Blue Orange Games Blog
10 Ways to Give Back This Thanksgiving

10 Ways to Give Back This Thanksgiving

The tradition of public acknowledgement of thanks and feasting with loved ones traces back to the Plymouth Rock in the 17th century, before our founding fathers shaped our nation, before the presidential proclamation of the holiday in 1863. We all know the story. Whether the details children are taught in school truly reflected the event or not, the sentiment of the holiday makes it a favorite of many (yes, even without the presents or dress up!)

Over the years, people have recognized Thanksgiving as not only a time to pause in gratitude, but a time to act. Giving thanks is even more meaningful when you can give back, especially when the whole family gets involved. Not only is it a great way to bond, but it instills in kids the value of public service and selflessness. Whether you are looking for a big commitment or a quick and fun activity, consider these ideas to do some good as a family this holiday season.

1. Visit a retirement home and socialize with the residents

Make some new friends and spend a fun afternoon with senior citizens playing board games, doing crafts, or simply chatting with them. Home residents are often missing human interaction and young fresh faces; spending time with them will truly brighten their day, and we bet you will enjoy it too! It’s also important for children to learn to appreciate the elderly and their life experience, especially if they don’t have grandparents of their own.

2. Have a meat free and locally sourced Thanksgiving feast

This year, challenge yourself to buy all your ingredients from local providers and farms to support local businesses and minimize environmental impact. To take it a step further, consider sparing the turkey. Eating less meat as a country is an important step to improving our health and the health of the planet. (Learn more about the benefits.) The traditional day of feasting and abundance is the perfect opportunity to prove that plants and whole foods can provide a full dimensional dining experience that will satisfy even the staunchest naysayers.  The internet is ripe with vegetarian and vegan thanksgiving recipes. Don’t forget to get the kids involved in the kitchen too!

3. Do an autumn sweep and donate to shelters & charities

Get a major head start on your spring cleaning! Tell the kids that they need to make room for the toys and clothes they’ll receive on Christmas (if they’re good!). Have them collect all the toys they don’t play with anymore and the clothes they have outgrown. Go through your pantry, your linen closest, the garage, anywhere that could use some down-sizing. Ask a local church or hop on the internet to find a homeless or battered women’s shelter in your area.

4. Get your hands dirty with Habitat for Humanity

Imagine helping to build a home for a family in need! Habitat for Humanity is always looking for long term and one day volunteers for many projects near you. This volunteer opportunity is best for older kids and teens; get the relatives involved for an even stronger task force. There are other ways to make a difference without operating a saw. Habitat connects volunteers with park beautification projects, community facility repairs, and community workshops, and much more. Find opportunities in your area today!

5. Buy extra on your next grocery store trip

This is the easiest way to do some good. Many major grocery chains have donation programs during the holiday season. While you are doing your weekend shop, put a little of your budget towards some necessities for others in need. Some stores even sell bundles of food already packaged. All you do is pay about $10 more at checkout.

6. Send a care package or letter to a serviceman or woman overseas

Spread some holiday cheer and show your gratitude for the men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our nation. Turn card making into a crafts day with the kids. Pack fun items that they are probably missing from the States like Cheetos and iTunes gift cards. See other ideas and a list of no-go’s  here.

7. Host a school or church bake sale and donate the proceeds to charity

Brush up on your cookie decorating skills! As a family, pick a cause or charity that you feel strongly about (like animal welfare or clean water in underdeveloped countries). Outline the planning process with the kids and have them help out with recruiting bakers and volunteers, making signs, setting up the space, etc. It’s a great opportunity to learn first hand how to organize a successful event and the kids will feel good knowing they made a difference for something they care about.

8. Offer to help an elderly or disabled neighbor with a household project or shopping

There are probably plenty of people in your 1 mile radius who could use some help. Ask around or knock on a neighbor’s door and find out how their doing. Tell them you’d be honored to help them with whatever comes up in conversation. Or be more direct: have the kids go over with a lawn mower and some clippers and offer to tidy up their lawn.

If you don’t have a lot of neighbors nearby, sign up with Meals On Wheels to deliver food and comfort to home bound seniors.

9. Shop local on Small Business Saturday

We all know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but have you heard of the great new recent movement called Small Business Saturday?

Sure, the internet and big box stores offer competitive discounts to rope in early holiday shoppers, but local independently owned stores also like to offer deals around this time. Plus, you are bound to find more unique gifts as well! Supporting small businesses is important to the local economy and environmental stability, among other hard to ignore reasons, like strengthening community ties and stimulating entrepreneurship.

