“I think that what I’d just like to say is, it’s a really fun game," Shames said. "Yeah, it does kind of point out that there’s a problem. But I’m not really making a statement about what that solution is going to look like because these drugs really do save people’s lives, and it’s not that they’re evil inherently. It’s maybe just that we should look at this.”
Despite the heavy subject matter, the group has fun together.
“We were all friends before we talked about or even, probably, played any games together,” said Ben Bronstein, who illustrated the game.
Iguartua said that everyone in the group is living within a half a mile of each other.
“It makes it easy for us to get together on weekends and work out of each other’s homes," she said. "So it really has been exactly what you’d picture a boot-strapping group of kids from Brooklyn trying to launch a game would look like. Quite cliché, actually, in a way.”
Igartua attributes her boot-strapping ways to her education at UNC.
“I think that there is definitely an entrepreneurial spirit that was ingrained in me pretty early on during my career at UNC,” Igartua said. “It did take me a couple years before I felt like I could do it on my own, before I felt like I could take a step into owning my own business or doing a side project and taking both a monetary risk and risking my long-term career. That took a while, but it was while at UNC that I started daydreaming about being an entrepreneur.”
Igartua even gave a shout-out to one of her Kenan-Flagler professors, Claudia Kubowicz Malhotra.
“Her class was the reason that I became so curious about marketing,” she said. “Beyond that, I looked up to her for just being a boss: owning the room whenever she spoke, giving incredible and thoughtful feedback and being an incredible person to collaborate with.”
Bronstein, Igartua, Shames and artist and writer Kat Thek make up Pillbox Games. Side Effects is their first game, but they have more in the works.
“One is a throwback to the 2016 election, we’re going to do something about that,” said Shames. “And then another one is going to be about profiteering off global warming.”
The company strives to make games that are artistic and darkly humorous.
“We’re looking for everything to be beautiful, everything to have a sense of art and design before anything else, so that you have it on the coffee table and you’re proud to share it with someone,” Igartua said. “So that’s one of the core pillars of any game that we make. And secondly, it’s that dark humor piece, the ability to either poke fun or bring to light a subject that we feel is important.”