CHICO, Calif. - Sometimes the most successful ideas come from the simplest places.
Mike Martin's idea for a board game wasn't a new one – the idea came from a game he played with friends in college. But since its release two weeks ago, Martin has sold almost half of the 1,000 units originally manufactured fo the Game Par Out.
The game is played like golf, but on a reusable laminated course, using a marker instead of a ball. Players must trace a line fromt the tee to the hole without running through the trees or going out of bounds.
Other obstacles include water, rocks, cliffs and sand traps
The biggest difference between real golf and Par Out is that "the laws of physics do not apply in our game," said Martin, 31
The laws of sight also do not apply, since the rules fo the game require players to keep their eyes closed during their turn.
The difficulty is based on proprioception, which is a sensory feedback in the brain based on the status of the body internally. A person's proprioception impairment is commonly tested by police officers in field sobriety tests and it is also the brain function that allows people to walk in around in the dark without losing their balance.
Martin first played a version of the game at Central Washington University, where he earned his bachelor's degree. The game was a simple way to pass the time in classes like statistics when he and his friends had a hard time focusing.
"Anyone who can close their eyes can play this game," he said, "Simplicity is what we were going for."
The 22-page game book is based on the typical 18-hole round played in real golf, drawn by hand and built on a computer by Martin and his Par Out business partner Phil Boden. The pair spent many sleepless nights assembling the product in time for its debut at Bird in Hand Nov. 18.
The two also work together at LearningChange, a business consulting company Martin started with four other people in 2004. Additionly, Martin recently finished his master's degree in instructional technology from Chico State University.
In the future, the pair plan to model versions of the game after well known real courses and local courses that could be sold in pro shops.
Already 230 units have been sold to Bird in Hand, with 10 selling at the game's debut in the store during the downtown Christmas Preview.
Another 210 were recently sold to the Butte County Office of Education.
"there's an educational component that we didn't realize was there," Martin said.
The game is manufactured almost entirely in Chico, and assembled by hand, except for the lamination which is done by a company in Sacramento. The front designs were drawn by local illustrator Steve Ferchaud.
Bob Malowney, owner of Bird in Hand, knew Martin from when he employed him at the store four years ago as a salesman in the toy department.
When Martin approached him with the rough draft of the idea, Malowney offered feedback and help him develop the polished version of the game.
"It was already a home run of an idea," Malowney said. "He brought us into the process. He did the research and I was part of his research."
Estimated sales figures weren't immediately available from the store, but Malowney said the product has had an excellent reception.
Bird in Hand carries a demo display of the game and Martin and Boden make frequent instore appearances to promote the game and educate consumers on their product.
"Toys 'R' Us doesn't have this thing," Malowney said.