SOMERS, N.Y. – Dr. Ifay Chang of Somers waited 11 years to get a patent from the United States government for a word game he developed more than 25 years ago. Now, he believes the best is yet to come.
“I was persistent,’’ said Chang, who is a member of the Somers Board of Education. “If I was depending on this patent to make a living, I’d be finished.”
Chang’s game, Scrammble , is a word game similar to Scrabble except it is based on an alphabet scrambling process. The basic game includes 136 cards of letters of the alphabet. Each letter has a value. Some have a math operator to operate on the letter values. A player takes a number of alphabet cards to arrange them into a correct word. The trick is the next player or all competing players have to make a longer word with the letters that have been opened. The players can steal a word already made by adding letters and scramble them to a new longer word. The scrambling and stealing make the game exciting, forcing players to hone their vocabulary and math skills.
“You can play it without a board,’’ Chang said. “You just need the bag of tiles, pour them on the ground and get started. The scorekeeping is very simple.’’
What’s more, Chang has adapted his game to multiple formats, including Bingo, puzzles, solitaire, poker, Texas Hold ‘Em and others. The complete list of Scrammble games is available at www.scrammble.com.
Chang is enthused because with the patent, he sees an opportunity to make the game interactive and far reaching, which will open the door for other nations not only as an English word game but for other languages as well.
“Taking advantage of modern technology, I can see it becoming an interactive game show with exciting higher challenges and more variations,’’ Chang said. “It can make the game last forever. And they there may be an opportunity to broadcast through television or Internet to allow people to play remotely and interactively with the host players.”
Chang developed the game in Singapore in the mid-1980s while developing the Intelligent Public Information System in Singapore while working for IBM. “We would get a little bored,’’ he said. “There are only so many places you can visit.”
Over the years, Chang added variations and adapted different games. He began pursuing the patent in 2002. He eventually elected to venture through the patent maze without a patent attorney, and the economic recession also hindered his ability to lure venture capitalists for his other technology inventions and this game.
Chang’s games were marketed on the Medical World Search website and its affiliate, online OSMart before Scrammble Games had their own website. By and large, Chang and his games maintained a low profile. Now with the patent, that could change.
The patent incorporates advanced concepts in interactive TV and real-time network to accentuate the competitiveness and instant feedback in the Scrammble games.
“It’s not a sales business per se,’’ Chang said. “I gave most the games away. I still offer a volunteer at an after school program at Somers Intermediate School where children play the game. Now with the patent, it could draw commercial interest to implement the variations based on the scrambling concept in to the game.”
To learn more about the game and its numerous variations, visit the Scrammble website or ask a student at Somers Intermediate School who had fell in love with the game.