Television

Breaking bad with a board game

Arjun Shankar, creator of the 'Breaking Bad' board game. Photo: Yash Suda

Arjun Shankar, creator of the 'Breaking Bad' board game. Photo: Yash Suda   | Photo Credit: YASH SUDA

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A chance $100 ticket, and the opportunity of a lifetime. Arjun Shankar tells how he went about creating a board game based on Breaking Bad, and met its creator Vince Gilligan

Like every other teenager, Arjun Shankar got hooked on to Breaking Bad while still in college. He watched the 62 episodes 25 times.

In 2015, he quit his three-year-old auditing job in a multinational firm, decided to drop out of CA with one exam to clear, and started working on a board game based on the Emmy award-winning series — complete with the popular characters Walter White, Jesse Pinkman and Gus Fring; Meth labs and dollar rolls.

In eight months, after 15 different versions, a brand new Breaking Bad board game was born. “Probably, the only one in the world as of now,” he claims.

Arjun then went a step further. He decided to meet the creator of the series, Vince Gilligan. And early this year, he did.

The journey from the comfort of his home in KK Nagar to a red carpet event in LA, where he finally got to meet Vince, is a story that seems straight out of a movie script.

With no prior background in board games, except for playing the conventional Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly, and so on, Arjun went ahead to give life to a “path-breaking idea inside his head”.

“It was the time when Chennai was marooned due to the floods. There was nothing much to do anyway, so I locked myself up inside a five ft by eight ft store room for 19 hours every day, conceptualising the game. I cut off from friends, films, television and social media. Things were pretty bad at home as well. I come from a conservative family, and it was tough for my folks to understand and accept what I was doing,” recalls the 22-year-old.

“But, I held on to my passion. There were times when I worked till I almost passed out, woke up with a new idea all of a sudden, and worked on it for the next 12 hours. Though I lost nearly 25 kg in the last five months, mentally, I was never exhausted. I told myself it was something no one else in the world could do, but me,” he says.

Once the board game was ready, he created a one-man company called Tripeee Games, and applied for his U.S. visa. “I wanted to show Vince what I had created. I knew I was a ‘nobody’ with no network to reach the guy. But people always talk about destiny, about how the universe rearranges itself for those who wish for something, and I wanted to see if there was any truth in it,” he says. Turns out, there was.

“I got my U.S. visa in three days, and flew there in the next two days,” he says. Once there, he arranged to meet Vince’ lawyers at Santa Monica, LA, and presented before them the game prototype. Impressed with it, they said he would be put in touch with a higher authority. A few weeks passed before Arjun got any reply. “Vince’s direct lawyer got back to me saying she saw potential in the game, but could not sign a deal, as it needed to come through a proper channel,” he recalls.

The rights for the characters are with Sony Pictures, and to proceed with the development of the game, Arjun would need an investor who could help him get the rights, and a game developer. “I realised I still had a long way. Considering it as nothing more than a good learning process, I started packing my bags for India,” he says.

That’s when Arjun came across the public event ‘2016 PaleyFest’ at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood — Vince Gilligan was part of the panel. Call it divine intervention or just sheer luck, “but there was just one seat left in the first row of the hall for $100, and I spent the last few dollars left with me on it,” he says.

Arjun shares with us a video recording of the “biggest moment of his life”. In the video, Vince and the rest of the cast of Better Call Saul — an offshoot of Breaking Bad — are on the dais; and on the first row in the audience is our Chennai boy. When the moderator announces the session open to the audience, Arjun, all suited up, pounces at the opportunity. “I was numb. There were 1,500 people in the audience, and two heavyweight bouncers right in front of me. I knew that this was my only chance to talk to the director. So, I went ahead and grabbed the mike. I couldn’t remember a thing I spoke, until I saw the recording,” he says.

Arjun spoke to Vince about his story, took out the prototype of the game which he had taken along with him to the event, and asked feebly, ‘Would you like to see it?’ “Vince was perplexed. He probably hadn’t met anyone as crazy as me. However, he did agree to see it,” laughs Arjun. And, just like that, Arjun’s board game was screened on the big screen before hundreds in the audience, and probably thousands worldwide on their televisions. “Vince seemed pretty impressed, and said: ‘We will connect you with the right person’, before pointing at his assistant,” recounts Arjun, who was mentioned as a “bold game maker who pitched his invention to Vince”, on the next day’s Hollywood Reporter. “I hope Vince does not forget me and my creation in the near future,” he says.

That’s probably enough time for Arjun to get his game out.

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Printable version | May 20, 2019 3:57:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/radio-and-tv/breaking-bad-with-a-board-game/article8667251.ece

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