To many Philadelphia 76ers fans, Hollis Thompson is simply the undrafted free agent the team signed in 2013 just as The Great Rebuild was beginning to take shape. But in the two seasons since, the 6-foot-8 swingman has proven to be a valuable addition to the team, adding immeasurably to the defense as well as being a threat from beyond the arc. Last year Thompson averaged 8.8 points, 1.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds as well as shooting 40.1 percent from three-point range, all factors that helped him solidify his place on the roster.
What many Sixers fans may not know is that Hollis Thompson is also a huge geek.
And we’re not talking about someone who reads a couple comics or plays a little bit of Halo and calls themselves a geek, we’re talking hardcore geekiness here. Thompson plays Magic: The Gathering, reads comic books and sees all the Marvel movies as soon as they hit theaters.
But most of all, Thompson is a gamer.
Thompson loves video games. Loves them. He has been playing since the days of the Nintendo 64 and hasn’t stopped. His love of gaming began with games like Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart and has continued to this day where he spends over two hours a day gaming and would spend more if practice with the Sixers didn’t get in the way. It has gotten to the point where Thompson’s devotion to gaming has spread to the Sixers locker room, where Mortal Kombat is played regularly with the likes of Jerami Grant and JaKarr Sampson.
I asked Thompson what is was that turned him into such a hardcore gamer.
“I can’t think of one game that made me into a gamer. Because you first start playing video games, I want this game and then you want to try this and I feel like over time, I think the more video games I played and the more genres I got into, I broadened my horizons and it turned into now every time a game comes out I just go get it and try it out and that shaped my love for video games.”
More than just playing games, however, Thompson wants to make video games. He has over 20 ideas for games in various genres, from party titles to massive triple-A games like Bloodborne. He has definite opinions why Playstation is the better system over the Xbox and what he likes and doesn’t like in the current crop of games on the market.
To that end, Thompson was invited to be an intern for the Philadelphia-based video game studio PHL Collective, makers of the award-winning game ClusterPuck 99. Thompson shadowed the team of six artists and programmers for the day, seeing exactly what it takes to make a video game, from the art to the business side to yes, playing games. I asked what he hopes to get out of it, what kind of game studio he hopes to run one day and he mentioned again and again that he simply wants to learn.
“I think it all depends because there is so much I don’t know; the time, the money, the energy it takes to make what kind of game I want to make. Eventually I want to be able to do anything, but where I start, I don’t know where I start and I don’t know what it’s going to take me to get started at that point.”
Thompson sees game design as his future, the one after his playing days are over and he moves into the next phase of his life and career. Interning with PHL Collective is step one in that plan, as well as spending his time during road trips this upcoming season learning the Unity game engine, which is the de facto game design program used by many independent studios.
I watched as Thompson played a few rounds of ClusterPuck 99 and Super Smash Brothers with the crew at PHL Collective and, let me tell you, he is one serious gamer. And if you ever meet Thompson at a Sixers event, don’t ask him about any of the Spawn video games unless you want to know, in detail, why they all were a massive disappointment.