10. Take to the streets for random acts of kindness.

Charities and clothes drives receive a lot of clothes, but not enough of the bare essentials like undergarments. Most people will agree that nothing can make you feel more comfortable than a clean pair of underpants or warm socks.

Buy a couple of new sets of inexpensive socks, underwear, and gloves and put together a few packages. Go to an area of town with a prominent homeless population and give them out with your holiday well wishes. This is probably only an appropriate family project for teens. Of course, you can always simply do a drop-off donation to a shelter.

 

To look up volunteer projects going on now in your community visit this great resource: www.thevolunteerfamily.org

And because no one can resist a great infographic, check out History.com’s Thanksgiving by numbers.

Batkid Saves San Francisco

Batkid Saves San Francisco

Make-a-Wish Foundation Transforms San Francisco into Gotham City. Hearts melt, lives saved!

Today San Francisco has been transformed into an elaborate Make-A-Wish Foundation Adventure for an awesome kid named Miles, who has been successfully battling Leukemia at just five years old.  His wish? To save Gotham City! Have no fear, Batkid is here! Below are some truly heart warming and exciting photos from Batkid’s adventures though our city. You’re a hero to all of us, Miles!

 

Make a Wish Foundation Batkid SF

Donate to Make a Wish

Batkid’s day of fighting crime

Bat Mobile Batkid SF

Batkid Takes off in Batmobile after being called by Police! There’s an issue with the Cable Car on Nob Hill!

 

Batkid SF rescue

Oh no! A Damsel is in Distress  she seems to be tied to a mysterious bomb on the cable cars! Will Batkid arrive in time?

batkid Powell Street

Phew- Here come’s Batkid!

savingdamsel

Focused and determined, he calmly dismantles the bomb tied to the victim!

Batkid Damsel in Distress

An emotional thanks and Batkid saves the Damsel! (We are officially crying over here too.)

riddler batkid

But the moment of peace was fleeting. Soon after he saves the lady, Batkid receives word that all these shenanigans are the product of the Riddler, and now he is off to the Financial District to rob a bank!

batkid and robin

Batkid fortunately has the help of his trusty sidekick Robin (played by his younger brother)!

batkid sf robbery

Batkid zooms to the financial district and into the Bank to stop the robbery.

riddlerhandcufffed

Batkid apprehends Riddler!

riddler behind bars Batkid

And throws him in the slammer!

batkid lunch

After successfully locking up the Riddler, Batkid hears a loud grumble. He looks around and hears it again…why, it’s his stomach! “Time for a lunch break,” he declares (hey,  superheroes gotta eat too!) and takes off to Union Square to grab lunch.  While enjoying his meal, he hears the shrill cry of our beloved San Francisco Giants mascot, Lou Seal.

batkid over sf

He looks out the window and sees an all too familiar faced Penguin. And he has captured Lou Seal! Batman leaps from his seat. The chase to rescue Lou Seal is on!

penguin seal car

Penguin flees with Lou Seal. They’re headed to AT&T Park!

seal batting cage bat kid

Oh now what is Penguin going to do with Lou Seal tied up in the batting cages?!

Batkid at AT&T Park

Thankfully Batkid was close behind and was able to capture Penguin with the helps of the police officers!

Batkid hugging Giants Mascot

After a congratulatory hug,  it’s announced to Batkid over the big screen that he has earned the Key to San Francisco! Or is it Gotham? No matter, just pass the tissue box please!

Batkid in batmobile

Batkid on his way to City Hall! Crowds flock to the grand building where he will be commemorated for his bold actions!

batkid at sf city hall

Batkid with Mayor Ed Le receiving the Key to the City!

key

 Thank you Batkid for protecting our beloved city! Please donate to Make a Wish Foundation to help hundreds of kids like Miles achieve their dreams.

batsolid

 

Trends in Games from Essen 2013

Trends in Games from Essen 2013

The Essen Spiel is Europe’s biggest annual event about board games. Each year, thousands of board game makers and players from all over the world gather in Essen, Germany to learn about the coolest new games on the market. Hundreds of games are shown off for the first time, giving fans a hands-on look at the future of table top games. With so many products on display, it is easy to get overwhelmed. So, we decided to compile the top 5 trends from Essen Spiel 2013, and highlight some of our favorite examples:

1. Bidding Games

Bidding Games have players bid on auction items.

Going, Going, Gone from Sronghold Games:

Chicago Stock Exchange from 1-2-3 Games:

2. Tile Placement Games

How tiles are placed next to each other determines the outcome of the game.

