On Making Gnomes: How The Sims Made Me an Entrepreneur

Sims Woodworking Gnomes

Shortly after my wife and I first moved into our first home together, we created a game room. We had consoles and PCs and a single bed we used as a couch. One of the games we liked to play was The Sims.

In The Sims: Livin’ Large, there is a “KraftMatic Woodworking Table” where Sims can carve gnomes out of blocks of wood. At first, gnomes might only sell for $1, but as the Sim’s Mechanical skill improves, they will increase in price.

One day after my wife and I were sitting there watching a simulated person build something and sell it while we sat watching, a simultaneous ‘light bulb’ went off in our heads when we both realized we could ‘build gnomes’ in real life.

We never played The Sims again.

My wife started a custom knitting company, became a lactation consultant, and is now selling essential oils and making soap. I started out doing handyman work, started a web design company, and started a career in IT.

 

Minecraft

One of the most popular computer games right now is Minecraft, a game that allows you to create, edit, and explore worlds by digging, transforming, and creating new things out of basic materials like wood, stone, and metal.

I started playing Minecraft on November 27, 2011. Two days later I noted, “I bought it specifically to dig holes and play with flowing water. The zombies really scare me so I started playing in creative mode. However, there is something not as fun when there are no limitations. And I was disappointed in whatever physics logic is used to control water flow. When water is released by digging next to it, it flows for a little while and then stops. It doesn’t flood wherever it can like real water would.”

Minecraft

Recently James Altucher wrote about the value of play in The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Mastery. He had recently interviewed Robert Greene, author of Mastery, on his podcast, The James Altucher Show.

On February 18, 2014 I was driving to work and heard The Foundation’s podcast, “Learning to Play and Boosting Productivity – with Charlie Hoehn”. In it, Charlie talked about how he discovered the power of play. One thing that struck me is how both James – in his post about Mastery – and Charlie, in his book Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety ask the reader to “List everything you enjoyed doing [before, when you were young]”.

When I first heard the question, I didn’t know the answer. All I could think about was how I really didn’t like playing traditional sports. But the second time I heard the question, it’s as if my mind was prepared for the answer and I started to think about all of the time I spent going out into the woods and creating spaces for myself. I called them “forts” because I didn’t have a better word for them at the time, but they were just private, open spaces where I could go to get away.

When I was young I created these types of spaces in urban environments under bridges, in my backyard, at summer camps I worked at, and at colleges I attended. In high school I watched The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995) – a movie about a map maker who comes to measure a mountain – just to learn more about maps and mountains. It turns out it was all a ruse to get us to watch Hugh Grant fall in love for two hours.

Minecraft Cartoons

Back in January of 2012 I decided I’d try my hand at making some Minecraft comics and then point you to some that other people have done. I’m no Oatmeal or XKCD, but I wanted to share regardless. This was my first attempt.

Mapreneurs

Mapreneurs

Objectionable Physics

Objectionable Physics

Mineworld Problems

Mineworld Problems

Here’s some Minecraft cartoons that other people have done:

Minecraft Cartoon creepghastcartoon minetoons

Building the LongView

In the spring of 2005 I ran an Indianapolis Game Development meetup called Indy Game Dev. It had one other member. We decided we’d make our own computer game.

Indy Game Dev Members

We met at his parent’s house in Fishers where he lived. His family computer was in his parent’s bedroom. I was still working at Old National, 2nd shift, down by the Indianapolis Airport, so it was always late at night when we met.

Longview Start Menu

The game was a turn-based game that worked similarly to how Shadowgate worked. It started you off in a room with a couple of options. The scenes were post-modern, urban decayed scenes with relatively little to no characters.

LongView level One

We mapped out the first level in a rudimentary drawing. It was a simple layout with a couple of different options. The same game could have been played easily without graphics in a ‘Interactive Fiction’-type game.

LongView hallWay

I had just graduated from Indiana University in Indianapolis the year before where I had taken Visual Basic.NET, Javascript, VRML, and HTML classes. In one of my classes I had made several browser-based games. I felt pretty confident.

LongView attack Mode

Right around this same time, Meetup.com decided to start charging for running a meetup. I understood, but it was a little more than I wanted to take on financially at the moment so I turned the meetup over to the other guy and left.

The End of the Line

I learned just enough about game design and 3D engines to discover I didn’t really want to design my own game. I guess I wanted to design a game, but really only wanted to know how it was done. Now I know.