ESCONDIDO — Brandon Byler said he understands stress well. After all, he has proudly protected the community as a member of the Escondido Police Department for 15 years.
In recent weeks, he’s also had to work around the pandemic while helping his terminally ill brother, who is also a police officer.
To deal with the stress that comes with the uniform, Byler said he took to game boards — playing with longtime friend and San Diego police officer Matt Ruggiero.
“By working in patrol divisions for as long as we have, we are constantly thrust into corrosive and stressful environments,” Byler said. “Maintaining mental health has become an increasingly important issue in police work and Matt and myself found our outlet playing board games and having that face to face quality time on a weekly basis. It’s often a venting session and an outlet to relieve stress.”
Their love for game boards compelled the duo to create one themselves. Byler and Ruggiero are the masterminds behind Code 3, an 80s-themed game board about cops.
“Matt and I determined that there really were no good ‘cop games,’” Byler said. “Furthermore, to keep it tongue in cheek and away from any social issues, we decided to set it in an over-the-top world of 80’s action movies. That way it’s fun enough and light enough for the family to play. It definitely has a sense of humor and there are numerous inside jokes that are specific to police work.”
The game consists of about 30 police officers who are represented in a deck of cards. Players select two officers and an “adventure” to play against.
“These scenarios are typically some sort of crime boss that players must work cooperatively together to take down,” Byler said. “We created a game that we want to play. Whatever style of game you like to play, you will be able to find interesting combinations of beat partners to combine and create unique strategies with. Our goal was to create a sandbox game with near-infinite replayability.”
The game is currently in its first print run in China and will soon be available for purchase on Blackkeygames.com.
Although the duo hope players enjoy their game — they also plan to donate a portion of proceeds to police charities and causes, including Byler’s own brother. Brett Byler, a fellow police officer in Escondido, was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Loved ones and fellow police officers are currently raising money to support Brett Byler’s family on a fundraising platform, GoFundMe (gofundme.com/f/byler-family).
“Matt and I are going to continuously donate a portion of our profit to police charity as long as the game remains in print,” Byler said. “In light of the new struggles with my brother, we also plan on the game being in support of him and dedicated to him.”
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.