String Savanna from Japon Brand:

Caverna from Lookout Games:

3. Sheep Games

Sheep games feature the fluffy farmyard animals known as ovis aries:

Battle Sheep from Blue Orange Games:

Sheepzzz from Hurrican Games:

4. Train Games

Trains are cool!

American Rails from Quined Games:

Russian Railroads from Z-Man Games:

5. Video Games

This board game is inspired by a classic arcade game that you might recognize.

Whacky Wit from Spielquader:

All videos courtesy of BoardGameGeek.com

Time Warp! Board Game Commercials from the Past

Time Warp! Board Game Commercials from the Past

The 80’s and 90’s made up the heyday of cheesy board game commercials. For many of us at Blue Orange Headquarters, the jingles and catch phrases from these games are forever ingrained in our memories. Looking back on them with our 21st century, ultra-PC point of view, it’s amazing to think some of these products were successful. But others, like Operation and Candy Land are classics and will most likely survive for many years to come.

Since it’s Friday and we’re all in a light-hearted mood, we’ve collected some of our favorite commercials for reasons good and bad. Press play and take a trip down memory lane!

 

Don’t Wake Daddy

Teaching kids to sneak behind their parents’ backs after everyone has gone to bed. This sort of behavior certainly becomes troublesome after puberty hits. Fun game though! The little fabric night cap (who wears a night cap?) flying off the plastic Dad was endlessly entertaining as a kid. And what’s so wrong with getting a midnight snack anyway?

 

Operation

In some ways, this commercial perpetuates the old stereotype that all doctors are “wacky” quacks that are just out to make a buck.  Look at the face on the patient! Someone get that guy some anesthetic!

Thanks Operation for fine-tuning my fine motor skills and teaching me to appreciate idioms such as “butterflies in your stomach” and “charlie horse.”

 

Candy Land

This is the driest Candy Land commercial ever: “This is candy land. A place you pretend to visit when your play this game.” Pretend to visit! We’re just pretending??

Compare to the contemporary version. “A place that’s made of sweets and yummy treats.” Count me in! Rebranding like this is what keeps classics like Candy Land alive.

 

Socker Boppers

Okay this isn’t exactly a game per se, but aren’t all physical contests a game?

“Sock all day and bop all night!” Bop all night? Hmm…as if encouraging kids to bash each other over the head wasn’t enough. I don’t see this flying in 2013. But how funny are all those kids delightfully beating each other with inflatables?!

 

Pogs

The commercial is as ambiguous as the game.  I knew tons of kids who had pogs and collected dozens myself, but nobody really seemed to know how to play.

 

Hungry Hippo

“Hungry Hungry Hip-POS!” This jingle was even all the more appealing with its punctuation by the cartoon hippos’ bulging bottoms mid-Conga line. I remember my siblings and I used to mimic the commercial and conga around the living room while singing the diddy. Apparently this game is still around and this commercial is still used. It just goes to show how much kids like repetitive motions and banging on things.

 

Dream Phone

Basically a reworking of Guess Who? marketed to tween girls. This game was a part of a whole slew of releases that combined gender norms and electronics (the big gimmick in the 90’s, always accompanied with “batteries not included” disclaimer). Want a boy crazy girl who competes to win guys and uses the word “hunk”? Get her Dream Phone!

For a hilarious round up of the other questionable board games targeted to girls from this era, check out this BuzzFeed article. (Warning: contains strong language)

And for a game that’s clearly meant for boys, judging by the commercial we have….

 

Crossfire

Notice that the jingle is just a repetition of the game’s tagline, “Win it in the Crossfire,” which is probably the most original and descriptive tagline I’ve ever heard. He he.

Spot It Stories: New Ways to Play!

Spot It Stories: New Ways to Play!

Spot it!  is one of the most popular card games on the planet right now. It is a high speed matching game in which players race to find the same image on two cards. Playing the game is a great way of improving the brain’s processing speed while having good ‘ole fashioned fun (no tech required!). And it is such an irresistibly versatile game that people are coming up with new ways to play all the time. Last month, we told you about one of our secret variations called Ducks In A Row. In case you missed it, check out the article here.

