83-year-old Churchill Solitaire dev shares his story

How politician Donald Rumsfeld got into games development

Donald Rumsfeld, the US politician turned game developer, has told the full story of his debut mobile title Churchill Solitaire.

Posting his account at Medium.com, Rumsfeld describes how the urge to “stay young [and] keep learning” was one of the key drivers behind him working with a team of games developers to create the new digital card game.

Churchill Solitaire is based on a variation of the long-established card game that was adapted by Sir Winston Churchill himself, adding in extra rows of cards and a whole second deck. Rumsfeld was taught the game by Churchill’s protégé André de Staercke, and has since taught it to his family.

While he had developers producing the game itself, Rumsfeld was keen to be as ‘hands-on’ with the project as possible.

“Since we began our partnership, I’ve reviewed wire frames and branding guides,” he writes. “I’ve spent countless hours on beta releases. I’ve signed off on something they call ‘UX’. I’ve put the game through its paces, offering suggestions and ideas to make it as closely resemble the game Churchill played.

“After 172 builds?—?thousands of lines of code each?—?we have arrived. I am now officially in the app business.

“What motivated me to push myself into the tech world was simply the fact that I thoroughly enjoy the game. My wife, Joyce, and I play it against each other regularly, keeping score?—?she might not want me to disclose that I’ve been leading her over the past several years?—?and more recently, with the app, comparing our relative skillfulness by trying to win the same hand. We both tend to be believers in the simple, Churchillian tagline for the game: #NeverGiveIn.”

Rumsfeld observes that were it not for the mobile version, Churchill’s game could have disappeared forever.

“Up until a few years ago, there were probably a dozen or so people in the entire world who knew how to play this game,” he writes. “These were mostly people I taught the game to?—?my wife, Joyce (the second best living Churchill Solitaire player I know), our children, and some assorted colleagues and friends. 

“That was it. Winston Churchill was gone. André de Staercke, as well. And I knew I wouldn’t be around forever. There was every chance the game Churchill so enjoyed could be lost to the ages.”

Rumsfeld was approached about turning the game into an app – something he had never considered. Concerned that the Churchill family would not want Sir Winston’s creation digitised in this way, he contacted the former PM’s great-grandson Randolph Churchill and found the family to be more enthusiastic than he expected.

The politician stressed that neither he nor the Churchills are profiting from the mobile game; instead, their proceeds are being donated to charity.

He concludes that he is considering more games development in the future.

“I can’t say if this is the last app I’ll ever be involved in?—?after all, I’m only 83! But it is safe to say that Mark Zuckerberg has nothing to worry about.”

You can read the full account here.

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