Tag Archives: Toy Fair

The man behind the Laser… meet Luke Hooper!

Folks are getting fired up about Laser Maze! Since behind every great game are some equally amazing brains, I thought it would be fun to introduce the inventor, Luke Hooper! Luke also invented the award-winning strategy game Laser Khet 2.0, and he has done a brilliant job translating the fun of laser play to a solo logic game!

Laser Maze Inventor2 1024x768 The man behind the Laser... meet Luke Hooper!

Luke & Laser Maze strike a pose at Toy Fair 2013

So Luke, what inspired you to create Laser Maze? 

Luke: Anyone who has ever picked up a laser pointer naturally starts to play with it in their own way, regardless of age. Unfortunately, a lot of things in physics and math don’t translate to everyday life in a way that justifies how amazing they are, but with lasers, it’s exactly the opposite. There is a universal coolness to controlling this very focused beam of light.

I was a huge fan of puzzles and single-player puzzle games as a kid and never really outgrew the fascination. When it comes to packaging games with challenges that have a great blend of fun and substance, ThinkFun is the leader in the puzzle game market for a reason. The team worked tirelessly to ensure the final game fit their high standard to satisfy puzzlers of all levels.

 

What has been the reaction you’ve heard to the game? 

Luke: All very positive thankfully! Anyone who has played Khet or shined a laser pointer off of a mirror has felt the satisfaction and wonder of seeing a laser end up somewhere completely different than the direction in which you originally aimed. Add to that the natural satisfaction of solving a puzzle, and you’ve got double the payoff with Laser Maze.

 

What was the biggest challenge in creating Laser Maze?

Luke: It is really tough to make a laser-based game in real life because the laser follows real life rules (physics)! This means that everything in the game has to be aligned almost perfectly, with errors smaller than 1/10 of a degree or the game won’t work. Solving these problems goes beyond typical game manufacturing, so a master’s degree in mechanical engineering was a big help!

 

Are there benefits/skills resulting from game play that you find surprising?

Luke: The unique mechanics involved with splitting beams introduces a new type of logical thinking that draws people into physics, geometry, and reasoning that normally wouldn’t touch a puzzle game!

 

Haven’t seen Laser Maze yet?! Check out this quick how-to-play video:

Toy Fair 2013: Behind the curtain…

Each year when I tell friends – especially those with kids – that I’m headed to Toy Fair, the first response is generally, “That sounds AWESOME, how do I get in?!”

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Unfortunately for my game-loving buddies, this event is not open to the public. Learning the doors are locked tends to conjure up visions of top-secret toy meetings, tinkering elves, a massive toy workshop inside the Javits Center… the imagination can run wild!

I hope I’m not spoiling the magic by sharing the experience inside the ThinkFun booth…

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Welcome to the ThinkFun Booth!

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Laser Maze, available in May!

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I thought you said no outside visitors?! This brainy bird couldn’t resist playing WordARound during show set-up!

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The ThinkFun team, ready to roll!

Sadly no game-making elves were spotted this year, but we were thrilled to visit with some amazing  inventors who have created many of our great games… kind of the same thing right?!

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A familiar face! ThinkFun co-founder Bill Ritchie poses with his two toddler inventions: Roll & Play and, new for 2013, Hello Sunshine!

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Luke Hooper, one of the inventors of Laser Khet, stopped by to pose with the amazing new game he created with ThinkFun – Laser Maze features a REAL (safe) laser, we can’t wait for it to arrive in May!

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The Hebert Brothers are the brainy duo who created WordARound, we’re addicted!

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A visit from the inventors of UnHinged!

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The Costers are the inventors of the iconic Zingo Zinger!

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Steve Hayton, Turnstile inventor, visited ThinkFun to say hello!

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Yackety Smack inventor Roberto Fraga stopped by to play!

Despite auspicious beginnings (ahem, Snowstorm Nemo, I mean YOU!), 2013 Toy Fair was a fantastic show – The Toy of the Year Awards were a wonderful celebration to begin the festivities, and our 5 new games were so well-received – and we are looking forward to a terrific year!

Toy Fair 2013: Toy of the Year Awards

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Cocktail dress + snow boots, good thing NY Fashion Week is over!

