By Mike Nester For The Prairie Advocate News
MOUNT CARROLL – David Hoyt’s word games are played by over 7 million people each day, but last week he and one of his new games were right where he’s always wanted them—in the classroom.
One of the world’s greatest puzzle inventors has recruited a West Carroll fourth grade class to help with his latest creation, Word Winder.
After spending three months communicating via e-mail and skype, the 21 students in Judy Mathers’ class met the game maker on Thursday, March 22, as he traveled from his home in Chicago to Savanna.
“Its always been a goal of mine to bring my games into the classroom,” Hoyt said. “I experienced the difference between a top-ranked state in education and one on the other end of the scale.”
While Word Winder was originally designed for adults, Hoyt’s chance meeting with West Carroll teacher Judy Mathers provided his opportunity to fulfill a lifetime goal.
“I went to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier and was looking for games for the classroom,” Mathers said of how she met Hoyt. She was in Chicago with her husband, WC’s superintendent of schools, for the school board conference.
“I saw him playing his game and it was all about word building, and I just had to have one,” Mathers said of her first impression of the game.
However, the game was still in the design stage and not for sale.
”We started talking and the next thing I knew he asked me if I would pilot the game in my classroom,” Mathers recalled of her meeting with Hoyt.
When the class returned from Christmas break a hand-made edition of the game was awaiting them and they started playing with the aid of youtube videos.
Hoyt then provided 11 more editions, also handmade, a task America’s great puzzle maker underestimated.
“I thought I would be done in about five hours, it took about 12,” he said laughing.
Not only has Hoyt provided the class with the games and chips, he’s also given them an iPad so they can skype, providing him a live look into the classroom.
“Its been an amazing experience,” Mathers said. “Its incredible to meet someone like David and be part of a project having students develop the game.
“Its amazing when you think of it, these kids are the only ones in the world playing this game,” said Mathers of the experience. “We are so honored to have the opportunity.”
Hoyt is also enjoying the experience with the students as he usually recruits his friends to test games.
“This has been an unique experience for me,” Hoyt said of the contact with the students.
The game inventor played the board game with the students on his visit, and also combined the 12 games on hand for the “world’s largest games ever” of Word Winder and Race Winder.
The entire class challenged Hoyt to an electronic version of the Word Winder on the Smartboard, and while they scored more points, fell in a tight battle.
And while the students believe they’re just playing a game, Mathers said she’s seen the game have a positive impact on all the students.
“Its a fabulous game and it really teaches them to think and solve problems. Its amazing.”
Not only will the students spend the rest of the school year developing the classroom version, they’re being used to help promote the game.
Also visiting on Thursday was Tracy Dudkiewicz, owner of Tap Marketing, the company responsible for promoting the game.
She interviewed each of the students asking them what they like best about the game and other questions. She also shot video while playing the game and took photos of the world’s largest versions of Word Winder and Race Winder.
Hoyt has been so impressed by the experience he’s hoping to continue his relationship with the school district as he brings his games into the education field.
He said he was in the process of developing a new math game and would like to let WC students serve as test pilots for the prototype.
Hoyt not only personally thanked the class for all their support on the project he’s sending each one an autographed limited edition version from the first 100 games off the assembly line.
While his name may not be famous, his puzzles are.
As the most syndicated daily game creator in the world, Hoyt is the self-confessed “puzzled mind “behind a long list of wildly popular games, puzzles and brain-teasers.
His most famous games include Jumble™, Word Roundup™, Pat Sajak’s Lucky Letters™, Up & Down Words™ and Boggle BrainBusters.™ His games appear in 750 newspapers, including USA Today, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.
Electronic versions of many of his addictive puzzles and games are also available to play online at sites such as Shockwave™, Yahoo! Games,™ Patsajackgames.com, EllenTV.com, and Microsoft Zone™ and MSN™ Sites. He’s also the author of more than 25 game and puzzle books.
In the early 1990s, after pursuing a career as an options trader, Hoyt began to create puzzles as a part-time hobby – a pursuit which soon evolved into a full-time passion.
After selling games to major companies including Parker Brothers, Mattel and Tiger Electronics, David left behind his trading career to focus on creating games.
The newest of Hoyt’s endeavor is Word Winder, an entire brand of board games, puzzle books, and mobile apps.
Described as “one of the best word games ever,” by Mike Hirtle, former Head of Global Product Acquisition at Hasbro, Word Winder is the first David Hoyt brand that has been taken straight to retail vs. licensing a concept.
In Word Winder, players attempt to create a continuous winding line of words creating a path from one side of the game board to another. The game board is made up of 16 double sided 4” x 4” letter grid boards that can be organized differently every time you play.
In fact there, are 263,130,836,933,693,530,167,197,089,370,112,000 different board game combinations.
The first Word Winder games will be available in April for a retail price of $19.99 at Barnes and Nobles and Books-A-Million. The game is for ages 8 to adult, 2-6 players and includes rules for two games—Side Winder and Race Winder. The game will also be available by mobile apps and a puzzle book.