Like many I had a business until March 14th 2020 but from the day Benidorm entered lockdown had it all taken away. Since that date I have not received any assistance from the government. I even thought with making this game I might get some help but all this talk of 200 billion loans and grants is all bs, its not for the little guy like me, just for big business and the banks to lend to their friends. Early on I knew this was going to be a struggle and with little faith in the system I knew in my heart I was going to be on my own. If I had known what a struggle it was going to be I might have given up then but then I've not been know to give up easily and if ever there was a time for hard work and perseverance it was now. If you would like to leave your review on the Benidorm Game you can review here or you can read my story below.
I now currently find myself in thousands of euro of debt having been unable to pay my rent or electric for 6 months and with the threat of court proceedings everything is on the line. I have spent the last 6 months trying to turn things around and meet the challenges and obstacles put in place by corona virus. You can read my story here from the early days of hope and making the game, through major depression and what does the future look like now.
The idea for the Benidorm game actually dates back many years. I first had the idea in 2008 when I unfortunately saw someone get scammed by the pea men and later in the pub I thought wouldn't a Benidorm board game be funny if the forfeits and bonuses where common occurrences in Benidorm, such as “Got scammed by the pea men, lose 150, don't you know by now!”, or hire a mobility scooter get an extra turn as you fly around Benidorm”
Of course back then I didn't have the knowledge I have now, barely the capacity to design the game let alone figure out how to make it, nor did I really ever have the time so it really was just one of those drunken ideas that never came to fruition until late March 2020 the idea just popped back into my head.
You may know me from The Benidorm Map and so initially I set about trying to design the game around the map but it was unworkable as trying to overlay more artwork over the map made it too busy. Within two weeks though I had the design the board that currently is what it is today.
I spent most of this month sourcing the raw materials needed to make every aspect of the game, tweaking the board design, designing all the cards & money, pricing everything up and meticulously working out what the weights were so that it would be economical to post around Europe, mainly of course from here to the UK. All this took a while and I was quickly running out of money having not had a single euro come in since March 12th. Then the first of many problems arose. The economy postage weight in the UK is 750 gram but the weight from Spain to the UK needs to be under 500 gram. This meant a lot of redesign and more time lost. During this time I was still paying my business overheads, trying to give some money to my staff, while they were waiting for government assistance, even though they were no longer actually working for me. I had been told by my accountant that I was due to receive 641 euro a month, which I never got and due to a bureaucracy that I don't understand never will receive anything. I have never claimed unemployment in all my working life for the past 25 years (I'm 45) and technically I am working just not making any money lol. I did spend a day here and a day there trying to jump through the hoops but I just didn't have the time for that and as I said I don't have much faith in the system so best just rely on myself as I have always done.
You know it wasn't me going out and having bat soup for lunch. For once in my life I'm not the cause of my problems and still like everyone else we are made to suffer through no fault of our own.
So now with the weight reduced the print company I had lined up couldn't print the size and weight as required. We are of course now well into full corona melt down and trying to source anything was proving more difficult. I also got let down on the game pieces as well these were coming from China and it seemed like the project was stalling and I didn't know what I was going to do.
I decided I would just have to print the cards and money myself. I do a bit of micro printing, business cards, flyers et and this was a large quantity printing and cutting 150 cards per game and 240 notes. For the game pieces I can up with the idea of 3D printing them myself, having never ·D printed anything in my life, let alone owned a 3D printer.
But sure 3D printing, how hard could it all be!
Finally stock had started to arrive, 3D printer on its way and I could start producing the game. I had by this time ran out of money. Fortunately my good friend Raj from Clay Oven lent me some money . Funny thing with Raj was that he really didn't get the concept. I'm not sure if board games like this are that big in India or it just wasn't the sort of thing he'd buy. But that's a friend not really sure what the money is for but will lend it to you anyway and as he said to me later “I believed in you that is all that matters”
Before I spent his money although I was sure the game would be a success I really had to test the waters so I decided to put the game on pre-sale the May 1st weekend. I knew if I got a minimum of 20 orders in, the game had potential and by Sunday night I think it was about 28.
I had endeavoured to have the game produced by May 10th for distribution but 3D printing wasn't so easy and the work load was enormous producing all the game cards, money and pieces myself while making the boards at the same time. Worse still the game boxes hadn't arrived. I suffered one delay after another. The money that was coming in was only enough to pay the costs and with little food or sleep I worked all day and into the early hours of the morning. After weeks and what seemed like an eternity I finally had the first batch produced and dispatched.
