When I was in elementary school, a teacher asked me what I wanted to be and I said, “inventor.” I was promptly told that was not a real profession and so I turned my sights to astronaut. Turns out, becoming an inventor was a lot easier for me than becoming an astronaut. A mild motion sickness problem was the first big indicator a trip to the moon wasn’t in my future, but luckily the prestigious Meyer/Glass design came to the University of Illinois Industrial Design career fair and my dreams of becoming an inventor were rekindled.
Meyer/Glass Design, a spin off of the original Marvin Glass & Associates, was the toy and game invention firm that gave me my start. There I got a solid foundation including game play development, trivia writing, prototyping, concept design, and the business side of professional inventing. My very first game, Cover to Cover, was licensed by Hasbro on the spot during a pitch meeting.
Another thing I learned at Meyer/Glass Design that toy and game inventors have the propensity to be very secretive. Yet one of my key responsibilities at MGD was to encourage more group idea generation through regular brainstorming sessions. It was definitely a challenge at first, but it was during these sessions that I created and honed a variety of exercises to inspire all sorts of new ideas and collaboration.
After MGD closed, I continued on my own starting Brainy Chick, Inc. I’ve invented and developed a variety products for companies in the toy and game world including Hasbro, Winning Moves, Educational Insights, Peaceable Kingdom, Asmodee, and Haywire Group. Being on my own also allowed me to branch out into brainstorming facilitation and to partner with multiple innovation consultancies to participate in brainstorming sessions for the world’s top brands and companies. I strongly believe that enthusiastic encouraging people to be as creative as they can before layering on a little realism and strategy is what it takes to develop unique and exciting, but actionable ideas.
In 2009, I started The Game Aisle where I review tabletop games that I like and talk about the game invention world. Not only does it help me keep up with what’s new, it also gives me an outlet to share with my readers great games that may not be found in big box stores, but are worth seeking out. I also like to focus on the inventor behind each game and share their stories, because not everyone knows that many games are invented/designed by people like me — not big corporations. The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center thought this was a good thing to share too! In 2011, they asked me to give a talk about my life as an inventor at the National Museum of American History as part of their ongoing “Innovative Lives” series. This series aims to educate the public that inventors aren’t just old dead white guys; that we’re regular people with ideas of all shapes and sizes.’
While I may not have ever anticipated having a career in the toy and game invention business, I proudly stand with one foot in the toy and game aisle and the other in the innovation world. Although, I’d still love to take a trip to space.
Want to have some fun and frank conversation about inventing, the industry, being creative, and games?