We recently discovered another creative fan-made variation that involves combining the car

ds from Spot it! with the rules from the popular storytelling game Dixit Jinx. It’s called “Spot It Stories.” Here’s how to play:

3 x 3 grid of cards

Spot It Stories Rules

  1. Put nine Spot it! cards face-up in a 3 by 3 grid.
  2. The first player tells a short story (one or two sentences long) alluding to three icons on one of the face-up cards in the grid, without explicitly saying any of the names of the icons.
  3. One at a time, the other players then guess which card the storyteller is talking about by pointing at it.
  4. If you point to the correct card, you add that card face-down to your scoring pile.
  5. If you point to an incorrect card, the storyteller scores it instead. Players then continue guessing until either:
    1. The correct card is chosen.
    2. Three incorrect cards are chosen. In this case, the storyteller does not score any of the cards, and loses one additional card from their scoring pile, placing those cards in a separate discard pile.
  6. Fill in the empty space(s) from the remaining cards and pass  the storyteller role on to the next player (clockwise).
  7. Once the last card from the tin is placed on the table, the final round begins.
  8. The winner is the player with the most cards in their scoring pile at the end of the game.

For even more fun ways to play, check out these links to the official game rules:

Leave a comment below if you have your own ways of playing. We would love to hear from you!

Incredible Toy Company: November’s Store of the Month!

Incredible Toy Company: November’s Store of the Month!

Blue Orange Games is lucky to partner with a fantastic bunch of retailers who are passionate about their businesses and supportive of our games. We want to do more to recognize the stores and individuals that make our mission possible. That’s how our new monthly spotlight on an outstanding Blue Orange Games retailer came about!

­

Our First Store of the Month

We are pleased to announce that Incredible Toy Company in Blowing Rock, North Carolina is our first Store of the Month for November! Arthur, a member of our sales team, nominated the store after participating in an awesome Play Day they hosted during his September visit. The owner Kathleen and her staff warmly welcomed Arthur and made him feel right at home. Arthur was impressed by their prominent display of our games in the middle of the store and by their vocal enthusiasm for our brand, which has lead Spot it! to be their long standing best seller.

Incredible Toy Company with Blue Orange Games
Arthur with the Incredible Toy Company Team during his September visit.

We surprised them with a bouquet of blue and orange balloons, candy, and a certificate commemorating their achievement. I caught up with the owner, Kathleen Rowell over the phone to chat with her about her toy store and its success.

About the Incredible Toy Company

Incredible Toy Company Blowing Rock
Incredible Toy Company storefront

Incredible Toy Company sits on the main road leading to the nearest big town of Boone, NC, named for legendary frontiersman, Daniel Boone. A good amount of traffic passes by the store, including a lot visitors to a nearby local amusement park. To stand out, Kathleen had her charming, freestanding store painted a bright red with yellow trim. With its sheltered porch and spacious parking lot, the cheery toy store certainly looks inviting to the large number of tourists that pass through the area. Kathleen waxed poetic about the beauty and variety of her state and community, painting a romantic picture of North Eastern American life that I am eager to experience myself. Right now, they are enjoying beautiful fall colors and a plethora of harvest festivals. A favorite she mentioned is the Woolly Worm Festival, a 35 year old tradition that culminates into the race of fuzzy caterpillars along a length of string (there’s much more to it than that; over 20,000 revelers attend the winter welcoming event!).

Of course, I had to ask Kathleen how Incredible Toy Company got started and what made her open up for business. Twenty years ago, Kathleen and her husband were raising 3 small boys, and Kathleen was becoming frustrated that there was nowhere in town to buy quality toys. Having 11 years experience in retail, she felt confident she could do it better. She did her homework and when her youngest was just 4, she opened Incredible Toy Company. She has been fortunate to have the help of her husband who doubles as her carpenter and handyman. What a pal!

Kathleen and her staff are “big game people.” Their store sports an 8 foot high set of shelves spanning the length of wall full of 350 different games! There is also a separate demo table to easily show customers how to play. But it appears that Kathleen likes puzzles the best of all. She is proud of her extensive selection and the 3,000 piece puzzle displayed under glass on her store counter. The Incredible Toy Store is also a big distributor of Playmobil products, a favorite of kids for decades. Her shop wonderfully preserves the tradition of the best in playthings, loved throughout generations.

Because Incredible Toy Company is located near many ski resorts and close to neighboring states, Virginia and Tennessee, about 85% of her customers are tourists. She has found the most effective promotion has been adding her store in visitor maps and guides of the area. But for the tight-knit local community, fun in-store events like Arthur’s Play Day always do the trick!

When asked if she had a superstar member of staff contributing to the success of her store,  she was quick to let me know that she couldn’t single anyone out because everyone actively contributes to the upbeat, happy atmosphere of her store. She said, “Working here is laid back and fun, not a lot of high pressure. They really have fun showing people Spot It. We like to play with them all!”

