When Digital Dream Labs released its first commercial run of Cork the Volcano Puzzlets™ game last month, co-founder Justin Sabo thought there was time to promote the game so it would do well for the holidays. But they didn’t get a chance. “We ended up selling out right after Thanksgiving,” says Sabo, with a mix of pride and surprise.
Sabo co-founded Digital Dream Labs with Peter Kinney and Matt Stewart in 2012 after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. They started the company with the vision of making educational museum exhibits.
The company’s first product was a museum-sized variant of the Puzzlets™ game, which was developed in collaboration with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. They sold units of the game to museums, including The Children’s Museum of Houston, one of the tops in the country.
The company evolved to become makers of hands-on learning toys that aim to “spark curiosity in us all, mixing nostalgia with the technology children love.”
Cork The Volcano, which teaches kids how to program, is the first game for the Puzzlets system. It enriches logic, sequencing and fine-motor skills through physical interaction and gameplay.
The game revolves around three characters who arrive at an island with a volcano whose cork has exploded into many pieces. The objective? To retrieve all the pieces. “It teaches creative problem solving and creative sequencing,” says Sabo. “In the game, there is more than one way to solve problems—just like in programming. It’s a fun story but the mechanics revolve around computer programming. Kids can actually program in characters.”
Sabo also values the collaborative aspect of the system. “With the tablet or computer plus the Play Tray, you naturally have a two-player system that encourages social interaction and collaboration.”
The system retails for $99 and includes the programming game Cork the Volcano software plus 22 Puzzlets, a universal Play Tray and USB Cable. The Play Tray also works via Bluetooth. The game is sold-out for the holidays but customers can reserve online for shipment at the end of January 2015. Or, if you’re lucky, you may find one at an S.W. Randall store in town.
Digital Dream Labs aims to create a platform. In the works is a chemistry game set to release at the end of 2015.