The College Park Gazette featured us on the front page of their April 8th 1999 edition. The article is reprinted here with permission.


Looney originals

College Park couple cash in on their card game creations


By J.D. Prose
 
Photo by Laura Chiles

With its College Park corporate headquarters being a blue house trimmed in purple with a 7-foot-tall gumball machine on the porch, few people would expect Looney Labs to be a staid, stuffy company.

And then there's the name. Looney Labs. Something cartoonish, like Looney Tunes, right? Kind of wacky, a little crazy. Cute.

Then you meet Andy and Kristin Looney the company's husband-and-wife owners, and you stand in child-like awe staring at the foyer and living room filled not with couches and chairs, but with games of every sort.

Video games, board games, card games, dice games. You name a game and it is somewhere in Wunderland, the moniker the Looneys have given their humble abode.

Why "Wunderland" and not "Wonderland" you ask? The name comes from Kristin's maiden name of Wunderlich, which aptly means "strange or peculiar" in German, she said.

"Our house is a fairly interesting place," Andy Looney, 35, said with just a hint of sarcasm. "We play pretty diverse stuff."

But the Looneys' love for play and games has gotten serious recently.

In addition to devoting full-time attention to Looney Labs, their game and gift design business, the couple will also launch an on-line game store later this year and they continue to publish a weekly on-line magazine, a "Webzine," in cyberlanguage, touting their games and the creations of other designers, as well as updating friends and fans on business and personal happenings.

If that was not enough, the Looneys' latest claim to fame is that their card game, Fluxx, was named one of the five best new games in the country by American Mensa last month at the high-IQ society's annual Mind Games competition in Seattle.

"It's one of the best awards a game can get," Kristin Looney, 33, said.

"It was a surprise," her husband said, "but it wasn't a shock."

Fluxx, first created by the Looneys as a Christmas gift for friends in 1996, was released to the market in July 1997 after the couple decided to produce it themselves.

"We got a huge, great response to it," said Andy Looney, who grew up in University Hills off Adelphi Road.

Both were still working full-time jobs and doing Looney Lab work on the side.

At the 1997 Origins, an annual game show held in July in Ohio, several large companies expressed an interest in producing Fluxx, but the Looneys chose to affiliate with Iron Crown Enterprises, a smaller company in Charlottesville, VA.

They chose Iron Crown because it would allow them to retain their corporate identity and because they liked the company officials, Kristin Looney said.

Now, the game is in its third printing since hitting the shelves last spring, said Pete Fenlon, Iron Crown president, with about 30,000 games already sold. The games sell for about $9.

"Our crew ran across the game, played it and was very enthused about it," Fenlon said. "I think, at this point, we're looking at taking this thing to the mass market."

Fluxx has only two rules, according to Andy Looney: pick a card, play a card. Players choose cards that constantly change the rules and goals of the game, he said.

"I think it's very original," Fenlon said. "It's pretty unusual to have a game where the rules, the object of the game and the basic manner of play is all derived from the cards."

Steve Weinreich, the chief judge of the Mind Games competition, called the game "imaginative" and humorous. "It's appealing because the play is different every time and it's appealing because there's different ways to win," he said. "You haven't seen this game before. It's as simple as that."

The Looneys trip to the brink of gaming stardom began 10 years ago at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, where both of them worked. Andy Looney was a computer programmer and Kristin Looney designed computer chips.

At first they were office mates, then friends, then sweethearts. They were married in 1990.

"I'm the creative guy and she's the entrepreneur," Andy Looney said. "She's a springboard for me to bounce things off of."

Fluxx was, in fact, created by Andy Looney at the request of his wife, who wanted to play a more unpredictable card game.

A first attempt at entering the market with the game Icehouse failed in 1996. But the couple was intent on making it.

Both were working full-time jobs, but found themselves spending more of their time on Looney Labs. First, Andy, who had left Goddard in 1994, dove full-time into Looney Labs. Kristin just recently quit her job at TSI Telsys in Columbia to spend her energies on the company.

"It's really scary, but its also really exciting," Andy Looney said.

"Yeah," his wife said, nodding. "We're ready."

Sitting in their game-filled house, the Looneys exude enthusiasm at the prospects for their burgeoning company. Both are barefoot and boast long, straight hair reminiscent of Woodstock. Kristin has on a "Yale Repertory Theatre" shirt, sports several multicolored woven bracelets and black toenail polish.

Andy Looney wears little round glasses and a T-shirt with a Pablo Picasso painting on it. A peace sign dangles from his neck along with a digital watch, the perfect juxtaposition of the 21st century and the mellow 1960s.

In that same vein, the Looneys newest game, Aquarius, features cards adorned with brightly-colored Beatlesque art, yet is solely offered on the Web site. "The Internet is what has made it possible for us to do this ourselves," Andy Looney said. "We are absolutely the total modern Internet entrepreneur."

As friends and family provide encouragement and help test game and gift ideas, the Looneys have also gained support from their many Internet fans who surf their Web sites, regularly correspond with the couple and ask about the opening of the Contagious Dreams on-line store.

"The feedback has been incredible," Kristin Looney said. "There's people watching us build our dreams."

For more information on Looney Labs or to see the company's catalog visit the Web site at www.wunderland.com.

 


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Last Modified: Oct 31 2014 at 14:59