Let’s go ahead and reestablish that my life is anything but “normal.” I’m fine with that. I have the attention span of a 12-year-old…and love the fact that technology allows you to play in loads of arenas that were either inaccessible or not invented just a few years ago (as in blogging and podcasting).
I am not one to shy away from something…even it may be “off the map a bit.” And certainly, my TSTO chapter is about as “off the map” as you can get.
For those of you who haven’t heard the story…TSTO stands for “The Simpsons Tapped Out,” a mobile device game featuring the Simpsons. The story of my involvement in the game started innocently enough…but has meandered in a way that took me to places I could never have imagined when I started playing. And most of the early days was tied to a guy named Ryan. No. Not Katie’s Ryan. Or even Ali’s Ryan…but a whole different Ryan…a guy from New Jersey.
This is the short version of how we met, and went on to co-author a book together, and start a blog that is followed by tens of thousands across more than 110 countries…and has allowed us to help a school in Buyijja, Uganda.
But it all started with the game…
The Simpsons Tapped Out is a mobile device game that is made by EA, written by the folks at Gracie Films (Matt Groening’s studio that does the Simpsons on FOX) and Fox…who just makes money by owning a piece of the show. Good old Fox.
My involvement isn’t that outside the box, as my career also included doing the music for a handful of Will Vinton Claymation productions, including the TV special and Album for “The Claymation Christmas Celebration” which ironically…has a “six degrees of separation connection to Matt Groening, and Debbie, and me…which you can figure out here.
The short story, is that I started playing with my grandsons, because we could visit each other’s towns, and graffiti them. Simple enough. They stopped playing after a few months. Me…not so much.
The game is kind of a series of running updates, with characters and stories, and a SIMM CITY element that allows you to design and build your own version of “Springfield,” (which we all know is actually in Oregon).
After about six months of playing the game (which can be convoluted by horrible tech support and documentation by EA), I discovered a “how to” blog about the game. The founder was up to his eyeballs in keeping up…and then sold the blog to someone who didn’t know his Lisa from his Milhouse. I offered to write some guest posts. As did another guy named Ryan Kagy.
To “cut to the chase” while leaving out the ugly details…the old blog needed to die…so we started a new one of our own, TSTOFriends, which launched at the same time we published our book.
Yes. That last sentence is correct. We actually wrote a book about the game…with loads and loads of humor, insights about life, and loads of posts about how to play the game, the history of the game, the insider edge on behind the scenes, and just loads of things that mostly entertained us in the writing. The writing process was an insane 2 month, of almost continual phone conversations…checking and rechecking…and finally being proofed by Katie. It was nuts. Fun. And a great introduction into the world of self-publishing in multi-formats.
It is still available today…we still get royalty checks. In fact…the ENTIRE take in royalties on the book from last year, bought the dinner we shared when we got together in Montclair. It took all of the royalties…and the dinner was less than $100.
Hey…it was an Amazon “BEST SELLER” for three days…in England.
It’s nuts. I know. But, hey…with me, it’s just part of the rich fabric of crazy that is who I am.
The blog is coming up on its 3rd anniversary…and me my 4th year playing TSTO. Ryan wisely stopped writing for the blog, or playing the game more than two years ago…to get a REAL life (and success, and to find true love…which is hard to do if you spend 8-10 hours a day blogging/writing/playing a mobile device game).
We met his wonderful girlfriend, Laura last time we visited a year ago, and were overjoyed to meet up in Montclair (a town geographically between Scotch Plains and Dumont, where Ryan and Laura reside).
Ryan, Cranky, Deb and Laura…old new friends, meeting again… for what else? Ethiopian food!
This place was AMAZING…and recognized by the White House for an accomplishment we couldn’t figure out. But it is cool…even if the letter feels a tad “generic.”
It was followed by a long walk around town…and some incredible chocolate dipped pretzels the chocolate works…which didn’t have a letter from Obama…but, should have.
I have nothing but fond memories of our experiences together. Ryan is a hoot…and genuinely a nice guy who deserves the success and love that has finally come his way.
As far as the blog? We’ll see. The stats are overwhelming… Millions of hits…more than 75,000 comments moderated, and more than 1,360 (and counting) blog posts. It’s nuts…even by my standards.
But this community (and it is a worldwide community) of friends and followers, is also responsible for the largest chunk of donations to our work in Buyijja, Uganda. Go figure.
Let’s make this easy… HERE ARE A TON OF RELATED LINKS for those of you who want to know more (or donate).
The TSTO Blog- TSTOFriends.com
Our Uganda Projects- FriendsOfBuyijja.com (please consider donating…every dollar makes a difference).
The Claymation Christmas Celebration Story (TV show and Album)
Have fun exploring. I know I had fun making these memories…
Next… ON TO THE WORLD’S BIGGEST MODEL RAILROAD LAYOUT…
This is just a quick note to congratulate you on your achievement.
(also, enjoying the trip reports, and hooray Ryan! i gave him 6 months to return to tapping before i had to reluctantly let him go from my friends list for others. glad to see him living and breathing!)
I still have him “archived” along with my grandson.
But– it was great to hang out with him again!
Nice post! Glad to see you were ever to reconnect with Ryan. I was there on Day 1 of the new “pizza place”…is that what you called it? I fondly remember his posts and enjoyed the differing styles that the two of you had. I too was in New Jersey the past couple days, visiting family in the area…one of which also lives in Scotch Plains…wow, small world!
What I find hilarious…is that Three of the Four original blog owners all lived in NJ. Must be something in the water.
I would love to see another guest post by Ryan if you can convince him to write a blog post.
He had some crazy & funny off the wall non-TSTO posts he did.
Not likely…he is pretty much done with TSTO. Hard to blame him, as his “new life” is amazing. But, I’ll ask.
I’ll be passing through Scotch Plains, or pretty close, shortly, as I do every workday on the historic Raritan Valley Line. Only 8 minutes late today… thanks NJ Transit! Maybe next time you come out this way you can come to meet and eat at my restaurant, although it’s pretty much the opposite direction from Montclair.