And there you have it, the not-so-secret to success and happiness: love what you do and stay positive!

Thank you Kathleen and the superb team at Incredible Toy Company in North Carolina for being a great example and friends of Blue Orange Games.

Go show them some love!

What’s Trending in Holiday Toys

What’s Trending in Holiday Toys

The media, pop culture, technological advancements, and the nation’s collective emotional state can all shape the trends that influence people’s buying decisions. Toys, like fashion and music, are subject to trends, and at no other time are toy trends more evident than during the mad rush of the holiday shopping season.

We received our first glimpse into this 2013’s toy trends at the American International Toy Fair in New York City last February. After the show, the TIA made the following observations which we’ve seen carried out through the year. It’s safe to guess that the products that fall in line with these themes will sell the best in the next few months.

 

Toys with tech

Did you get the memo? Geek is now synonymous with cool. In an age when 3rd graders have smart phones and toddlers are more adept with an iPad than their grandparents, technology is changing how kids experience their world. Toy companies have responded by integrating technology into new products, not only to hold kids’ attention and keep up with the times, but to enrich the quality and potential of play. Many toys that work together with tablets and apps have risen in popularity, along with products that create 3D interaction, that are powered by robotics and remote-control, and that blend real and virtual worlds.

Holiday toys to look for: Popar Toys 3D Adventure kits, The Explorer Globe from LeapFrog Enterprises, LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit, Skylanders Cloud Patrol App Sets

 

Blast from the past

Hot Holiday Toys
Easy Bake Oven (now available in gender-neutral black/silver!)

As our ultra connected, high tech lives become the norm, the past becomes more and more attractive and romanticized. Classic play appears novel to the millennial generation. Vintage styling and nostalgia have been hot for the past several years, and now even playthings are going back to basics. Kids are discovering the classics of their parents’ and grandparents’ youth, who are delighted to share in the fun. And for the first time, the 90’s is long enough ago to be a decade to bring back. Just take a look at the new crop of Furbies, introduced onto the market to much fan fare in 1998. Hitting an emotional note with families, retro toys are proven hits that will last for generations to come.

 

Holiday toys to look for: Wooden doll houses, marble runs, The new Cabbage Patch Kid Dolls, classic board games, Easy Bake Oven, Lincoln Logs, Spin Around Kids, Play Doh

 

Teens want more than screens

Trends in Holiday Toys
Traditional games like Gobblet are refreshing

Treading the teen and tween market has always been a slippery slope. In response to the realization that Millennials are growing up a heck of a lot faster than preceding generations, the toy industry sought to reach this audience with what they knew best: technology. But as we’re seeing with the Retro trend, what’s old is new again, and suddenly no-tech is refreshing! Whether they are aware of it or not, kids are craving the physical. Given the rise in playing board games among kids and adults, we’ll say this is definitely starting to show. Hey, even the web company Match.com got on board and now host in person mixers where eligible men and women get to know each other over games like Spot it!

Holiday toys to look for: tabletop games, licensed figurines & collectibles, outdoor action toys, and extreme sports equipment.

 

Talent Showcase

Reality competition shows have been rocking the air waves over the past few years and with a positive effect. TV shows like Chopped, Project Runway and American Idol that celebrate every day peoples’ skills have inspired kids to pursue their talents. The toy industry was listening. Crafts and DIY kits are ever popular, along with hands-on toys that encourage creativity, role playing, and performance.

Holiday toys to look for: Creative Toys Haute Couture Fashion Studio, Small World Living Toys Young Chef Cookware Set, VTech – KidiJamz Studio, ALEX® Toys – Do-it-Yourself Wear! All Duct Out, DIY Rubber Band Bracelets Loom Kit

 

Going Beyond Blocks

hot holiday toys
Sets like Roominate expose girls to STEM early

Construction toys received a huge demand in the past few years and show no sign of slowing down. Classic sets like Erector and Lego are still going strong, but the new kids on the block are bringing innovation to sets that are interchangeable, eco-friendly, electrically powered, or licensed. Manufacturers have become mindful of appealing to kids across gender, age and ability. No doubt, the rise in construction toys has been fueled by the recent attention advocates of STEM education (science, tech, engineering, math) have received.

Holiday toys to look for: Play Sets by Roominate, HexBug, GoldieBlox, Keva, Hanz, Eitech

 

Guess who made Amazon’s 2013 Holiday Toys List?

Browse the list and see if you can spot it….