Tag Archives: games

Ready, Set, Play…Online!

I recently sat down with Co-Founder and President of ThinkFun, Bill Ritchie to talk about ThinkFun’s newest offering, Play Online. This new and improved section of the site features thousands of challenges for some of your favorite ThinkFun games like Laser Maze, Chocolate Fix and Solitaire Chess. While talking to Bill, I wanted to get his thoughts on the future of digital and physical products and how learning can be incorporated.

 

FullSizeRender 300x225 Ready, Set, Play...Online!

Co-Founder and President Bill Ritchie playing his favorite Play online game, Chocolate Fix!

 Q: ThinkFun is mainly known for their physical games; what inspired the addition of a more robust Play Online offering?

A: The Play Online program is very exciting because this is our first showing of a much larger idea that we’ve been working on for years.  When we launched Rush Hour in the mid 1990’s online versions of our games started to surface – some we supported and some of them were pirate knockoffs. What never felt right to us was an online game version where players only got to play a fixed number of challenges. That meant that players would play some and then leave, and we wanted them to keep coming back.

Our Play Online program is built as a BLITZ GAME, which means that each game comes with a reservoir of 1000 challenges, specifically selected by us. These are randomly served each time a new player comes to play a challenge; so they can play to their hearts’ content and never face the same challenge twice. Then we can put on our Admin hats and refresh the challenge reservoir with a new collection of challenges, so players will continually get a whole different ThinkFun gaming experience.

For each of the five new games in Play Online, we now have tens of thousands of challenges in our database. We continue to develop and refine to find which of these challenges are the most fun and which are the best to help you stretch your brain to build your thinking skills.

In terms of motivation, it was mainly us trying to give our fans what they wanted. We noticed players definitely wanted to engage with our games in digital form as well as in physical, hands-on logic puzzle form. We hope the end result is a “BOTH/AND” experience—a ThinkFun puzzle challenge experience that doesn’t just mimic our physical game play, but enhanced it in an inherently digital manner.

 

Q: What has been the reaction so far to the online offering?

A: People are definitely starting to find the Play Online section. It’s becoming one of our top pages! This feature is a great way for consumers to test our games out prior to purchase, so it’s perfect for the upcoming holidays.

 

Q: Which are the newest games? Which are updates or upgrades to older games?

A: Our newest Play Online game is Laser Maze, which has been a huge hit for us.  The physical version of the game sold out on Amazon at holiday 2013, is now selling better than ever on both Amazon and in-store at Target, nationwide. This is one that everybody really should try—we got the play experience just right with the Play Online version, all the brainwork plus a great payoff when you hit the FIRE button.

Screen Shot 2014 11 10 at 10.19.40 AM 300x195 Ready, Set, Play...Online!Rush Hour is our most famous game, and one that everyone seems to want to play in both physical and digital forms. We’ve updated this game so that it’s accessible to more people. We want everybody to experience the fun of getting lost in these wonderful challenges!

Solitaire Chess is worth mentioning here also. I describe it as “The distilled essence of chess” because it’s an exercise in both critical thinking and strategic thinking. Playing the online Solitaire Chess will give players a leg up at mastering the offline version of this marvelous puzzle.

 

Q:  Can you tell us about your plans for your digital games roadmap? What’s next for you?

A: We’re moving toward developing a more sophisticated set of digital challenges that will allow us to measure the effect on critical thinking skills in a more standardized manner. We want to help players to build mental models and to learn about the mathematical structures that underlie these puzzles. This wasn’t possible with physical games only, because we didn’t have access to how kids’ play progressed without a repeatable way to track their activity.

Coming in 2015, we will be launching our ThinkFun BrainLab Tournament Competition program along with ThinkFun University where we teach university level thinking skills to grade school kids. I’ve been working on this for more than 10 years now and it’s finally starting to come together. It’s all very exciting, and it really takes the ability to track progress to the next level.

Screen Shot 2014 11 10 at 10.08.31 AM 300x195 Ready, Set, Play...Online!

 

Q: For you personally, what is your favorite Play Online game by ThinkFun, and why?

A: I love them all but my personal favorite Play Online game has to be Chocolate Fix. We have put so much development energy and love into this one over so many years. Chocolate Fix is clever and fun, kind of like a mini-Sudoku style game, but underneath it is really just a manifestation of pure logical reasoning. In various experiments we have taught kids how to analyze the tree structure of a given challenge and also to understand different types of logical contradiction and how to describe your reasoning in the form of a mathematical proof. In one pilot program, we taught kids how to make their own Chocolate Fix puzzles that they could send out to their friends to challenge them. This was fun!

