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Patrik Olejňák, Juraj Horňák  a Erika Beňuška založili Lebo Mädveď

You can read the original text on the site HASHTAG.SK

The trio founded a brand that Slovaks love: Wooden puzzles Bear Games are an absolute original, you can get one too.

#Three young people, Juraj Horňák, Erika Beňuška and Patrik Olejňák, founded the Bear Games brand at the end of 2018, which comes with educational games for different age categories. Today, they already offer a number of versions, among which the wooden Mapucles are clear favorites.

Now they have created the newest and biggest addition to their portfolio - Mapuzzle World. We talked about them, but also about the creative process itself and the current crowdfunding campaign in the interview.

How and when did you get the idea to found Bear Games and start creating non-traditional wooden puzzles not only for children?

The very first Mapuzzle was created spontaneously as a gift for my brother. He spent many years in Asia and has already traveled halfway around the world. That's why I wanted to make something for him, from which, on the contrary, he would learn something about Slovakia, because he hadn't traveled that far. At the same time, I was still studying architecture and had experience working with the laser, which we used to make models for school.

It occurred to me that when I cut the map of Slovakia into individual districts, it would create a playful educational subject. The first prototype was not called Mapucle, it only had "Fest good game" written on it. There was no plan for it to grow into the project that is now called Lebo Mädveð. Only after the success around the family and loved ones did I decide to give it a more serious form, fine-tune the details and come up with a name and a brand for it.

Mapucle Svet vzdelávajú aj zabávajú (Zdroj: Hashtag/Laura Kaličiaková)
Mapuzzles educate and entertain the world (Source: Hashtag/Laura Kaličiaková)

Mapuzzles have been on the market for quite some time. I personally also encountered the fact that children had it at school as a didactic aid, but 25-year-old acquaintances also pulled it out during one evening, for example. In your opinion, what is the versatility of this product that can attract such a wide audience?

It is clearly because playing comes naturally to people of all ages. We see it ourselves at events and markets where we go. Sometimes people pretend that what's the point of such puzzles, but after a while it thaws them out and they spend half an hour or an hour with us. We all just want to play, whether we know it or not. It's natural to us.

Mapucle Svet vzdelávajú aj zabávajú (Zdroj: Lebo Mädveď)
Mapuzzles educate and entertain the world (Source: Bear Games)

In addition to Mapuzzle, you also presented Folxeso – a memory game, on which there is a village, a region and a typical pattern. Which of your products is doing the best?

Folketo, which means folklore quartet, was created first. Many people don't even know anymore, or only vaguely remember what a quartet is and how it is played. We therefore decided to make a memory game from the same patterns and there is more interest in it. Mapuzzle continues to do best, specifically Mapuzzle Slovakia districts and Europe. But we expect that the latest product Mapuzzle World has the potential to surpass them all.

Folxeso folklórne pexeso
Folxeso (Source: Bear Games)

What is most important to you when creating a new game?

So that we do not deviate from our standards. Each of our products must have three aspects: play, education and design. It has to have added value to give something to the person and it has to be presented playfully to entertain people. And at the same time, it must fit into our minimalist Bear Games visual, where we like to work with the aesthetics of the material itself. People like nice products, and the nicer they are, the more they tend to play with them and thus learn more.

Juraj Horňák, Erika Beňuška a Patrik Olejňák počas otvárania nového ateliéru Lebo Mädveď
Juraj Horňák, Erika Beňuška and Patrik Olejňák during the opening of the new Bear Games studio (Source: Bear Games)

In addition to the game itself, people immediately notice its processing. Do you take care of the production yourself? Do you also try to pay attention to the ecological side?

We certainly try to take care of the ecological side. That's why we make products from natural MDF material, whose production and waste are not harmful. At the same time, when working with a laser, a minimum of waste is created and the material is used very efficiently. It is also important for us to produce products locally, thus supporting the local market and reducing transport. Our products are produced by the very clever company 4frommedia, which is based in Prievidza.

