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Why a Sixer spent a day learning how to build video games at a Philadelphia game studio

Sixers guard Hollis Thompson is a lot taller than the rest of the gamers. He’s wearing athletic garb, too, and not compulsively drinking coffee. But he sounds just like the rest of them, discussing experiences with Diablo III and Robocraft.

Thompson stopped by PHL Collective’s offices at 16th and Vine Tuesday for a one-day internship. PHL Collective is an indie video game developer. And the Sixers’ guard loves video games, loves them so much that he wants to start his own company after he retires from basketball.

“I’m just trying to learn as much as possible,” Thompson says.

That’s why he came to PHL Collective. The staff showed him some of the basic points of video game design, like coding and 2D and 3D art, and shared information about the business-side of things. Thompson joked that he might have to stop again and again this summer to learn more.

No matter how much you’re into video games, there’s a good chance Thompson is more into them. In the basement of his house, he says, he has two TVs and two Playstations. He buys two copies of almost every game so he and his friends can play online. In his living room, he has a Wii for Super Smash Bros., Mario Party and Mario Kart. Thompson also has games on his IPad — he just downloaded something called Robocraft — and likes World of Warcraft on his Mac. And…

“I’m going to go get an XBox so I can play Clusterpuck 99,” says Thompson, referring to PHL Collective’s flagship game.

Thompson is relatively new to Philadelphia. He grew up in Southern California, went undrafted out of Georgetown and latched onto the D-League for a year. He made the Sixers’ roster in 2013 and for two seasons has averaged 11.1 points and 4.6 rebounds.

When he first made the NBA, he started getting ideas about wanting to start a video game business later in life.

“I sat down with my people,” he says, “and they said, ‘you have to take advantage of this for as long as you can, but you can’t do this forever. So what do you see yourself doing when you stop playing basketball?’ This is it. I can’t really see myself doing much else other than creating something. I think a real job for me could be making video games.”

For now, Thompson says he’ll try to learn coding and spread the word about videogames to his fellow NBA players. He says most of them don’t pay much attention to video games, especially not as much as him.

“In the locker room we talk about girls or basketball or whatever,” Thompson says.

Unless he switches the conversation to videogames, which is exactly what he attempted to do this season. Thompson says he got teammates like Michael Carter Williams (who’s no longer with the team) and Jakarr Sampson hooked on Diablo III and even the “Lord of the Rings”-inspired Shadow of Mordor.

“Now when I buy a new game,” he says of his teammates, “two or three people will have it a few days later.”

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