Interview with Dave Schultze, Founder of Gridopolis Games

Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.


Hello readers! We’re back with another installment in our interview series. We have a really fun, dynamic product for you today. We sat down with Dave Schultze, Owner and Founder of Gridopolis Games. Gridopolis is a multiplayer strategy game that allows students to not only play the game in 2-D, but it is expandable so that you can build and play in three dimensions! Gridopolis is a simple set of parts and rules that can be endlessly rearranged. Keep reading to find out more about this innovative award-winning product and its creators!

MCA: Hi Dave! We’re very excited to be speaking with you today. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your background? 

Dave: I have loved art and design from a very early age. As a child, I was always drawing on anything handy, whether it was a blank piece of paper or a parent’s book. I was also constantly building, typically with blocks, Legos, Lincoln Logs or anything else I could reach.

I always felt like I was meant for a career in design. I started as an architect after graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Oklahoma. I expanded into product design and later received my Masters of Industrial Design from Art Center College of Art and Design in 1997.

After graduation, I started SchultzeWORKS designstudio as a product design consultancy in Pasadena.

MCA: How fun that your excitement for building and creating goes back as far as you can remember and has sustained. Talk to me about your passion for STEM toys and games- why they are important? What needs were you trying to fill when you created Gridopolis

Dave: Gridopolis is not the first STEM toy or game I have developed. This field is something I’ve been passionate about for quite some time actually. I have designed dozens of games, toys and electronics for Mattel, Hasbro and Educational Insights, among many others. For Learning Resources / Educational Insights, I developed an entire line of STEM toys, three of which were nominated for Toy of the Year.

That wasn’t enough for me. So, in 2016, I started work on a new idea that would change how games are played. After noticing that most board games were flat and rigid in their gameplay, I wanted to create a multiplayer 3D strategy game. I thought it would be cool if players could not only move and jump in three dimensions, but could also design and build their own board. This inspired the desire to create the start-up
called Gridopolis Games.

MCA: And your interest doesn’t solely lie in STEM products, but in teaching and education as well, correct? 

Dave: I’ve had a lifelong passion for education. As someone who is always trying to master new skills, I’m committed to sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm for learning with others.

In 2002, I began teaching courses on 3D modeling and prototyping in the Toy Design department at OTIS College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, where I still teach today. I began authoring online courses with LinkedIn Learning in 2010. There are currently 15 courses with over 40 hours of instruction.

I also have a passion for products that are fun, humorous, and can bring people together. It’s not just enough to simply satisfy a functional or aesthetic need. I try to bring some emotional connection to my designs as well.

MCA: So, when considering where you’d like to see Gridopolis go,what would it take for you to personally consider it a success? What would you want your customers to gain from playing Gridopolis?

Dave: Right now, we are very focused on our Kickstarter campaign, which launches July 23. Our goal is to raise the necessary funds to produce the next edition and make it bigger and better than we did with our first edition. If we can meet our Kickstarter campaign goal, I would consider it a success, but just one of many more to come.

My hope is that once customers receive their games, they will enjoy the expandability of the Gridopolis system. I am especially eager to see what types of Grid-Set designs people create. We have designed a few blueprints, which are all free to download on our website, but I want Gridopolis to be a community as well. So I am encouraging players to experiment with our building parts and send us the blueprints for their own designs. We will playtest submitted designs and publish those that work with full designer credit. With Gridopolis, YOU too can be a game creator.

MCA: We are personally so excited about what you’ve created. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind game with so many possibilities! What has the response been like to Gridopolis?

Dave: I had a suspicion that people would respond well to Gridopolis, but it’s been even better than I could have imagined. Last year, I developed 500 first-edition games to distribute for testing and marketing because I wanted to be absolutely sure that this was a great idea before launching it on Kickstarter.

After receiving dozens of rave reviews from avid gamers, families and STEM educators, we are enthusiastic and optimistic for a successful Kickstarter campaign. You can read some of our amazing reviews on our Review page. My personal favorite review came from a gamer who called Gridopolis “a modular 3D game that can be understood in seconds and studied for a lifetime.” I couldn’t have asked my mom to write a better review!

More formally, Gridopolis has received two Gold Awards in the International Design Awards, two Silver Awards in the European Product Design Awards, and a Gold from the Mom’s Choice Awards. Gridopolis also recently became a STEM.org Authorized product, so as I said, the response has far exceeded my expectations.

MCA: What an excellent review! I know that must feel amazing after pouring so much of yourself into your product. You’ve mentioned before that one of your goals in the industry is to create innovative games. What does that look like for you? 

Dave: In my time working in this industry, I’ve noticed what I refer to as “the fear of innovation.” To many commercial enterprises, innovation sounds like a cool and trendy thing to talk about. But when it comes down to it, they rarely do it.

For example, I once had a company say to me that it was “too risky” to be the first to release a product I designed. When a similar product emerged months later, we evaluated it and determined my design was still superior. However, the client felt then that it wasn’t a good time because someone already did it. If you didn’t want to be first, and you don’t want to second, then you don’t really want to do it. My hope is that
Gridopolis will prove that innovation in gaming can work, and hopefully open the door to even more innovation in the future.

MCA: It must feel really good to put your creativity into the world without restrictions. Speaking of the future, what do you think the future of educational games looks like? How does Gridopolis fit into that vision?

Dave: STEM games and toys are clearly on the rise, a trend of which we are proud to be a part. Within the STEM fields is an emerging category we’ve dubbed ‘STEM without screens.’ When I talk to parents and educators, they often lament about how many of their children’s favorite learning toys have screens, not to mention the distraction caused by phones and tablets.

I developed Gridopolis to fill this void and bring the social component back to STEM learning. Plus, we’re now seeing a generational shift — we’re trending away from screen time to what has been described as a ‘hunger for interaction.’ I believe Gridopolis can spearhead this screen-free movement alongside companies with a shared vision such as Turing Tumble, Learning Resources, and Insect Lore, to name a few.

MCA: We have seen the same trend you described, the ‘hunger for interaction’ in our schools and homes. We are so glad to see you be a part of this movement! You guys have an upcoming Kickstarter launch, correct? 

Dave: On July 23, I will be launching Gridopolis on Kickstarter, yes! I’ve helped many startup clients in the toy and game industry, but this is my first venture into Kickstarter on my own.

So far, the response from gamers and educators has been overwhelmingly positive, so we have high hopes for a successful campaign. I’m especially excited to launch Gridopolis because it’s an excellent STEM education tool, which I can directly attribute to my love for teaching and learning.

Those who are interested in what we are doing can sign up for our Kickstarter alerts prior to the campaign launch. On July 23, our campaign will be live, and you can go to www.gridopolis.games/kickstarter to support us directly.

A big thank you to Dave for giving us some of his time and for sharing about Gridopolis! We are excited to see how it changes the face of STEM and educational games. Please check them out at their website, sign up for their alerts, and find them on Kickstarter on July 23! 

Interview With Dave Schultze

 

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