Jenga comes from the Swahili language, meaning “to build” and Scott has maintained that the uniqueness of the word in the Western world made her game more marketable. Earlier versions of the game had 48 blocks but decided on 54. Scott said that there isn’t any fancy science behind the shift. “I’m not sure about why this quantity works. I just [knew].” She did add that it might be because 54 is a multiple of 18, a favorite number of hers.

A few years ago, digital game-makers NaturalMotion approached Scott to make a mobile phone version of Jenga. They attempted to recreate the physical differences for each individual block in the simulation but, ironically, could only do 18 kinds of differences in the phone game.

Games designers in attendance pointed out that Jenga itself became a mechanic in tabletop horror RPG Dread, where a pull of a Jenga block replaces a dice roll. And like Monopoly and any other game that’s been popular for generations, lots of different variations and remixes exist for the original rules of the game. Scott said “it’s exciting” that Jenga has evolved in various different folkways. During her talk, she recounted that it was hard to convince bank managers to lend her start-up money for Jenga: “Really, really I’m going to make my fortune from this bunch of wood blocks!” Turns out she was right.


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