Mapucle Svet vzdelávajú aj zabávajú
Mapuzzles educate and entertain the world (Source: Bear Games)

Has the pandemic affected interest in your products in any way?

Hard to say clearly. We have seen smaller sales, but this may be mainly due to the cancellation of all the events where we traditionally went to sell. Anyway, we found out that we still have big gaps in online marketing and we need to focus more on it.

In addition, you created Mapuzzle World during the quarantine. What was the preparation and creation of this product like? Did you have difficult conditions during development, or what troubled you the most in the end?

I would say quite the opposite. Conditions were simplified by the fact that the whole world stopped and there were fewer things to distract us from it. The creation of the product begins with the analysis of maps and the selection of the right one, since the map representation of the world is not at all unambiguous. The following are experimental prototypes, where we try different versions of the distribution, size and amount of individual information.

From this we finally chose three versions MINI, MIDI and MAXI with different sizes and difficulties. The thing that bothered us the most was that we weren't sure when to go out with the product. We wanted to bring it to market through a crowdfunding campaign, but we didn't know if now was the right time. We took a chance and it turns out it wasn't a bad move.

Mapucle Svet vzdelávajú aj zabávajú
Mapuzzles educate and entertain the world (Source: Bear Games)

We had the opportunity to try the largest version of Mapuzzle World. We'll admit that we spent a lot more time with her than we originally thought, which is only good. We learned something new and at the same time had a lot of fun. However, looking at the built Mapuzzles, we thought that maybe someone would like to have them on the wall. Are people supposed to glue them like classic puzzles, or is there another variant?

This is an absolute classic. Most people think they can put it together much sooner than it actually takes. This proves the justification of such educational games. Regarding the frame, that's a very good question, because you're far from the first person to be interested.

It is our next mini-project that we want to come up with by Christmas. Make hanging and demountable frames. We don't want people to stick to Mapuzzle because that would kill the original idea of the game. We produce frames that can be disassembled, and when you are not playing, they decorate your wall, and when you want to play, you can easily access your game.

Mapucle Svet sú zložitejšie, než sa na prvý pohľad zdá
Mapuzzle World is more complex than it seems at first glance (Source: Hashtag/Laura Kaličiaková)

Did you think about the fact that children could pour over your products? Are they protected in some way or somewhat water resistant?

Unfortunately, this is one of the disadvantages of MDF material. It is relatively sensitive to water. Our games were not originally intended for children, but rather for adults. In the future, we plan to experiment with different materials and try which ones are good for what. But for now we are satisfied with the current version. I can't judge how often this happens to people, but we have yet to receive a similar reminder from customers.

You created the game in several language versions. Are you also doing well in foreign markets? Would you like to expand beyond Slovakia and the Czech Republic?

Mapuzzle World will be the imaginary gateway to the world, and at the same time the motivation to start solving it properly. We started in Slovakia, we are slowly expanding to the Czech Republic and soon we would like to go to other neighboring countries, but also to the overall international market.

Mapuzzles educate and entertain the world (Source: Bear Design)

You introduced your latest product through a crowdfunding campaign. Why did you decide to go down this path and how are you doing at the moment?

The whole situation during the corona virus pissed us off like many others. Launching a new product is not easy. Even more so if it's the biggest one you have on offer. We therefore decided to raise money for the start-up by investing everything we collect beyond the initial goal in our new studio in Nova Cvernovka in Bratislava.

You can follow Bear Games on Facebooku aj Instagrame.

Crowdfunding is also a good way to increase the visibility of your brand and get closer to people. They can follow the whole campaign in quite detail and get a deeper insight into the production process and the overall functioning of the project. The campaign is almost over and we are just about to reach 100%. It wasn't easy, but it was worth it. We learned a lot from it, and it certainly wasn't our last crowdfunding campaign. We have a lot of ideas.

Ateliér Lebo Mädveď so zakadateľmi
Juraj Horňák, Erika Beňuška and Patrik Olejňák during the opening of the new Bear Games studio (Source: Bear Games)


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