After a monster pre-Toy Fair snow storm (fittingly named Nemo!) threatened to derail months of careful planning, the ThinkFun team braved the elements, the train gods smiled upon the DC-NY route, and we successfully made our way to New York for the show… and what a show it was!

Things kicked off on Saturday night with the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards celebration at The Plaza hotel!  While probably not a ThinkFun-worthy puzzle, my first challenge of the show was a race against time to get ready for the TOTY Awards en route to the city, meaning a Superwoman-style change into a cocktail dress on board the Acela train… not my finest hour but it got the job done!

1TOTY 2013 194x109px Toy Fair 2013: Toy of the Year AwardsThe event was a wonderful celebration of some truly remarkable products – and we were thrilled to have three of our games (Roll & Play, Zingo Sight Words, and Swish) nominated for a record FOUR awards!

While we didn’t leave with any statues, it truly is an honor just to be nominated, and we were thrilled to have our games recognized in great company among this year’s winning games and toys.  Here are some highlights from the evening:

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Zingo! Sight Words and Roll & Play pose with their fellow nominees for Educational Toy of the Year!

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The ThinkFun team awaits the start of the show!

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Sweet! Hosts passed around popcorn and cotton candy to up the excitement

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ThinkFun CEO Andrea Barthello presents a TOTY Award

But wait! We didn’t leave entirely empty-handed! ThinkFun was recognized with a Play Connects Award for our nomination of The National Lekotek Center, a  non-profit that supports children with special needs, for a $10,000 grant! We are thrilled to support the wonderful work they do, and this award represents much-needed funding that will go to a very worthy cause.

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Andrea Barthello accepts the Play Connects Award

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The Play Connects Award – fittingly constructed of Tinker Toys!

The TOTY Awards were a fabulous way to kick off a great show – a big congrats to this year’s deserving winners!

Toy Fair or Bust!

With a verrrrrry ominous weather forecast looming, We at ThinkFun prepare to set out for Toy Fair in New York this weekend!  Several members of our team beat the storm and are setting up the booth today and tomorrow, while the rest of us hold our breath and hope that flights and trains make it out on time tomorrow!

 Toy Fair or Bust!

When I taught 3rd grade, the reigning expert opinion was that sleeping in inside-out pj’s was the surefire way to guarantee a snow day, so I’m hoping that wearing mine properly will have the adverse effect.  Here’s hoping the snow allows tomorrow’s train to get me there in time for the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards celebration, where the winners will be announced!  With 4 nominations, we are hoping this is the year for a ThinkFun win!

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A photo from the 2012 (snow-free) TOTY Awards

My packing list has grown considerably over the years!  In addition to snow boots, check out the super sweet swag I’m bringing along!  The only thing missing is a ThinkFun-themed ball gown for the TOTY red carpet…

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Hope my ThinkFun Converse have good traction on the snow and ice!

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Snazzy warm ThinkFun scarf to ward off the snowy cold

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Gotta stay warm and caffeinated!

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Umbrella ready, fingers crossed it turns to rain!

 

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There's a stowaway in my ThinkFun lunch box! A little preview of one of our new 2013 games...

Will you be attending the show?  Please stop by Booth #2251 and say hello!

Safe Travels… and think melty thoughts!

Keeping UnHinged from coming unhinged!

Love a good brainteaser?  UnHinged is one you’ll have trouble putting down… literally.  When we first showed this new puzzle back at Toy Fair in February, I found myself chasing several reporters through the aisles when then puzzle grew legs and walked off with them!

There’s something about the rhythmic flip, fold, stack tactile feel of this game that just feels great in the hand.

A mechanical puzzle like UnHinged is all about ease of manipulation, and ThinkFun spends a lot of time making sure we get everything right, from weight, hinge placement, materials, and tolerances.  We conduct extensive quality control testing, and I thought it’d be fun to share some photos of this puzzle being put through the ringer!

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 Haven’t experienced UnHinged yet? Here’s a great how-to-play video to see it in action!

How Do You Say “Roll & Play” in…

Since its launch in February, our first-ever toddler game Roll & Play has been a fantastic success!  After it was introduced with a feature on The View during Toy Fair, parents, preschool teachers, therapists, and previously-stumped toddler gift-givers from all over the US have welcomed this soft plush cube with open arms!

(For more horn-tooting, check out what other reviewers are saying!)

