Jesse Williams
Game Night!

Jesse Williams opens up about his Latinx gaming app ‘Ya Tu Sabes’ in this exclusive interview

Get ready for endless hilarious game nights all about Latinx culture. Last week Visibility Media released ‘Ya Tú Sabes,’ a trivia-inspired game that explores popular Latinx culture. Described as “Lotería Meets Charades-Inspired” the mobile app was developed by Greys Anatomy’s Jesse Williams, conceptual artist Glenn Kaino, and former exec at NBA Latin America, Arturo Nuñez. It features diverse categories like cumbia, fiestas, and futbol, regional themes. and was created to celebrate the rich diverse culture among Hispanics in the US. Before Ya Tú Sabes the creators released the award-winning Black culture-themed BLeBRiTY app. HOLA! USA had the opportunity to talk to Williams all about the app and what he hopes the positive long-lasting impact it has for people from every culture. Read the interview below.

Ya Tu Sabes©Ya Tu Sabes
Ya Tu Sabes

I like the description of Ya Tu Sabes, Loteria meets charades. Loteria is such a popular game in any Latin household, and every holiday we have our frijoles ready. Did you use to play the game at all?

I have a couple of homies, friends who are Puerto Rican and Dominican and we’ve played it at their house, you know like game night, game afternoon, but only a few times. Like it‘s not something that I played in my house growing up but I’ve definitely played it with friends.

Yeah so it sounds like you really love game nights

Yeah, I do and it’s not only that, but it‘s just a great way to bring folks together also now at my age where a lot of times we have gatherings that are multi-generational, people have kids, so you’re trying to find ways to be expressive and fun but that’s also kind of “family-friendly” right? And I feel like so often that’s not a side of black or Latin culture that really we see in media, like good old family fun that doesn’t have the hard edge that is always represented with urban living.

Ya Tu Sabes©Ya Tu Sabes
Ya Tu Sabes
I feel like so often that’s not a side of black or latin culture that really we see in media, like good old family fun that doesn’t have the hard edge that is always represented with urban living. [Williams]

Right, that‘s so true. I know you had BLeBRity before but what made you have this spark like, ‘I want to do this in a Latin version?

Yeah, it was really just born out of what we love and what we were able to execute. Our ability to serve and expand on the cultural expression we witnessed already and frankly, it‘s to your first question, I moved around a lot but part of what I was seeing in Chicago was a lot of Puerto Rican, Dominican culture- everybody thought that I was too and I was lying about speaking Spanish. And then you moving to Philly or New York, of course, and Latin American and Black culture that is very interwoven, very interwoven. So that’s an extension I take on as an extension of my people that I care about and we realized we could just expand. At Visibility, our overall company our vision is really a global one. It’s not just the American lines of who says what about what class you’re in or what race you are in we are looking like, ‘well who are the people around me?’ I don’t start with like media first and then shape it around that, we look at our lives, our living rooms our barbecues our holidays. Who are the people around us, how can we build and center that and then go from there? So it was naturally born out of my proximity to Latin Hispanic culture and my enjoyment of it, a celebration of it, and my travels you know, going to Cuba, being in Miami, being in New York I realized just how incredibly large and expressive and under-represented that global group is so we just wanted to figure out ways to celebrate them and expand the market of joy.

Ya Tu Sabes©Ya Tu Sabes

What level of Latino history or knowledge do you have to have to play the game? Like my white best friend will she be able to jump on and play with me?

Yeah, I think that‘s the beauty of it. And that really is an important question because we had to play with that with BLeBRiTY as well. People kind of assume, unlike, frankly what are considered “regular games,” “white games” things that are just on daytime TV- we never ask that question right? Because they’re just the ubiquitous canvas... Like ‘Jovita, you better figure it out’ or we assume you’ll figure it out. Like ‘what is that show, I’ve never seen that show, what is that movie,’ but now you’re learning. We’re using it as a way to not only celebrate differences and distinctions and cultures but as an entry runway to invite you to learn about them and see why we celebrate them. so when were at BLeBRiTY and doing ‘black mama’ phrases or something that’s very like intimate and cultural, people that don’t know that or didn’t have that in the household are learning it and seeing how happy it makes everybody around us so they’re getting a value measurement as well, it’s not flat and people are getting amped and adding to it, so this is important to them, I’m paying attention and I’m learning a lot about people I care about because I’m getting a meter on how much it’s is celebrated or valued. So I would say to those who didn’t necessarily grow up in these household its an opportunity to learn more about your friends and family and relationships that you have in a way that’s positive and it doesn’t put all of it on you, you have a team around you and it’s really the ideal way to to learn about the people you care about. And you don’t need to know history as much as you know just like anything else, how we grew up, what it was like at school, food, what your grandma used to say, how you were disciplined, how you used to shop what you couldn’t have, sports you played like that, it’s regular kind of introductory getting to know your people subject matter.

...shine a bright light on the beauty and expression of this culture that is far beyond American media. [Williams]

So one of the things I got really excited about was how much the team used words like “diversity and representation and I know that you are a big activist, so what is the lasting impact you hope Ya Tu Sabes has on a big scale. You know not just you want people to play it.

Thank you for that question because really it‘s large-scale always with us, it’s demystifying, de-othering these various cultural groups that are so often completely made invisible unless they’re going to be turned into this kind of pinata to be beaten on as a political pawn. We don’t really have a great exposure to the nuances and detailed differences in this whole range, a massive range of what we would call Latin culture, and that also blends into immigration and politics. It’s usually used as a football but without humanizing them. We find that in our research one of the great things that move policy, legislation cultural kind of decency forward is very simply the exposure to the humanity within and we can move broadly with the specific. I’m doing this interview with you actually from an office on the set of Grey’s Anatomy and that’s one of the things frankly that the show has done really well, is able to have people from different cultures, colors, abilities, gender, orientations and it’s really hard for you to have some broad or racist homophobic position when you love the character and you get to know her and she’s got a family and she’s got a mom and she got a dynamic and she’s got fears that you relate to. So really getting specific in terms of these cultural habits and seeing the similarities, how they’re actually just like you, whoever that player is... And for those of us that didn’t really live around Latin, Latinx culture, to understand the similarities, and we are able to both celebrate distinction and difference but also highlight the common denominator. So that is really our goal: to demystify and further humanize, sadly you have to say that, but really humanize, and give specifics, shine a bright light on the beauty and expression of this culture that is far beyond American media.

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