Geek Girl Entrepreneur: Kristin Looney
Former NASA engineer, and “proud geek”, Kristin Looney has loved to play tabletop games for as long as she can remember. With an easy and heartfelt smile, long hair and a tie-dyed bandana on her head, she can often be seen at airports befriending fellow passengers by inviting them to play Pink Hijinks, a mind-bending stacking game that’s always hanging from her belt loop in its bright pink case.
Kristin’s earliest claim to fame was solving a Rubik’s Cube in 35.5 seconds on an ABC TV show called That’s Incredible. She was only 16 at the time. In the late 1980s, she met Andy Looney, a fellow NASA engineer who loved designing tabletop games in his spare time. She married him. In 1997, they founded Looney Labs and have never looked back.
Today, Looney Labs games are available worldwide and its best-seller is the card game Fluxx, which is now available in more than a dozen versions.
As a geek girl, who loves science and gaming, I have to say that Kristin Looney should definitely be a role model for other geek girls! We got to ask Kristin a few questions, let’s see what she had to say. (And yes, Looney really is her last name!)
I know many people who try to get their friends into gaming, and are not sure where to start them off. What Looney Labs game (or games), would you recommend to someone who is a new gamer, and what makes that game good for a first time gamer?
Games that appeal to non-gamers are very much our specialty. Most Looney Labs games are good for bridging the gamer/non-gamer gap. Specifically, I would suggest our newest card game Loonacy, or our portable tabletop game Pink Hijinks. Loonacy is a super-fast matching game played without turns, and Pink Hijinks is a deceptively simple abstract tabletop game packaged in a cute little go-anywhere zippered pouch. Both of these games are great for starting new gamers out because they are both extremely quick to explain and begin playing.
I’m not sure how much of this you can talk about, but on Andrew’s blog he mentioned a Cartoon Network ‘Regular Show’ themed Fluxx game (that should be coming out this Summer). Can you tell else what else we can look forward to with your new Cartoon Network partnership?
We’re very excited about Regular Show Fluxx – and publishing titles that draw upon Cartoon Network’s fabulous archive of funny material. I can’t say much more right now, but stay tuned!
It’s pretty impressive to have “NASA Engineer” in your background. I’ve always had a love for science, and NASA. What inspired you to get into that field?
My father was a mathematician, a math professor, so I grew up surrounded by a love of logic and science. He used to test out his lectures on my sister and I, so I was learning about differential equations and string theory at the dinner table. When I was in high school he returned from a math conference in Canada with this brand new puzzle no one had heard of yet, called a Rubik’s Cube, which I then became obsessed with.
Later, when I was in college, my dad got to work on a new computer at NASA called the Massively Parallel Processor (the MPP) which was important enough that you’ll currently find it on display at the Air & Space Museum annex. I always thought NASA was way cool so I went to visit him there one Saturday afternoon while I was home from college and happened to meet one of their Division Managers who enjoyed my enthusiasm and offered me a job as a co-op student! I worked at NASA for 10 years designing custom chips for ground systems that collected telemetry data from satellites.
Girls are often treated as if they should stay out of, what some people consider, the “boys world”, from anything involving gaming to science. I know that as a child I was often picked on for liking “boy stuff”. Do you have any advice for young girls who want to wear their ‘geek badge’ proudly, but worry about being hassled for it?
I was made fun of at an early age simply for my name (my maiden name, Wunderlich, was an easy source of insults) so I guess I developed a thick skin about the meaningless opinions of others and learned to be proud of “doing my own thing.” It also helps to seek out others who share your geeky interests. Having a community to draw support from can make all the difference. Focus on being good at what you do, and proud of who you are, and find other like-minded geeks to hang out with.
GenCon will be here in August, so that had me wondering if you would be at any upcoming conventions or events?
Yes, we are going to GenCon! We will also be at San Diego Comic-Con for the first time this summer, and hope to be at ChiTag in Chicago this fall.