By N.L. Bowen
Meet Mark Ramsay and Ariana Green, two young, innovative, gaming enthusiasts and co-founders of Couple Six Inc., a game design studio in Barbados. They officially established the company in June 2015, and won Dazzle magazine’s entrepreneurship challenge. With great passion, ambition and profound knowledge of the gaming industry, these qualities have enabled them to be trailblazers in the local industry.
Mark and Ariana met while in 1st form at Harrison College. They possessed similar gaming interests and became best friends ever since. This pastime was later transformed into a game creation venture, and with Mark’s belief that they are ‘completely unemployable’, becoming entrepreneurs is perhaps their destiny. Throughout their journey, there was tremendous encouragement from family. Ariana’s father is an entrepreneur who operates a CXC and computer school, and he supports her completely. Mark’s parents were relieved that he chose this field, and his father encouraged him to defer graduate studies to focus on the business
Acknowledging that Barbados has a culture of game players and not game makers, this dynamic duo is set to change that atmosphere with their unique business concept. It is their goal to translate Caribbean stories into video game format, because as Mark states ‘if we don’t tell our own stories, other people will.’ They created a game entitled ‘Le Loupgarou’, a Caribbean themed video game still in its testing stages, but which thrilled the gaming public. With this positive feedback and their bold ambition, great things are in store for Mark and Ariana and their exciting new business Couple Six Inc.
What type of business is Couple Six Inc. and why was it created?
Couple Six is mainly a gaming company that focusses on the creation of Caribbean themed video games that are fun, engaging and dynamic. They also focus on different viewpoints of being human, with complexed characters and those of colour, etc. We also offer free-lance work, websites and advergames.
It started first as a project, because we wanted to combine our backgrounds and professions to create an endeavour. We wanted to create the games we want to play, i.e. those that showcase our culture. We had the same concept with different people, but they were not committed to the cause. As a result we became partners and created the business. The company was also created because of our desire to protect intellectual property.
Why was the name Couple Six chosen?
We wanted a name that signifies the Caribbean, and a game that’s played a lot in the Caribbean, especially in Barbados is dominoes. Couple six is used to start that game, so we thought it fitting for one of the Caribbean’s first gaming studios to be called that.
What type of financial support or assistance from agencies did you receive?
We received support from the BYBT (Barbados Youth Business Trust) and YES (Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme). They assisted with showcasing the game at different events, such as Animae Caribe in Trinidad and AnimeKon in Barbados. Also, since we are young (21 and 22) we didn’t have the capital or means to establish the business, so their financial support was really valuable. They also helped with legal fees and the company’s incorporation.
Were there any challenges in establishing the business?
About a million!! None of us had experience in making a game. There were issues with working as a team, because we were used to working alone. Also there were lots of trials and errors. In the game’s testing period we held a play testing session and the arrow keys were not going in the direction players wanted them to go, so this confused players. Another was that certain requests to agencies were denied arbitrarily and it took a long time (about 6 months) to get incorporated.
Do you believe that because of your young age, you were not taken seriously when seeking certain types of assistance?
Yes, we definitely had that experience and especially when they saw my (Mark’s) blue hair and nose ring!! However, the counterpoint is when they see what we are doing, they become excited about the project and their perception of us slowly changes.
As friends and business partners, how do you balance friendship and work?
We learned to accept each other’s differences and to communicate more effectively, especially if something is bothering us. There are three people in the business and in order to be successful, we decided to be truthful with one another. We now work and think as a team and not think individually as we were accustomed to doing before. We may take a Saturday off and go somewhere independently, or as a group.
What advice would you give to those who want to become entrepreneurs/ business partners in this type of business?
- Since it is a lot of work, you cannot do this alone, so you should partner with people you love. A benchmark is if you don’t look forward to Skyping or talking to them on the phone, it may not be wise to work with them.
- Make sure that you have similar goals.
- Knowing and understanding the person you are working with is important.
- Joshua Clarke is the third team member of the company. He is trained in graphic design and illustration and is the Artist who creates the designs and web content.
- Ariana is the Lead Programmer/ Project Leader. She is in charge of the art direction and is a self-taught programmer who studied Fine Arts at BCC.
- Mark is the Lead Writer. He completed his degree at the UWI in English Literature and is a trained writer.
- Le Loupgarou is a story-driven stealth game where you play as a terrifying monster being hunted through the hallways of his own memories.