 

Feeling ready to give Play Online a go? Log on now!

 

 

Singapore Teachers Arrive Home Bearing Gifts!

I had to share part of this fantastic email that made my day yesterday!

One of the amazing teachers from Singapore who was part of last week’s delegation visit to ThinkFun sent me some great photos of her son sorting through the bounty of new games that returned home with his mom!

Dominique writes:

This learning journey of mine has been most memorable – not just in terms of how much we have learned from your expertise in educational toys, but your generosity and kindness are what made the trip most memorable.  I remembered a quote “You may not remember what people have done for you, but you will remember how they made you feel.”

You must visit us in Singapore so we can return your kindness. I would love you to see how excited the whole school is during our MBA (Mass Brain Activities) days!  You certainly have given us insight the clearer direction where our MBA programme should be headed and how we could promote to the ‘next level’.  I know our pupils will benefit from the trip of ours.

If the we were not restricted by the size of the package and our conscience, we would really have grabbed everything off your shelves on the last day!  I have attached pictures of my 5 year old son, Matteo,The first picture showed how excited he was to see the toys.  Like most children, he was attracted by the colours and the items he could identify with. He liked Chocolate Fix design most, followed by River Crossing – but he could play S’Match best.  I refused to let him open the rest, so the night ended with him fuming away!

Dominiques Son in bag 300x225 Singapore Teachers Arrive Home Bearing Gifts!

The next picture shows him playing with the box in which we packed our games – he played in it the longest – we converted to a car and he drew passengers  in them and drove them around.  That’s how easily a child can be satisfied!

Dominiques Son in box 300x225 Singapore Teachers Arrive Home Bearing Gifts!

I love this message – and the way Dominique’s son shows that you simply can’t engineer play!  Despite the oodles and oodles of shiny new toys surrounding him, what most captured his imagination was the cardboard box in which they arrived… this is great!

We are so looking forward to continuing this wonderful relationship with our new friends in Singapore – they are doing really exciting work that we’re eager to support and learn from!

Playing in Traffic!

The following guest post is by Kim Vandenbroucke, a game inventor and developer, brainstorming facilitator and writer.  On her website, TheGameAisle.com, she not only reviews games but also highlights the inventors tinkering behind the curtain who come up with the amazing products.  She is also the new spokesgamer for Games for Fundraising and a writer for Games for Educators!

Recently I was on the ThinkFun website and saw the big ad for the iPad and iPhone Rush Hour apps saying “Now even more ways to play in traffic!” This made me chuckle.  Why? Because I live in Chicago where, despite a state-wide ban, 80% of drivers are texting, emailing, or talking on their cell phones while driving… so really we don’t need more ways to “play in traffic!”

iPadScreenShot 300x225 Playing in Traffic!

Rush Hour iPad app in living color!

But you know who could use an app like that….our car mates!  Yes, the husbands, co-workers, and friends who play backseat driver and insist they know a “better way” out of the gridlock by taking some crazy side street that has potholes large enough to swallow small children and Smart cars.

And youngsters aren’t much better.  Teens complain, kids get antsy; the longer the car ride is, the less pleasant it gets.  But I have a solution.  Fork over your iPhones.  Yes, that’s right, hand them over (since you shouldn’t be using them anyway!).

child w iphone1 300x227 Playing in Traffic!

Happy child, happy driver!

This could be a win-win for all drivers and passengers.  Drivers get to listen to the music, talk radio or audio book they want without hearing how long the ride is or how the lane next to them is moving faster.  And while the drivers are focusing on the road, the passengers get to work their own magic and move the little red car from the impossible cluster of cars in the Rush Hour app.  And who knows, maybe the gridlock everyone is experiencing could bring us closer together.

Games Teach Life Skills During Play Time!

I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to Michele Wong, coFounder of HATCH, the company behind My Plate-Mate. This guard attaches to any standard plate to prevent messy spills at mealtime and promote independent self-feeding… if that isn’t real-life problem solving I don’t know what is, it’s no wonder her family is drawn to ThinkFun games!

Michele and her family are long-time ThinkFun fans, and I’m thrilled to have her as a guest blogger sharing her story!

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Michele Wong 300x200 Games Teach Life Skills During Play Time!

The Wong Family at Play!

