Serious Side Projects

Since the 1990s, board games have resurged in popularity. Nearly $370 million were contributed to board games over Kickstarter’s history, and purchases spiked 56 percent from 2014 to 2015. Hoping to make a move into this market is Serious Side Projects, a startup created by UCI ANTrepreneur Nathaniel Dalerio, Hartnell College student Michael Porras and CSU Chico alumnus Jose Julio Garcia.

The cover of Man vs. Rock vol. 4.
The cover of Man vs. Rock vol. 4.

Nathaniel, the lead game designer, recalled that attending the convention WonderCon, combined with a passion for interacting with board games and rules, encouraged this business to thrive. “There was a booth for Man vs. Rock,” he said. “Just two guys, and it was a comic book strip about rocks taking over the world. If these guys could sell rocks, we can do anything with our ideas.”

But starting their own business wasn’t as simple as collecting $200 while passing go. In addition to feeling “heavy when you’re working on it,” their first project, Psychosis, required going back to the drawing board four times.

“Each time we learned something new that would break the game,” Nathaniel, a Psychology and Social Behavior major, stated. He mentioned how the game, which aims to encourage a dialogue on mental illnesses, previously overpowered a character who suffers from Imminent Explosive Disorder; it could hold onto other players and force a loss starting from the beginning. “The challenge is fun…but other times when I’m confident about something it will still fail.”

To those wishing to start their own business, the second year student stresses the willingness to persevere and start over the in the face of these type of issues. Also essential is time management and communication with team members. For instance, everyone on the team are friends, so to prevent business from becoming personal, a separate forum is created to talk uniquely about Serious Side Projects. That way, someone like Michael, the social media leader, can focus specifically on what needs to be done without “anyone getting hurt.”


Nathaniel at the ANTrepreneur of the Year Awards 2016, representing SSP.

But Serious Side Projects has made leaps and bounds despite the hurdles. The team received our Best Prototype of the Year award in 2016 and the tabletop-worthy version is intended to be ready this week, under Art Director Jose’s lead. The trio also plans to booth at WonderCon and Pop! Convention 2017. And a new game featuring medieval taverns and inns is currently in the works.

To keep up to date about this startup, check out its Facebook and Instagram.

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