Let’s get one thing straight – Luc Bernard is not your typical games designer. In fact, the man behind mobile strategy title Mecho Wars is loathe to even take on that title. “I see myself as more of a storyteller,” he says. “I used to love fairy tales and also films when I was a child, and when I discovered video games I saw it as a new form of storytelling where I could truly express myself.”
As is often the case, sometimes it’s not always easy to express yourself. Bernard’s first release – the 2D platformer Eternity’s Child – was given such a critical mauling that he promptly announced his retirement from the industry. He finds the incident amusing today, but at the time the scathing comments cut deep and had a tremendous impact on Bernard; a sure sign of how deeply and emotionally invested in he is in his work. “I am quite emotional,” he chuckles. “So I felt terrible, and since it was my first game and everything I do is a part of me, it hurt to hear those comments. I would say what I create is everything I have and it’s what defines me as a person; however, I would also say that I did provoke the criticism with my reaction to the reviews, but the feeling I had was like having the world against me, at least at the time.”
So why did Bernard choose to go back on his word and return to games design? “Like I said, I get extremely emotional and sometimes not too rational,” he says with a wry smile. “So after a few days I realized I wanted to continue doing what I do, and this time do it right, since I had learned from my mistakes.” It’s fair to say that Bernard did indeed learn his lesson – his most successful title to date is the Advance Wars-inspired Mecho Wars, which has already thrilled countless players as a PlayStation Mini release and has just hit Android and iOS in a revised form.
Bernard relocated to the United States from the UK a few years back, a move which has resulted in an explosion of creativity and has allowed the designer to hook up with some talented developers. He’s not entirely certain what actually motivated the transatlantic leap, but doesn’t regret the decision. “I’m not sure why I moved, but I felt like the UK and France was not my home,” he says. “I love where I’m from but I never really fitted in, while in the USA they often just assume I’m foreign when I do something weird!” Bernard’s penchant for the unusual has led to him crowd-funding his latest project, entitled Imagination is the Only Escape. An adventure title which shows the Holocaust through the eyes of an impressionable Jewish child, the game has been in development for years and was originally pitched as a Nintendo DS release. Given the subject matter, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Bernard has struggled to convince publishers to take a chance on his vision.