Nicholas Laborde aims for the stars with space armada video game

By Raymond L. Daye

    It sounds like a child’s ideal job -- to grow up and get paid to play video games.
    Nicholas Laborde took his childhood love of video games and has worked toward making his dream of combining work and play come true. He created Raconteur Games, and its first computer game is about to be released online.
    Laborde hopes the space armada game “Close Order” is successful, which would allow him and his associates to work on additional games.
   He has achieved the dream of owning his own company before graduating college. He will get his business management degree from UL-Lafayette in December. However, he will be going back to ULL next spring to pursue his master’s in business administration.
Laborde, 21, was born and raised in Marksville. He attended Sacred Heart Catholic School in Moreauville. His parents, former Marksville Mayor John Ed Laborde and Elizabeth Battalora -- a retired Army colonel and a nursing professor at LSUA -- had divorced when he was young. They decided it would be better for Nicholas to attend high school at Pineville High, so he moved to live with his mother.
Began as 4-year-old
      His fascination with video games began when he was 4-years-old and he would steal 30 minutes of game playing between the time his older brother left for school and he had to leave. He kept that dream of someday working in the field -- preferably for himself and not someone else.
     “If you don't follow your dreams, someone else will hire you to follow theirs,” Nicholas said, quoting poet Suli Breaks.
     For his senior project, he chose video game design. He and three friends worked on the project. One of the requirements was to enlist a mentor.
     He sent a letter to the president of Gearbox Software in Plano, Texas, asking if he would be the mentor. 
     “I got a letter back saying something like he was inspired by my passion, but unable to assist me as my mentor,” Nicholas said.
     Nicholas chalked it up to an “at least I tried” effort. Then he got an email from Gearbox Vice President Aaron Thibault. Thibault said he was told about Nicholas’ search for a mentor and asked if another executive -- like himself -- might be appropriate.
     “I went to Plano and spent three days following everyone around,” Nicholas said. “I met people in all aspects of game design. It had a profound impact on my life. It was the most exciting few days of my life.”
     In college, Laborde collaborated with others to work on the creation of the “Close Order” game and lay the groundwork for Raconteur Games. In January, the company was officially formed.
     “The concept of the company was around for about five years, but the legal entity is 8 months old. 
     The company’s only game was released as an “early access” game online, which enables gamers to play the game while it is still in development and provide feedback to the designers on glitches they find or ways to improve the gaming experience.
“chief storyteller”
      He calls himself “founder and chief storyteller” because he said CEO just doesn’t seem to fit with him being so young.
“The title also fits with the name of the company,” Nicholas said. “Raconteur is French for storyteller.”
      There are five others involved in the company. Nicholas provides the business sense and works on the story development. There are three programmers, one artist and one composer/musician who work on the games. They are located in Iowa, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois.
       At this time, Raconteur Games is a company with no office building. Nicholas hopes that will change soon. That will depend on how well “Close Order” does when it is released.
       “The best case scenario is that this is successful and I will always work for myself,” Nicholas said. “The reality is that if it is not successful, I will have to suck it up and get a job.
     “Working for myself is where I feel I am most useful,” he continued, “but at the end of the day you have to have a steady paycheck and pay the bills.”