It's easier to tell you what went right than what went wrong in the Making The Benidorm Game video here
When I finally had made everything and put the first together I shot the promo vid and when I had finished I sat in my chair and nearly cried. This was 2 1/2 months of working 15/16 hour days sometimes more, 7 days a week. It was many late nights and early mornings solving one problem after another, remaking, reconfiguring and fixing equipment. I was shattered and overwhelmed as there had been days when I felt I would fail. I knew with time I could succeed but time I did not have but once I had the first one complete I knew I could make more and success was on the horizon.
The UK by this time was also struggling with corona so even the delivery took time, production was taking time, as I had not originally planned on making every piece myself. I had accounted for every eventuality where I would have to do some aspect myself, confident that I could. But I may have, as I have often done in the past, confused my intentions with my abilities. I really hadn't taken into account the sheer volume of work to do everything myself and the time this would take. I could not advertised the game further until all existing orders were met and so again I was down to no income but still working 16 hours a day. To compound matters I had overlooked for how rough the boxes would be treated in the post and some arrived damaged and with pieces missing. I had to recall the second batch in order to tape them up securely and of course repost and resend replacement pieces, all this taking more time and money, very little I had either of.
As Expected I received no government aid so the only person that was ever going to get me out of this was me. Towards the end of June I had fulfilled all orders, sent replacements but now I was tired. It was a project that had started out with so much enthusiasm, hope and was a joy to work on and now to something that had physically and mentally drained me, compounded by the realities of a worldwide pandemic. There are times in your life when your destiny is in your own hands, you alone will be the difference between success and failure and you can push back against the outside forces that seek to inhibit you but there are times like now that with which you have no control over will try to crush you.
From here it is a bit of a blur. I had now become pretty weak from lack of food and all the work. I was just having plain rice or pasta or if I could get a few euro together I would buy a chicken cut it up and make it last a week and then boil the carcass to make a soup adding in potatoes and what little veg I had to get a few days more. I fell into depression and every day was thinking of suicide, just throwing myself off a cliff. I think that was the only bit of hope I had left. Benidorm was opening, then closing, there was the promise of work then nothing when quarantine rules were introduced so at least I could just put an end to it all whenever I had had enough.
Ironically the thought of suicide as a way out was the only thing that kept me going, kept me from lying down and never getting up
I still wasn't able to pay my rent but had managed to pay Raj back most of the loan, what money I was earning was just meeting expenses and my other businesses still had overheads to be paid although not allowed to operate. I had gone to the town hall with my Benidorm Game idea, tried to find out where these promised loans were for new business ideas but everyone just looked at me like I had two heads. None of this money, all these fancy hash tags, sound bites of promises were just talk, none of this was for one man trying to make it on this own. My Gestor (accountant) was asking me for my books for the last 3 months. I didn't even have the mental capacity to tie my laces at this point never mind do accounts, luckily though this is Spain so flip flops would suffice. And accounts for what, for a system that isn't designed to help me, pay an accountant that just laughed when I said that I only had two euro in my pocket and saying “sure that's a lot these days". Who said when I told him I haven't paid my rent “well at least with the emergency law you can't get evicted right now” Needless to say I don't have a Gestor now, one less bill to pay.
I hadn't given up but everyday was just a struggle to go on. I needed better equipment to make the businesses sustainable. I had by this stage fixed all the problems and before I stated promoting the game again I figured I'd first make up as many as I can so that they will be delivered straight away. I still had plenty of stock and so little by little I would make some pieces every day but I was tired, and weak, stressed from owing rent and my other businesses had accumulated their own debt. For food I would go down to Burger King/McDonald's every night and find an uncleared table and if lucky get more than a few chips. Many people don't seem to like the potato wedges btw and with an empty cup you can have as much pop as you like :). What was the worst that could happen, get corona and end up in hospital where you get 3 meals a day. Again it was Raj that came to the rescue, seeing how skinny I had become gave me some food from the restaurant. I had managed to do a couple of small design jobs and so buy some veg and by the end of August slowly build up my strength. I had not been able to do a lot this month but now I was getting stronger, more resilient and ready to push on.
So now it is September. I have some games made and ready to go. I also have some design work so that should bring in some money and there is food in the fridge. Hopefully by the end of the month I'll start paying rent and slowly clear my debts. I have a few new projects on the way. I don't want to give anything away just yet but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Will I make it to 2021? who knows, will something else go wrong, will I be evicted and living on the street or will all my hard work finally pay off and show success....stay tuned.
On this date I received eviction notice, sent out on September 17, exactly 6 months after the nationwide lockdown and the first day that eviction notices could be sent out, they didn't waste anytime. Just when I was rounding the corner and could start to make good on my debts. It must be said that all through the pandemic the landlord wouldn't even offer to reduce the rent. Of course now I'm really screwed as although I can pay the full month I no longer have a deposit to put down on another place. I've lived here for 4 years and on the same street for a further 4 so I've accumulated a lot of stuff, even my office is here. So as I begin to look for a room to rent I realize how much I won't be able to take with me as the office alone takes up a full room.
