Tag Archives: rush hour

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!

 

 

Why Our Education System Is So Stuck

blogPic 236x300 Why Our Education System Is So Stuck

Thinking Skills: Sigmund Freud Meets Apple Pie

For years I have been ranting about the American education system, how murky and ill prepared it is to consider new ideas. I gave a TEDx talk about this in 2012: one of my slides was a cartoon I had made to describe how profoundly confused the situation is.

Don’t worry if you don’t get this cartoon… you’re not supposed to. The idea is that it’s an enigma… something so ingrained you’re not sure if you are allowed to think that you don’t understand it.

The biggest thing gnawing at me the past few years has been the “HOW” question… this is such an important topic, how could things have gotten to be this way?

And so I was very happy to find the answer lurking inside an article in last Sunday’s Washington Post, about Bill Gates and the new Common Core education standards.

Says Gates: “The funding, in general, of what works in education… is tiny. It’s the lowest in this field than any field of human endeavor. … As a result, there is a paucity of information about methods of instruction that work.”

So why is it that I’ve had these murky, queasy feelings about education? Because it turns out the American Education system has the lowest R&D funding of any field of human endeavor! This starts to make sense now.

OK then… with this post I’ve dug a little bit into what the problem is. Next look for some solution ideas.

And do read the Washington Post piece. It turns out that Gates is using his millions to rebuild the entire USA education system, makes for a fascinating and revealing read.

Brain Fitness games keep older brains sharp!

I’m thrilled to share our new line of Brain Fitness games: Solitaire Chess, Rush Hour, and Chocolate Fix!

Brain Fitness Line 1024x341 Brain Fitness games keep older brains sharp!

These brain-boosting games are designed to strengthen mental muscles through play – and you can bet my playful grandma has already got a set!

These three games were created in partnership with fantastic volunteer testers from the ThinkFun community and AARP who gave feedback on everything from packaging to piece design to challenge progression. Industrial designers shared ergonomic pieces designed for larger hands, and testers voted for their favorites and shared great ideas about modifications and preferred game storage. Below is an example of insight from an early survey that led to the tagline “Cross Train Your Brain” on the package front!

Capture Brain Fitness games keep older brains sharp!

We spent several months working with these testers, sharing new ideas, testing play patterns, and refining these new offerings to ensure they were both a fun and challenging experience!

Testers shared some fantastic feedback after a month of playing…

“I plan ahead more. I think of the outcome before hastily acting.”

“I play bridge and find it easier to remember which cards were played!”

“Gets your brain thinking! Challenging, stimulating and fun all in one.”

“I plan to play these for a long time!”

Increasingly we are hearing about the importance of keeping our brains nimble and strong as we age.  With so many companies offering digital training games, we are very proud to present quality hands-on thinking games that engage players both on a tactile and mental level. These three classic ThinkFun games, Rush Hour, Chocolate Fix, and Solitaire Chess, have long been celebrated for pushing players to think harder and challenge themselves, and we are thrilled to present them now for an older audience!

Do you play brain games to keep your mind sharp? What are your favorites?

ThinkFun in Sri Lanka

Recently, two wonderful educators and long-time friends of ThinkFun traveled to Sri Lanka as guests of the National Institution of Education. Professors Andy Liu and Wen-Hsien Sun spent a busy week meeting with education leaders and visiting several different schools – and they recently shared some great photos of their travels!

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Students at the Dharmapala School welcome Professor Andy Liu

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Professor Sun with students at a girls’ school called Sumana Balika Vidyalaya

Among the things they shared with students were ThinkFun games – specifically ShapeOMetry and Rush Hour! We love seeing these great photos of the games in action.

ThinkFun in Sri Lanka ThinkFun in Sri Lanka

Giant Rush Hour featured in a new Museum of Play exhibit!

We are so excited to celebrate the grand opening of a new exhibit at the Strong National Museum of Play!  The permanent Game Time exhibit, which opened April 13th, features 4,200 square feet of interactive PLAY experiences for the whole family! 

Featured among the fantastic game experiences is ThinkFun’s Rush Hour – as you’ve never seen it before!

SMP GT 2098 Giant Rush Hour featured in a new Museum of Play exhibit!

