What do you do in the industry?
I’m a game inventor with a lot of tech experience. I do some consulting work for game design, especially games with technology. But, mostly I try to invent fun games.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
I worked for Hasbro for over 20 years, where I enjoyed a good reputation for designing electronic games and working well with outside inventors. I invented Scrabble Flash (2011 TOTY Game of the Year) while working at Hasbro. And, I had invented and patented Pal Mickey, a tech toy for the Disney Theme parks in Orlando that was well received by their guests. My latest game which I co-invented with Don Ullman is Hasbro’s Don’t Step in It. It seems kind of funny to go from tech-based products to Don’t Step in It. But, it’s all about designing games that are fun.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I was developing software for submarine periscopes just out of college when a recruiter informed me of an opening with Milton Bradley for developing video games. I jumped at the chance and I’ve been in the industry ever since with many years spent at Hasbro.
What are you working on now?
I’m mostly inventing now and doing a bit of consulting. Most of my inventing is in collaboration with other inventors and most of that is with Don Ullman. Don’s been a terrific partner and we are working on a lot of new game concepts.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
People seem to want games or toys that will make them laugh either by being very silly or edgy/dirty. I suppose that could worry me because of my experience with electronic games, which are more about skill. But, I like setting time aside to think about what type of game might trigger laughter. Of course, our recent success with Don’t Step in It makes it much easier for me to be excited by this trend.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you toy companies?
Play test a toy or game concept thoroughly before presenting it. Try to picture it being shown in an ad or played/reviewed on YouTube. Prepare a brief description that highlights its best features. Build a playable demo if feasible. And, make a short video of the concept, preferably one that shows players having fun.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Find out what really excites you and see if you can make a career out of it. And, don’t listen to naysayers. So many nice people at my first job told me that all companies were the same. But, once I left that first job to go work at Milton Bradley/Hasbro I quickly learned that some companies and some jobs are SO MUCH better than others. Be picky about your first job and let your boss know what you’re hoping to accomplish.
What does your typical day look like?
I work on concepts that are currently being developed by doing a number of things ranging from making notes on next steps or new thoughts to exchanging ideas with another inventor to trying something in power point to see how it works. I also try to think of new concepts based on anything that seems interesting.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love working on new game ideas. It’s great to see a new concept play well as a prototype. But, learning that a toy company wants to license a concept is the most exciting part of my job.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
Picking tobacco as a summer job in high school. I learned about perseverance and what it’s like to work really hard for a bit of spending money. I guess I learned the value of a dollar. I’ve been lucky in my post college career. I haven’t had a job that I could label my “worst” as they’ve all been good.
What and/or who inspires you?
I was very fortunate in being able to learn game design from Mike Gray at Hasbro. Mike’s enthusiasm for games and game design was the inspiration for me to shift from programming games to designing games. I was also able to work with and learn from a lot of terrific people at Hasbro including outside inventors like Big Monster Toys and KID Group.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
Monopoly and Clue were my favorite games as a kid. And, Risk became my favorite game in high school and college.
Where were you born?
Boston, a terrific city!
What was your life like growing up?