Like most families, we seem to always be on the run from one activity to the next.  Our house is filled with constant chatter and movement.  Well, what can you expect in a home with 3 busy kids?  We do have moments of quiet down time.   This is the perfect chance to open up our arsenal of Think Fun Games instead of turning on the TV or Xbox.  Sure, I’m all for relaxing and having fun.  But while my kids are enjoying their game time, I am content knowing that the benefits of Think Fun games reach far beyond just having a good time.

I believe that learning is not merely about memorizing charts and tables in school.  It is also about creative problem solving – applying and modifying what you know to new and changing situations, looking for solutions from different angles.  All Think Fun games stimulate creative problem solving.  In the process they can also strengthen wonderful characteristics such as patience, flexibility, and self-confidence.  These are skills that will not only benefit my children in school today, but they are important life skills that I hope they will embody and carry with them through the years.

Now back to the fun.  As a Mom (family maid, referee, taxi driver, etc) I must comment on the other appreciated perks of Think Fun Games.  I LOVE that each game is housed in its own draw string pouch.  Finish the game, pile in the pieces, cinch up the bag and Voila!  Done!  These pouches also make games easy to pack and travel.  Our games have accompanied us (and saved my sanity) on an 18 hr road trip, camping trips, long airplane rides and even longer hours stranded at the airport.  The games work well played alone, collaboratively with a partner or in team competition form.

Our Family Favorites-

Rush Hour Jr. – A super fun and mentally challenging game that promotes strategy development.   It’s addictive to both children and adults alike.   And let’s face it, everyone wants to help rescue the Ice Cream Man.

Square by Square- A great game to build spatial relationships and pattern matching skills.  This is another hit for players of all ages.  Our family likes to play timed rounds in teams- kids vs. the adults.  It’s funny to watch the parents break out in a sweat as the kids “school” us in this game.

Block by Block- Another great game that promotes spatial awareness in a 3D puzzle format.  This is always popular with children who enjoy building activities.

River Crossing Jr. and Tip Over- Both excellent games that promote visual and spatial awareness as well as strategic planning.

Zingo- This is a favorite game for youngsters that involves matching as well as shape and pattern recognition.  Also promotes identification of site words and letters.   Just the sight of the “Stinky Feet” is enough to crack my kids up.

Keep up the great work Think Fun!  Our family can’t wait to enjoy and be challenged by what you come up with next.

The Wong Family

Calling all iPad Junkies… Universal Rush Hour App Now Available!

Press Release: April 9, 2010

Renowned game and puzzle manufacturer, ThinkFun Inc., is proud to announce the release of Rush Hour for the new Apple iPad.  Rush Hour for iPad is the latest addition to the suite of Rush Hour apps available across a wide range of mobile platforms.  The new iPad app is designed to take advantage of iPad’s larger screen and Multi-Touch user interface to enhance the play experience.  The universal app costs $2.99 while existing Rush Hour for iPhone and iPod touch customers will receive free upgrades.

iPadScreenShot 300x225 Calling all iPad Junkies... Universal Rush Hour App Now Available!

Rush Hour on the iPad

“It’s fitting for Rush Hour to be one of the first apps launched on the iPad,” said Bill Ritchie, CEO and Co-Founder of ThinkFun.  “Rush Hour is the original sliding block logic puzzle, and it is the granddaddy of all the ‘beginner to expert’ logic puzzles now on the market.  The iPad is a genuine game changer, and we are thrilled to again be at the beginning of a new era in game playing.”

The Rush Hour iPhone App has received rave customer reviews on iTunes for its clever challenges and intuitive navigation.   ThinkFun has completely rebuilt the game graphics to take advantage of the iPad’s innovative Multi-Touch interface and large screen.

Rush Hour for iPad is packed with features, such as:

  • The free app has 35 original challenges.  The full version has 2500 challenges ranging from EASY to EXPERT
  • Will entertain novice players and test advanced players with super-hard expert levels.
  • Perfect Score — Rush Hour tracks the spaces moved to get out of traffic jams and compares it to the shortest path possible. You win when you get the Red Car out… but you can’t claim mastery until you hit a perfect score.
  • Hint Button — If you feel a little lost and want a nudge in the right direction, the HINT button is ready for you to press as often as you like.
  • Solve Button — No matter where they are in a challenge, the solve button shows players how to solve it, then puts them back where they left off so players can learn and complete the challenge themselves.
  • Multi-language — In addition to English, Rush Hour is available in German, Spanish and French. Viva Rush Hour!

“Rush Hour was late to the mobile app market, and we knew we needed to do something special to make an impact,” said Ritchie.  The company contracted with a master programmer to reimagine how to generate the puzzle challenges, developing a system that can create and sort tens of thousands of new Rush Hour challenges!  “Bringing that program up to speed was like discovering a gold mine; it brought a whole new dimension of play to what was already the world’s most fun puzzle!”

