How a psychologist and a venture architect created a card game during COVID Lockdown
Two ladies with no experience in game development wanted to bring cheer to the people around them during the COVID lock down and decided to create Bye Bye Virus. How did they do it despite having zero knowledge? Let's chat with them to find out more.
Q: Please give the readers a short introduction about yourself or the key creators behind Bye Bye Virus and how it started.
Hi, we are Denise and Yasmine and we came up with the idea when we were stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. We were becoming increasingly depressed due to the lock down and Yasmine, who is also a psychologist, suggested that we start on a new project to explore how we can reframe the situation with humor.
We started talking to a lot of our friends and we found a recurring pain especially with those who are stuck at home with their kids. They were not ONLY finding it hard to explain to their kids about the virus and how to stay safe, but they realized that the schools were struggling to try to help but could only send boring pdfs that their young kids did not understand.
They were finding difficulty in trying to entertain and engage their kids. Since we had so much time, we decided to create a game to help our friends' kids to learn how to stay safe and also give them something to do at home together as a family.
That, my friends, was how Bye Bye Virus was born.
Q: What inspires the ideas behind your games? What was the most difficult about the development?
The inspiration came from everywhere. For the reframing the situation and using the humor, we were inspired by all the news. Some absurd news (which some we did ourselves) from hoarding toilet paper and ice cream to official government sources. Our favorite news items which became a character in our game was the Spaniard who thought wearing a dinosaur suit can be doubled up as a hazmat suit.
For the game mechanics, we sought inspiration from the games that we loved as kids. We tried to deconstruct the games and made use of the parts that made those games addictive, fun and engaging. We also discovered that different games are rated differently in terms of difficulty. So we chose to use the mechanics, which are the most suitable for our main audiences, which are kids.
For the characters, we were inspired by the Japanese word “kawaii”, and hence we designed in game characters that adults and kids would find cute. Our favourite is the Toilet Paper and Ms Hand Sanitizer. We designed the game with inclusion in mind as we wanted to represent every gender, ethnicity and non-binary characters. This represented our values where we hope to live in a world where everyone feels heard, safe and understood.
Q: What was the work schedule like given the COVID pandemic? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
The lines between work and rest were blurred during the pandemic, because there was no distinction between work and fun. We had nothing to do, and thus spent many hours a day ideating and testing the game. At the beginning, because of the limitations of printers, we had to manually cut out all our prototype decks. We also tested different card sizes, graphic design layouts, and makeshift game design utilizing very inefficient ways of game development.
We basically had arts and crafts paper all around the house with the most terrible drawings that even a kid would not approve of. We overcame them, like we do everything in life: One shitty draft at a time. We were no overnight Picasso in game design and every development step was made with full of trial and error.
Q: Creating the art and graphics of a game is both an art and science. How did you develop the creative directions of your game and how do you find the right artist to do up the artwork?
Making a game is an art and science. What helped is we had a clear division of who owned what. Denise led the game mechanics and Yasmine led the creative direction and messaging. Because of our previous entrepreneurial background and attitude, one of our strengths is that we were not perfectionists and that allowed us to take a chance and launch quickly.
To get the artwork to what we envisioned, Yasmine conceptualized and controlled the direction of the design. For the execution, we hired 5 designers to test out if they could capture our style. Then we worked with other designers as we continued to refine the game mechanics.
Q: Manufacturing and quality control is often a challenge that many first-time creators face. What did you do to manage these challenges?
We looked at a couple of manufacturers and ordered their sample kits. We did our due diligence by calling up previous customers who had worked with them before. Then we decided to print our test decks locally. This helped us understand that the dimensions, layout, color on screen are different from the colors in print.
Despite all these challenges, when we finally did get our 50 cartons of games, we were flabbergasted as they took up our whole living room. When we saw our first deck, we teared because we were worried that we spent a lot of money on stationery.
Q: Shipping and logistics are big challenges that many creators stumble over. What are some of your challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
We tried to find a distributor to help us send the games to our customers, but we ended up recruiting family and friends to manually label, pack and cart it to the post office. We tried to make a difference by writing handwritten notes to each person.
We discovered that logistics was more challenging than the creative design part. We realized that we should have spent more time understanding that. For example, because our game was 3 grams more than a small package cost, the shipping cost increased by 20% which ate into our margins. A few grams make such a huge difference and on hindsight, should have taken that into consideration. We also discovered that not every address was accurate, and that we needed to have a customer care process to assist with damaged and missing goods.
Q: The government encourages us to market our products abroad. Are you focusing your products in Singapore or looking to sell your games overseas? Which countries are you looking at next to distribute your games?
We have aiming for the international markets from the start with our Kickstarter campaign and have been focusing on English speaking markets. Our distribution is currently mostly done in Singapore, but we are planning out our US expansion strategy.
Q: Bye Bye Virus can be found in many retail stores and shops. How did you build up such an extensive distribution network? Any sweat and tears stories behind the scenes on how you get your products distributed?
We did it the old fashion way. We build a list of distributors and retail stores and started visiting, cold calling and emailing. One by one we discovered the stores that work for us and the ones that do not.
Q: You are often featured on popular newspapers and magazines. What magic do you use to convince the publication to feature you and your products?
The power of the storytelling. We really had a lot of fun building our product and we value each and every customer. We even build a wall of post it hearts for every game that our customers bought and we love how so many people emailed or WhatsApp us how much they loved the game and how their kids cannot stop playing their game. ..And how it brought their family closer together.
But the part that we think struck the chord with popular media most is the adventure we were on and how vulnerable we were about sharing everything that went wrong. Because the truth is, it is not a straightforward path. We guarantee what can go wrong will go wrong. What we can bring is a great attitude and laugh it away.
Q: What was it like doing crowdfunding through Kickstarter? What advice would you give new game designers trying to leverage on the potential of crowdfunding?
Do not do it in 4 weeks. Apparently, building a launch campaign takes much longer than 4 weeks. We just thought it would go viral. But virality needs to be intentional. So take a step back, build your pre-list, your marketing strategy and start pitching to press.
Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to enter the local tabletop game industry?
Just do it. Progress not perfection, your game is going to suck a lot before it gets even remotely better. Ours is on round 79. We now think its pretty good, and definitely better than version 12.
Q: What are the future plans for the team?
We are in the midst of writing a book with the characters of our game, suitable for kids ages 4-7.
Q: Where can we find out more about your game and to purchase it?
You may find more information on the website https://www.byebyevirusgame.com.