Creators that inspire: Christopher Chancey
This article, along with six other portraits of creators that inspire, was first published in the CMF 2022 Annual Report.
Christopher Chancey and his team at Montreal’s ManaVoid Entertainment wanted to create a videogame that would brighten people’s lives both on and off-screen.
They came up with an inspired, and inspiring, concept: a child must find a way to bring colour into a black and white world.
In October 2021, after three years in development, they released the RPG game Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan, which became an instant hit with players of all ages and especially those identifying as non-binary and LGBTQ+, who rarely see themselves represented in videogames.
“We showcased the game at Montreal Comiccon to see whether it would work,” says ManaVoid’s President & CEO Chancey on the line from Montreal. “A lot of people came to us and said they loved the whole recolouring thing, the rainbow as a symbol, and a lot of the LGBTQ+ community started telling us they were vibing with the game for reasons that were a bit unforeseen for us.”
“The character of Billy was non-gendered in our minds, so we decided to really lean into it and make the character non-binary,” he continues. “We consulted with different people, including Annie Pullen Sansfaçon, who has a research chair at the Université de Montréal working with trans children, to give us a sense of how gender identity works with children.”
Chancey’s team also made sure to include dyslexia-friendly fonts and one-stick control so players with mobility issues could also play.
At the heart of the game is a child and their friends who talk to the creatures who have sucked the colour out of their world. By being empathic towards the creatures, asking them questions, and helping them deal with their issues through conversations, mini games, and various challenges, colours begin to return to the world. There isn’t a moment of violence in the 30+ hours of game play.
“There aren’t a lot of non-violent role-playing games,” says Chancey. “We were inspired by an article we read that said something like 83 per cent of the games shown at 2019’s E3—one of the world’s biggest videogame events—contained violence, and we thought that was a really sad statistic. We wanted to show you could make a really high-quality videogame without leaning into violence.”
That approach caught the attention of the Canada Media Fund, which awarded Chancey and his team funding to work on the game’s prototype.
“I have to say the Canada Media Fund is pretty much the best money you can get,” he explains. “They are very hands off and really trust the developers to create their vision. And because of their strong financial backing, we were able to negotiate a deal with the publisher to keep our intellectual property. And that was all because of the Canada Media Fund, which gives you that injection of cash that is so hard to initially get for a project.”
For Chancey, it’s the player reaction from Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan that give him the greatest sense of satisfaction.
“The reaction has honestly been wild,” says Chancey. “People understand what we were trying to do. The communities that we wanted to vibe with the game did so. We wanted to rise to the challenge of making a game where we could talk about things like a non-binary character and not have it be a big deal.
“And the game is really touching,” he says proudly. “We saw some people on Twitch cry when they finished the game. We managed to really touch people with certain characters. Making someone cry is the ultimate validation for a game developer. That was awesome.”