So is having Rush Hour available at the launch of the iPad a pinnacle of success for this venerable puzzle game?  “Not at all,” says Liz Deakin, ThinkFun’s Director of Marketing and Sales.  “We are now working on a Multi-Player version of Rush Hour, slated for release this summer, where players compete for fastest times over the internet.  We are developing an online version of Rush Hour to help teach thinking skills as part of a disciplined program for families and schools.  For us, the Apple iPad release doesn’t represent an end, it’s more like a new beginning.  We are very excited!”

For more information on the ThinkFun Rush Hour iPad app, please visit: http://www.ThinkFun.com/RushHour

The Next Billy Mays…

ThinkFun co-founders Bill Ritchie and Andrea Barthello may be moving into the infomercial-making industry!  Check out this silly ad they created over the weekend!

*Note:  This “infomercial” was created entirely in fun, certainly not the type of hard-sell marketing approach we take with our products!  Sorry, but you won’t see Bill on QVC any time soon icon smile The Next Billy Mays...

All that’s missing is a Snuggie!

Zingo! To Go is on the move!  The Zoomer car recently braved the crowds at the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC… and traveled into the desert!  See more adventures on this new Facebook Page.. and share your own photos!

Zingo To Go Takes a Road Trip!

moz screenshot 2 Zingo To Go Takes a Road Trip!moz screenshot 3 Zingo To Go Takes a Road Trip!moz screenshot 4 Zingo To Go Takes a Road Trip!Travel plans in your future?  Check out the just-released Zingo to Go, based on ThinkFun’s beloved Zingo! game!ZingoToGo 7702 lores Zingo To Go Takes a Road Trip!

Having visions of 72 plastic tiles strewn all over your backseat?  Not to worry!  The Zingo Zinger has been re-imagined into an enclosed Zingo Zoomer Car.  The Zoomer holds image dice that, once shaken up, fall into place in the windshield– no loose pieces!  Players snap together traffic light game boards and flip the images when they’ve got a match, and the first to complete a traffic light wins!

Mike, the designer behind the Zoomer mechanism, recently took Zingo-To-Go on the road and shared these hilarious photos… Enjoy!

Where have YOUR games been?  Do you have fun images of your family playing a favorite game (Zingo or otherwise) that you’d like to share?  Email me your photos and I’ll feature them  in an upcoming post!

passover frog

“Hoppy” Passover!

Passover 2010 014 Hoppy Passover!

Putting the “Play” in Plagues…

Yesterday marked the first night of Passover, a Jewish holiday that tells the story of freedom from enslavement by the Egyptians. To celebrate, families host a meal called a Seder, from the Hebrew word “order,” and the sharing of the Passover story and blessings follows a specific sequence. During a Seder, we eat symbolic foods like horseradish (to remind of the bitterness of slavery), eggs (to represent sacrifice and life), and the traditional matzah bread.

Passover 2010 010 Hoppy Passover!

Passover 2010 008 225x300 Hoppy Passover!

Passover 2010 011 225x300 Hoppy Passover!

As a child (and still now!) my favorite part of the Seder was the recounting of the 10 Plagues.  According to the Old Testament, when Pharaoh denied the Jews their freedom, God sent 10 plagues to change his mind. Growing up, The Plagues was always the highlight of our meal thanks to my mom’s creative table decor, which featured plastic “guests of honor,” each representing a different plague.  From wild beasts roaming among the dinner plates to creepy crawly rubber locusts, the plagues got more and more elaborate each year, and my favorite has always been #2… the frogs!

Passover 2010 028 150x150 Hoppy Passover!

This year I hosted my very first Seder and, while it was no match for my mom’s impressive spread, I’m pleased to say the frogs from ThinkFun’s Hoppers Junior game were fabulous dinner guests and a big hit!

Passover 2010 025 300x225 Hoppy Passover!

When a froggie thumb wresting match breaks out, it’s time to end the Seder!

What quirky traditions does your family have around certain holidays? Please share!

Games bring GNU learning opportunities to homeschoolers!

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with Angie Knutson, whose My Four Monkeys blog reviews products through her unique lens as both mom and homeschool educator.  Angie’s support of ThinkFun games as teaching tools and eagerness to explore  new education initiatives led to her oldest daughter participating in a test of our yet-unreleased Brain Lab program! Caitlyn proved a fierce competitor, beating over 400 entries to win the Rush Hour Tournament 2 weeks in a row!  Below, Angie shares the creative ways she’s used the updated What’s GNU? game in her homeschool curriculum to build language skills. ENJOY!

