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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2013 7 years ago

Pookie Monsters: Locals develop first video game for mobile devices



Stan and Sarah Lee, of Stan Lee’s United Martial Arts and Ocean Aire Productions, released “Pookie Monsters,” for 99 cents, last week.


When it came to designing characters for Stan and Sarah Lee’s first ever video game, developed through Ocean Aire Productions, their multimedia firm, all they had to do was look around them.

In the couple’s dojo, the 18-year-old Stan Lee’s United Martial Arts, they’re constantly surrounded by local kids — real characters, too, with big personalities, most of which come out strongest during warm-up games of dodge ball.

Some kids cry every time they get out, the Lees chuckled. Others get angry and blow out their cheeks. Some turn on the sass.

So Sarah Lee, with her background in film from Keiser College (she was offered a post-production job for “The X Files” years ago, but opted instead to stay in Florida and marry Stan), made her students into characters in the couple’s new video game for mobile devices, “Pookie Monsters.”

“Almost everything we do is based on the fact that we’re around large amounts of children every day,” Stan Lee said. “We’re always trying to fill needs and create things. ... The kids are our inspiration.”

So Sarah had the idea to make a video game incorporating dodge ball’s throwing mechanic. In “Pookie Monsters,” monsters zig-zag out of a bedroom closet, and the player throws toys at them by swiping their finger upward on the screen. The harder you swipe, the farther the toy gets tossed.

A year of development later, the game was ready to go. But every step of the way, the kids at Stan Lee’s United Martial Arts served as a focus group.

“They became our beta-test group,” Lee said. “We have a captive audience here.”

And also a silly one. Whenever a monster in the game dodges a toy, it snickers at you. And if it dodges all of the toys, it jumps out in front of the screen — and every time that happened, the Lees said, their mini product testers would all jump back then erupt in laughter.

“They all kind of consider themselves part of the development team,” Stan Lee said. “These kids all love video games, and the fact that they all know the people who made this game, they feel like they’re part of the process.”

But the Lee’s love being part of the process, too. Their enthusiasm bubbles when they talk about their game — especially Sarah’s, as she describes watching a kindergartener’s confidence build and build as she figured out and got better at “Pookie Monsters.”

“Her confidence just went, ‘Ah!’ ” she said. “I’ve always been a very big creator. I love to create little worlds and characters.”

The Lees have also developed two cartoons (what they call an “anti-SpongeBob” series) which at one point was used in 500 martial arts schools worldwide, animated video blogs and a character-building education system through Ocean Aire Production. That’s what “serial entrepreneurs” do, Stan Lee said. They have ideas, and they act on them.

And with “Pookie Monsters,” the couple is hoping this is one idea that sticks.

Search “Pookie Monsters” in your cell phone’s app store or on Facebook.

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