I love the way this cleverly-designed exhibit encourages the whole family to engage in game play together – particularly wonderful with a game like Rush Hour that is typically played solo.

An exhibit designer at The Strong shared some additional photos of this installation before it opened. Rush Hour seems very comfortable in the limelight, we think she has never looked so lovely!

More on the Game Time exhibit from the Strong’s website:

Your turn! Move like a piece on a giant game board through three centuries of American games, puzzles, and public amusements at Game Time! an original permanent exhibit on the second floor of the National Museum of Play® at The Strong. Feast your eyes on oversized toy props, see rare historic treasures from The Strong’s game and puzzle collections, and jump right in for active hands-on family fun.

The Strong is located in Rochester, NY – if you live in the area or are planning a trip soon, I encourage you to check out the fun. Personally, I think a road trip is in order!

Rush Hour Featured in Scientific American

Scientific American Mind Magazine is dedicated to innovations in brain science. My geeky heart skipped a beat when I opened the new May/June issue… and saw Rush Hour! This iconic ThinkFun logic puzzle was featured in a piece on brain training games that have a proven effect on improving the way children’s brains work.

ScientificAmericanMIND Rush Hour Featured in Scientific American

This article on brain training games for kids describes several products and programs designed to enhance children’s thinking skills – on page 42, it features an image of Rush Hour and describes the work of our friend Sylvia Bunge at UC Berkeley, who used this game and others (including Chocolate Fix) to improve reasoning IQ of students in a low-income community in Oakland, CA

sam0513 75x100 Rush Hour Featured in Scientific American
We are thrilled to continue our work with the Bunge Lab to truly understand ways in which our games shape and improve brains – it is thrilling to be on the forefront of such innovation! This issue is available on newsstands nationwide.

A preview of the article is available here, and the entire issue can be downloaded for a fee.

Pass the Rush Hour, Grandpa!

Just had to share this lovely note that came to our customer support team today from the UK! It’s always wonderful to hear about games supporting inter-generational play – and I’ve shared before how important games are in my family, especially with my Scrabble-master grandma!  I just love the image of grandfather and grandson exercising their brains side by side! 

thinkfun traffic1 Pass the Rush Hour, Grandpa!

Hello Folks,

I have only very recently come across your brilliant game Rush Hour & felt I had to write & compliment you all on such an excellent game for all ages.

My 8 year old grandson & my 66 year old self enjoy it equally!! I especially appreciate the “mind stretching” logic of it, a bit like chess for one! In addition, the simplicity & portability of it make it especially suitable for car journeys etc.

All in all a triumph.

Cheers, R G Bingham

 

TEDActive: My Week at Brain Camp

What do you get when you stir together 700+ brilliant minds from 50+ different countries for a week in the desert? You get the amazing brain gumbo that is TEDActive!

IMG 3429 300x300 TEDActive: My Week at Brain Camp

While I thought nothing could top the 2011 Late Night Game Suite experience… only to have the experience exceeded in 2012 with Giant Swish and a wildly creative Game Creation Challenge – this year’s conference managed to be the best by far!

IMG 3428 225x300 TEDActive: My Week at Brain Camp

This year’s many talks flung our brains in just as many different directions – from a former street performing mime to a guerilla gardener in South Central LA – to a giant squid hunter to Shane Koyczan’s moving talk on bullying that brought the room to tears and to their feet – the content was nothing short of awesome, my mind is still buzzing!

In between sessions, attendees had a chance to explore all kinds of fantastic hands-on play experiences…

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Giant Rush Hour soaked up some desert sun!

Artist Kiel Johnson created some incredible giant cacti for the DIY cardboard mini golf course on the putting green!

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What better way to relax between talks than with Giant Jenga!

 TEDActive: My Week at Brain Camp

It’s a bit tough to take in all that’s going on in this photo below – but it’s my absolute favorite – look closely and you’ll see it’s a picture of a camera taking another picture of Giant Rush Hour WITH an iPad featuring the Rush Hour app – holy puzzle mania!

My geeky little heart almost skipped a beat.

 TEDActive: My Week at Brain Camp

Read more about all the fun and learning at TEDActive in this fantastic TED blog post!  For more fun photos from ThinkFun at TEDActive, visit our Facebook Album.

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Introducing… The Asperkids Collection!