Whats GNU review 300x225 Games bring GNU learning opportunities to homeschoolers!

Learning with What’s Gnu? from ThinkFun

Homeschooling and educational games go hand in hand. It can be quite the challenge to make learning fun when the teacher is also the mom. To be honest, the kids get tired of listening to you day after day, all day long. So to make our school time less monotonous, we interject educational games and field trips to do the trick. Since we can’t afford to go on field trips everyday or even every week, educational games have become a very important resource in my bag of tricks.

Probably our favorite site for educational games, ThinkFun has become a household name here and we have such favorites as Rush Hour, Zingo! 1-2-3, and Clever Castle. We recently received a copy of What’s Gnu? to review, and I discovered just how helpful this game is for kindergarten aged children. What’s Gnu? is played similar to the Zingo line of games, and consists of 36 Word Starter Cards, 72 Letter Tiles (vowels are colored red), and a Letter Getter. The game is geared toward ages 5 and up, and you can play with as many people as you’d like. What’s Gnu? was created to develop skills including spelling patterns, reading, word recognition, focus, and concentration. The game was recently redesigned to better meet the needs of the parents and educators using it, and they did a fabulous job! The game now includes two sided cards that allow for two difficulty levels, and the three letter words are perfect for beginning readers.

Over the course of the last several weeks, I have played this game with my Kindergartner and my First Grader several times and have created several different ways to use What’s Gnu? as a learning tool. Playing by the rules is great of you have two children to play, but what if it’s just you and your child? Here’s some ideas for how to use What’s Gnu? in a fun and new way: Games bring GNU learning opportunities to homeschoolers!

Rhyme Time: Lay out all the letter tiles in front of the child. Pick one card at a time and see how many rhyming words they can create with that one card using the different letter tiles. When they run out of ideas, move onto another card. The green side of the Word Starter Cards(with one missing letter) works great for my 5 year old, and the Orange side (missing two letters) works perfectly for my 7 year old. Word Starter Cards without a missing first letter don’t work well with this exercise of course.

Hurry and Spell: My kindergartner loves to play this version of What’s Gnu?! I stack the cards in a pile and then lay all the letter tiles out on the floor. I give him a certain amount of time and he sees how many words he can create in that amount of time. How much time you give them should depend on their ability, but 2 to 3 minutes usually works well for us. When we’re finished, he often wants to play again and see if he can break his record!

Read To Me: Spelling is fun, but reading the words is important too. Sometimes we just sit down with the game and do some reading practice. The Word Starter Cards are great for creating multiple words to have your child read. Kind of like flashcards, but a little more fun. Just use the Letter Tiles and the Word Starter Cards to create a word and see if your child can sound it out. If they do, reward them with a small treat. We use fruit snacks for this exercise and it’s like a snack and lesson all in one!

Casual Learning Time: It doesn’t always have to be about a game. My kids can often be caught just playing around with the Word Starter Cards and Letter Tiles creating words and trying to read them. Sometimes they will create words that aren’t real words and try to figure out how to pronounce them. This process is educational for them and relaxing. There is no pressure to perform, and they can go at their own pace. Don’t forget that a game doesn’t have to be played at a table or desk to be educational. We often play the games on the floor. The kids are more relaxed and comfortable, it seems more like playtime rather than school time, and it allows me to give some attention to my energetic toddler at the same time.

Want more?  Angie has also reviewed Zingo 1-2-3, Clever Castle, and Rush Hour!

How have YOU used games to enrich your homeschool instruction?  Please share your ideas!

Only the strong survive in the cut-throat world of… Toys?!

Check out this trailer from the new film Toyland!

Toyland sheds light into the high stakes world of the 22 billion dollar toy industry, where fun and fortune await those who know how to get inside the mind of a child! Director Ken Sons introduces the inventors behind the biggest toys and games in history while following the ups and downs of game designer, Tim Walsh. From prototype to pitch, follow Walsh along his winding road to New York City’s Toy Fair– will his toy light up the imagination of kids everywhere… or never see the light of day? Toyland makes its World Premier at the Sarasota Film Festival, April 11, 2010.

This clip showcases  some of the most beloved, best-known toys that you’re sure to recognize from your own childhood– I can clearly remember my “Slinky graveyard,” an entire box FULL of tangled metal springs I couldn’t bring myself to part with!

What was YOUR favorite toy as a child?