Bob Driscoll - Not Like Forrest Gump, but...
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?
I had 6 siblings and we grew up playing board games. We always looked forward to getting new games to play.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I grew up in Massachusetts, which has a lot of great universities and colleges. It also has a thriving high-tech area in Boston and I think that may have influenced me to study electrical engineering and software. Electronic games led to game design as the code in an electronic game creates the game play.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
I went through a stage where I tried to invent games for my group of social friends. It seemed like a good plan, but I’ve had much better results inventing games that are interesting and fun without thinking too much about the target audience.
What do you read every day, and why?
I read the news in the New York Times and Washington Post on a daily basis. I guess, I’m a glutton for punishment.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
My smart phone is my favorite gadget. It allows me to stay connected with family and friends via texting, email and other social media, especially those elusive twenty-something year old daughters. Power Point is my favorite tool for developing game concepts and simulations for game testing.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
Sometimes I try to think of a clever name for a game and then try to invent a game that fits the name. And, sometimes I’ll try to think of random objects and see if any of them can lead to a game concept. Start out with something that may seem stupid and see where it leads. It’s okay if it leads to a dead end.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
The last time I laughed out loud was most likely with my wife doing everyday things. She makes me smile and she makes me laugh.
Do you have any kiddos?
I have three terrific and creative daughters ranging in age from 22 to 27.
Do you have any pets?
We have our 2 dogs and my daughter’s dog which seems to have taken up permanent residence at our house (the dog, that is.)
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Watching The Walking Dead during breaks from work. I’ve convinced my wife, Suzanne to watch Game of Thrones, but not The Walking Dead.
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
Their smile … is there anything else that comes close?
Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?
Happy endings. I like positive distractions from the news.
Hugs or Kisses?
Both, but if I had to choose hugs!
What’s your favorite TV show?
I like Game of Thrones and Homeland quite a bit. And, This is Us is always good. So, it’s hard to pick just one. But, Game of Thrones for now is number 1.
What is your favorite night out?
This is a tough one, a nice dinner out with my wife is great, but a good movie with popcorn is also very good. Holding hands during the movie is a must.
Favorite movie of all time?
Shawshank Redemption, then Casablanca and then Witness
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
Hong Kong, China, Taiwan – whichever is furthest from Massachusetts.
What are your hobbies?
I like to run. I haven’t stopped since high school … not like Forrest Gump haven’t stopped, but on a fairly regular basis.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Be the best father and husband ever
Hopefully, inventing the next Don’t Step in It.