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Roll & Play in Spanish, Hungarian, and French!

This game was created to introduce young players to game play and strengthen developmental learning skills… but why should English-speakers have all the fun?!

In the past few months, Roll & Play has gone global, and I’m thrilled to announce that the game has been translated into 5 different languages (French, Spanish, Hungarian, Czech and German) and is being sold in 19 countries!

Whether you’re enjoying a game of “Guríts és Játssz” in Hungary or “Roule & Joue” in France, we are thrilled to know that toddlers worldwide are letting the good times roll!

Meet the brains behind the games!

This year’s Toy Fair was the best in ThinkFun’s 26 year history at the show – certainly the best of the 3 years I’ve been attending!  With 9 rocking new products and a fantastic message to spread to the world about the power of healthy, fun brain play, ThinkFun’s booth was mobbed from opening to close each day.  The entire team ended the week with raspy voices from countless game demos and sore wrists from writing so many orders – both excellent problems to have icon smile Meet the brains behind the games!

Among the wonderful visitors we welcomed to our booth were several of the inventors behind our new games!

A few highlights:

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Ron Dubren - Inventor of Stenzzles

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Patrick Matthews - Inventor of Distraction

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Bill Ritchie - Inventor of Roll & Play

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Steve Hayton, inventor of Turnstile

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Joyce Johnson - Inventor of Cartoon It!

Off to Toy Fair!

Last year was my inaugural trip to Toy Fair in New York, and I’m thrilled to head out tomorrow for round 2 as a very mildly seasoned veteran!

I can guarantee I’ll still be floored when I walk in, with a kid-in-a-candy-store “where-do-i begin?!” grin on my face…  but maybe slightly less nerdy this year?  I said maybe.  At least I am well-prepared this time around!

My bags are packed…

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I’ve got fuel…

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I’m well-accessorized…

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And most importantly… comfortable footwear!

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If you’ll be attending Toy Fair, please stop by and visit ThinkFun in Booth #2035, I’d love to meet you!

toy fair 1961

The Countdown Begins…6 Months to Toy Fair!

Friday the 13th may seem like an inauspicious date, but here’s a great reason to celebrate it…

Today begins the 6 month  countdown to New York Toy Fair!  Last year was my first year attending, and I had a blast!  Check out highlights from the event here, and click here for more recap and some fun photos of our booth!

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Toy Fair 2010... I'm shrinking!

To get in the spirit, click the photo below for a fun video of the 1961 Toy Fair shared by industry expert Richard Gottleib!

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S’Match Supports Speech Therapy Sessions (say that 3 times fast!)

The following post is by speech-language pathologist Sherry Artemenko, featured on her Playonwords blog

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Strengthen language skills through play!

SPEECH THERAPY GAMES: S’ MATCH BY THINKFUN

I use fun commercial games for speech therapy all the time. Some are valuable as a reinforcer after a turn of saying a sound, practicing a language structure or using appropriate social language. It is helpful if they are fast paced and turns are quick to keep the session going. But some games have a bit of language learning embedded in them too. I have blogged about Richard Scarry’s Busytown and Mystery Garden for learning association and categorization.

A new game that just came out, S’ Match, by Thinkfun, can be used as a reinforcer or to learn language categories. You have to know the story behind the invention of this game. When I was at the Toy Fair, I spoke with Thinkfun’s Education and Curriculum Specialist and she said the Staples Easy Button and a salad spinner inspired the pop up spinner kids love that turns the dial to point to one of three attributes: color, number or category. Players turn over two cards and try to match images according to the attributes, making this a more complex memory game.

I first used the game with a little girl working on her /s/ sound. Every time we got a match we said, “S’ Match!” and each time we spun the wheel we said, “Spin the s’match.” When it stopped, we said, “I spun color, or category.” Interestingly enough, when kids didn’t make a match according to the spinner, they still called out the kind of match they got. For instance, if they had to match by category but uncovered two orange cards, they would say, “Smatch for color,” making a verbal note of where to find that match should they need it in the future. To reinforce categories, we would say, “a s’match for vehicles,” naming the category. Each sturdy cardboard card has the image as well at the words to encourage literacy.

Don’t forget to always look for a little language in a game.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “S’Match” was provided for review by Thinkfun.