Denise Lim and Yasmine Khater, both 36, first knew each other through a rock climbing session together — Denise was a rock climber, and Yasmine is a newbie who has a fear of heights.
“Denise offered to (help conquer my fears), which meant she left me on the wall for nearly an hour,” she joked, adding that they have been friends ever since.
Over time, their friendship blossomed and they became housemates. When they moved into a new apartment in February last year, they shared conversations over wine on how they could make a million dollars in a year.
Yasmine’s training business in particular, was badly impacted by the pandemic. It has gone completely offline, which caused some contracts to be paused and cancelled.
The half-Egyptian, half-Singaporean psychologist said that she enables leaders and entrepreneurs to “become more persuasive so they can influence and sell with ease” through brain-based influence techniques.
For Denise, after graduating from the Singapore Management University (SMU), she packed her bags and went to live in Latin America because she had always wanted to live abroad. She opened a restaurant and bakery there, while learning Spanish.
After nearly a decade abroad, she decided to move back to Singapore and work with startups. She currently is a venture builder, helping corporates start new ventures.
Creating a Covid-19-themed card game
“As a psychologist, I could predict that Covid-19 would mean (that many) people would be extremely stressed out. A lot of research has proven that humour and learning how to reframe can alleviate stress and reduce mental health,” said Yasmine.
“With both of our design-thinking backgrounds, we decided to create Bye Bye Virus to promote safe habits in a (fun) way.”
Bye Bye Virus is a card game that they created over 10 weeks, including the circuit breaker period.
Yasmine shared that the game development process were carried out through three different phases: game play and testing, design, and game dynamics.
“We started off by planning out different game dynamics. At first, we bought paper and would cut it out, which took us so much time. Eventually, we started to grab placeholder designs from the Web.”
“Each week, we would test several types of games and then narrow down the part that made the game fun (and the) parts that we needed to kill. We had weekly play sessions to test out the game and get input on clarity, fun and functionality.”
When they’ve nailed down about 80 per cent of the gameplay, they started focusing on the design next. They hired four designers off Fiverr, an online marketplace for freelance services, and chose the best design among them.
After settling the core design characters, they hired another designer to help refine design elements along the way as the game dynamics evolved.
Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, they were unable to continue with the test sessions so they resorted to mailing the game to people’s houses and get input that way.
“We kept refining (and finally) stopped at our 77th version, (before we) sent it out to print.”
How to play the game?
The game starts with a virus outbreak. To keep yourself safe, you have to collect protective items and follow socially responsible rules.
Players will have to overcome obstacles that mimic real-life circumstances during a pandemic. For example, they might lose a turn if supermarket shelves are empty due to hoarders who panic buy, or lose cards if they touch their faces during the game.
There are also panic hoarding cards, which feature things such as toilet paper, ramen and a dinosaur suit. Players may discard three of these cards to steal a card from another player. To gain extra cards, players need to complete certain tasks such as doing jumping jacks or reading verified news.
The first player to collect all five cards with protective items — a disinfectant, mask, soap, gloves and hand sanitiser — wins.
Creating this entire game was their biggest challenge, said Yasmine.
“We love games and we thought making (one) would be easy, but we were so wrong. Our first 20 versions really sucked, to the point that we wouldn’t even give it away for free.”
The duo refused to give up and continued to refine the game further, which helped to improve the gaming experience.
Through gameplay, both Yasmine and Denise hope that they can help players instil safe habits and make them learn how to avoid infections.
In line with this mission, 12 per cent of their profits from retail sales and Kickstarter backers will be donated to Covid-19 initiatives.
Their revenue’s almost hitting S$50,000
According to Yasmine, the response at launch was quite overwhelming.
“We initially thought we could make this game and sell a few hundred (units), but as friends started playing with it, they encouraged us to put it on Kickstarter.”
“Successful Kickstarter campaigns take six months to a year to build, so us trying to do it in 10 weeks was extremely hard. But we are really grateful for having a supportive community who helped give us (plenty) of tips.”
Bye Bye Virus started out as a Kickstarter project and they have raised around S$9,000 and sold an additional S$13,000 offline.
“In total, we generated S$22,000 in the first five weeks. It took us 10 weeks to break even because we focused on pre-selling the game versus making it.”
“We pre-sold 750 decks and to date, we have sold just under 2,700 decks. Our revenue is just shy of S$50,000.”
Each Bye Bye Virus game is sold at S$29.90 and it is currently stocked at PlayNation, Toy Tag, Design Orchard, Games of Pi, among many other retail locations.
Yasmine admitted that marketing is their biggest business challenge currently.
“We have never done a consumer product before and (both hold) intense jobs. It’s been a challenge to really take it to the next level. We would love to start collaborating with partners to take (the game) international and localising it in different languages.”
For now, one of their key marketing strategies is securing partnerships with distributors. They have also done programmes with Rasum International School.
Sharing other future business plans, Yasmine shared that they are also planning on rolling out a NSFW (not-safe-for-work) edition. While she did not share the specifics, it is bound to be yet another fun game to look out for.
Get 10% off the Bye Bye Virus Card Game when you shop from VP Label.
Featured Image Credit: Bye Bye Virus
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