and listen.

This isn't, obviously, a game for the incurably garrulous. But it's a bonanza for the incurably curious.

The Ungame is about $15. Pocket versions sell for about $9.

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