Not every college assignment has a real-world application. For Luke Hooper, however, tackling a professor's missive resulted in a new career. A mechanical engineering student at Tulane University, Hooper was tasked with conceptualizing a technologically rich toy that would appeal to a range of ages. At lunch one day, he recalled his own childhood fun with lasers and diagrammed a laser-wielding strategy game dubbed Deflexion on the closest thing at hand -- a napkin.
While the concept didn't go from drawing board to reality in the course of a semester, it did capture the attention of Hooper's professor, Michael Larson, Ph.D., who, along with graduate engineering student Del Segura, helped develop the game. The trio formed Innovention Toys, entered business plan competitions, hosted tournaments and wooed reviewers. And by November 2004, Segura was in his garage hand-checking the first 5,000 games so the company could meet customer demand.
Despite Deflexion's inauspicious start, the game had grown into a viable cottage industry. It also caught the attention of another designer who claimed he'd already created a game of the same name. Rather than enter a trademark dispute, in August 2006, Hooper and company simply changed the game's name to Khet. They also changed its color scheme to red and silver, and added hieroglyphics to the board [source: Peterson]. By January 2007, an estimated 100,000 copies of Khet had been sold in the U.S. and U.K. [source: Jensen].
In 2011, Innovention debuted Khet 2.0. The game plays the same as earlier versions, but is not compatible with the original Eye of Horus and Tower of Kadesh expansions (a Khet 2.0-compatible Eye of Horus 2.0 is available, however). The game's most notable improvement was the addition of lasers to two stationary sphinxes. Previously, the lasers had been built into the board and were sometimes unreliable.