Couple seek to combine Good Book, good fun, good discussions

November 25, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

A Fulton couple want to save souls and have fun, and say they have invented a game that could help do both.

"They can create geniuses out there who can calculate 2 to the 49th power, but they don't know right from wrong," said William J. Jackson, a 65-year-old retired government worker who has lived in Fulton for 17 years with his wife, Viola Jackson, 60.

The Southern Baptist couple have just finished producing their first 20 samples of Phrase-nastics, a new game that challenges players to paraphrase biblical quotations and remember their exact wording.

The purpose, they say, is to stimulate discussion of biblical teachings in a way that even today's difficult to please children will enjoy.

"We're hoping that continued use of this would really discipline the mind, help kids with self-expression and teach them to think on their feet," Mr. Jackson said.

Playing the game requires more thought than most popular guessing games.

It involves one player with a card that states a Bible verse from both the New International Version and the traditional King James Version of the Bible.

As the sands of a 60-second timer run down, the player must paraphrase the verse as closely as possible without giving away the actual wording. A second player must then come up with the exact wording from either of the two versions of the Bible to win points. Extra points are awarded for knowing the book, chapter and verse.

Because the game's creators are the parents of 10 grown children, finding test subjects to play the game was easy.

"You'd be surprised at how much discussion this generates," Mr. Jackson said.

Family members often spend so much time talking about each verse that it is difficult to get through more than three rounds of the game, Mrs. Jackson said.

"It'll stimulate people to want to learn," she said.

Making the study of the Bible more stimulating for young people is a much more important goal than turning a profit, the couple say.

They also are developing a secular version of the game using famous quotations. Players guess the wording, author and work. But the Bible version is already packaged and ready for delivery.

Doing the Bible version first was no accident, Mr. Jackson said.

"As it says in Matthew 6:33, 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then all these things will be added unto you,' " said Mr. Jackson, who said he studies the Bible morning and night, and attends a Baptist church in Rockville.

The couple plan to market the game to toy stores, Sunday schools, and Christian schools and bookstores. They are even considering approaching prisons with the game.

Rob Lamp, executive pastor of the Columbia-based Valley Brook Community Church, praised the Jacksons' idea.

He said there are some biblical trivia games in circulation but that he had not heard of anything quite like Phrase-nastics.

"Creative Sunday school programs have tried to make the ardent task of memorizing scripture fun for children," but other tools can always help, he said.

"The reason I would be very excited about a game like this and would want to purchase one is that, just as the computer has made [academic subjects] interesting, perhaps a game would allow children to have exposure to timeless truths which they would eventually understand and apply at some given point in their lives," he said.

It was the little things that caused the most trouble in designing the game, Mrs. Jackson said.

"We found 30-second timers everywhere, but we couldn't find 60-second timers" without a diligent search, Mrs. Jackson said.

The games the couple are trying to market are a Bible Edition with 30 verses on laminated cards accompanied by 30 youth cards with known verses. They are recommended for two to 10 players, ages 11 to adult.

Scoring is done with a dry marker on a laminated, reusable sheet. The dry marker is also used on the verse cards to write down the paraphrased verse or other notes.

Development of the game has been bedeviled by setbacks, mainly logistical and production problems, that prevented marketing it in time for the beginning of the holiday season.

But the couple vowed that "with the help of God, we wouldn't let anything stop us," Mr. Jackson said.

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