I am THRILLED to share the new Asperkids Collection, an exciting partnership between ThinkFun and Asperkids!  Asperkids creator Jennifer O’Toole has curated a collection of games that support universal education skills for learners of all abilities, and below she shares a post on this initiative.  Learn more about Jennifer and her incredible work with AsperKids on her website, FacebookPinterest, and Twitter!

AsperKids ThinkFun image Introducing... The Asperkids Collection!

At Asperkids, we believe that learning is the business of everyone, every day – and that a, b, c’s and 1, 2, 3′s are just the tip of the iceberg. Real success in real life – friendships, romance, careers – requires persistence, patience, patience, and communication. And there’s no better way to practice all of those skills than PLAY. As Mister Roger’s said, “Play is serious work.” That’s why we are SO proud to introduce THE ASPERKIDS COLLECTION BY THINKFUN – our favorite games for sharpening skills OFFERED SO THAT SOME OF THE PROCEEDS BENEFIT OUR WORK on behalf of Asperkids everywhere.

By paying particularly close attention to the the distinct needs of different minds, we’ve assembled a collection of strategies, philosophies and insights which increase curiosity, wonder and engagement – improving the way ALL children (gifted, twice exceptional, sensory, ADD, typical, etc) LEARN HOW TO LEARN.

For example… you can teach a young Asperkid to practice overcoming mind blindness (the idea that our perspectives aren’t the automatically same) with S’match – a game aimed at children as young as four! Practice using the phrase, “Make me see what you’re seeing.” Help the child explain why they’ve made a “s’match” (or why they haven’t) using as many descriptors (colors, shapes, quantity) as possible….even an older Aspie may find that more challenging than you’d expect. Why? To us Aspies, our thoughts seem “transparent,” or obvious to everyone else. We have to LEARN THE SKILL of communicating what we presume, understand and believe in what feels (to us) like overly stated terms.

That may start by learning to clearly articulate, “I have a “s’match” because I uncovered two red cards, and the category I needed to match was color. If the category had been number or shape, I wouldn’t have made a s’match because these cards have different shapes (one has circles and the other has a triangle) and quantities (two versus one).” Take that to the level of a teen and it become explaining their thoughts about what happened at a party – or to an adult who can successfully communicate with his or her spouse.

“Make me see what you see.” That’s your line. Then repeat it back, “So, you see a…..” If what you’ve heard and what your kiddo meant don’t “S’match,” guide your Asperkid as she fills in any holes or miscommunications.

You see? In our collection, there’s logic building and visual spatial skills, collaboration and problem solving…not to mention LOTS OF FUN. So delight your Asperkid – and empower others everywhere by making your purchases through our site. We’ll all be so very glad you have.

(For more great ideas on how to use ThinkFun Games read my past blog, “Perspective from a Plastic Ice Cream Truck“.)

Halloween… ThinkFun-style!

Happy Halloween!  As you can imagine, a fun day filled with candy and dress-up is right up our alley here at ThinkFun!  We’ve set the costume bar pretty high in year’s past, and this year’s celebration did not disappoint!

Check out some of the amazing ThinkFun-inspired costume creations in our office today…

Roll and play Halloween... ThinkFun style!It’s Roll & Play! Kirsten and Josh act out ThinkFun’s first toddler game!
zingo Halloween... ThinkFun style!
Alicia proves once and for all that the Zingo! Zinger is truly irresistible to children!

 

 

 

yackety smack Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Juan gets into character as the Yackety Smack "Hi-YAH!" karate chop!

 

Smatch Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Jodi is stunning as the S'Match Spinner!

Swish Halloween... ThinkFun style!
Greg gets so in-character as Swish he’s nearly transparent!
izzi Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Ashley's got the Izzi color palette just right!

rush hour Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Tania models a Rush Hour-inspired ensemble!

Bagged games1 Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Bill and Andrea get cozy as ThinkFun bagged games!

Pinterest Halloween... ThinkFun style!

I came as a ThinkFun Pinterest board!

 

2013 Halloween... ThinkFun style!

2013 Games Sneak Preview! Nic shows off the awesome superpower of the new Word-A-Round game, while Katie came as Sunny from our upcoming Hello Sunshine toddler game! Watch for these and more great games early 2013!

Team Photo Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Happy Halloween from ThinkFun!