The year so far has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, challenges and successes and just like many of the past challenges it was friendship that came to the rescue. While casually chatting with a friend about my plight and looming eviction they simply said move into our apartment. Due to work they had to move to the UK and so had their apartment sitting empty. In my life I've had my fair share of bad luck but I've had an equal amount or just a little bit more of good luck and so I know no matter how bad things get as long as you keep fighting you'll turn a corner and things will start to look up. I am not saying it's easy to remain positive or to not let the bad times get you down, you just got to have belief that the world will look after you. The world doesn't do this all by itself you have to be a half decent person. Hey I'm not saying I'm a saint, far from it, but I'm not the worst person you'll ever meet. I am the kind of person to try and help people, do a favour not looking for anything in return. Just try being the best version of yourself more often than the worst, which sometimes I am definitely not a saint. I have an inherent bias though in that I see the good in people and am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Of course now and again you get screwed over but really that person has done you a favour as you just blank them for the rest of your life and the odds are the people left around you will be those that you can rely on. it is much easier to get on in life starting from a position of trust and when you need help you will find someone or in my world they seem to find me.
As much as I said I am going to have to do this on my own and even if that were true 99% of the time, without my friends at those critical times I'd have never made it.
So October 1st I wasn't homeless and I moved what I could but had to leave my office behind and many belongings that just weren't absolutely necessary. It was a little saddening but also a look back over 8 years of memories and to reminisce and was quite cathartic. One funny fact was that 8 years prior to this I was actually homeless for a few months (although that was of my own volition and another story for another time). But what angered me, well maybe not anger but definitely an indecent annoyance was the fact that I had worked my ass off from homelessness to running multiple successful businesses in 8 years only to have it all taken away this time through no fault of my own. That quickly became determination that I would not be beaten again, failure was not an option.
So with food in the fridge and somewhere to live a began working 12-15 hour days again doing the design work I had got that would generate some much needed cash to buy some better equipment and make game production faster and better. With no distractions I set about getting this work done and resume the game in November to meet the Christmas market. All went well for 15 days and then my hard drive crashed. Not only did it have 15 days where I had racked up 200 hours of work but also all my game designs and my entire 8 year library of work. Normally I would have a backup but July just gone my backup drive took a knock and obviously I didn't have funds to replace it. Fortunately I can fix computers so a corrupt hard drive ain't the worst. I've recovered many for friends in less than a day but mine decided it wasn't going to be easy. I had been running into so many brick walls over the past 6 months that either I was mentally incapable of feeling panic or was sufficiently hardened just to plough through. So I just pulled up a chair and said to myself this is just another problem to be solved. 3 days later I was getting nowhere, all those drives I'd recovered and mine would have to be the uncoverable one but on the 4th day the drive flickered on the screen and by the end of the day all files had been transferred over. I also fixed an old laptop during this, making that my new backup :D. The new hard drive I bought still needed all my programmes installed, in the end I had lost the best part of a week so by early November a week late I'd completed all the work.
Finished all the design work, got paid bought a new 3D printer, guillotine and more stock and now off to the races to make more games in time for Christmas but he deadline for last posting was December 9th so I only had a month. November was a great month, nothing went wrong, you're probably as surprised as I was. Sales were coming in and the only worst thing was that I was struggling to keep up with orders.
The game had really taken off but I was getting more orders than I could handle, December 9th came and went and I was behind even with working 15 hours a day. Fortunately I had contacted a friend in the UK who would put the last in the post for me so all I needed to do was get them sent with DHL in time. Of course with Christmas there were delays, we also had Covid piling on to make matters worse. I got the last orders complete and off by the 13th, my friend got them into Royal Mail on the 18th and the last actually arrived to customers on the 24th - Happy Fucking Christmas, there is no way I am ever going for the job of Santa if ever there comes a vacancy, that was seriously a few months of undue stress. As luck would have it those I posted through normal post in November, some didn't arrive until the 22nd so had I done the rest on Dec 9th and not done DHL to my friend they'd have never made it on time. So it seems I was lucky to have the delays and miss the 9th and resort to plan B with DHL, as I said the balance of the scales seems to tip luck in my favour.
So the year has finished quite good. I had enough to pay rent, bills, buy food and stock and a few hundred euros left over in my pocket for the first time in 8 months. I'm feeling hopeful 2021 could be a good year...But we now have Covid border closures because of the new strain, Brexit customs delays, more Covid and yeh my bank got embargoed by the Social Security 2pm 31st December for not paying them even though they wouldn't give me any assistance. I mean I had barely just stayed alive during 2020 and now this, but hey what doesn't kill you makes you stronger - Happy New Year... to be continued.