top of page

Mary Jo Reutter - Hats, Hats, So Many Hats!: TBR Person of the Week

For the holidays, what do you say, game inventors? Let’s gift ourselves with a bit of credit for all the many things we do before a game ever goes to market.

To be a successful game inventor, we must have a level proficiency at many, many … many things. Some are obvious, some unexpected – and some are just a little odd. It got me to thinking, What are all of the skill sets we use when inventing games?

We Wear Many Hats

“Game designer” (we’ll get back to that one).

Technical Writer – Rules seem easy, but that’s after they’ve been poured over, tested and perfected. There’s as much of an art as there is a skill when it comes to getting rules right.

Graphic Designer (look and feel) – Even if a game changes completely after licensing, the early look and feel influence the initial buy decisions and can drive final game design as well.

Model Maker (prototype) – Building some form factor that can be played, changed, played again, rinsed and repeated until it’s just right.

Engineer – A prototype can take many forms, even just in paper. Sometimes in complex schematics and structural design, with electrical or mechanical components. sentence

Cost Engineer and Package Designer – Even if we’re not involved in the final forms, our early decisions in the overall design affect the final decisions. So at least a small level of proficiency here goes a long way.

That’s the practical stuff. But let’s get back to that first item – “game designer.” That’s the `Secret Sauce. The intangible. The thing that’s referred to as “creativity.” But what does that mean?

The Secret Sauce

Ideation – That spark of an idea is the germ that gets everything started (oh, maybe that’s not such a good analogy in 2020!)

Game Mechanic Expert – Understanding play patterns and techniques that are familiar, with the ability to push, break, create and rework them so they’re unique, yet still familiar.

User Interface Designer – Even in an analog world, this is what we really do: construct and guide a user experience. We create a world for the experience, with logic, and story – all the while keeping it simple so people can get it right away. Not a simple task!

Psychologist – Observing and understanding what we are seeing when watching people play, with the ability to translate that into adjustments for a better play experience.

Child Development Expert – Understanding kids at different ages and stages. What they’re capable of, what they’re learning, and what drives them along their growth path.

Trend expert – This one splits the difference between developing a game and marketing. Along with storytelling, trends are crucial in finding a perfect theme.

Storyteller – Weaving together the theme with the game play, a first step in getting people emotionally invested in the game.

The Mash-Up-Master of Ingenuity (Inventor!) – The ability to take all of these elements, bits of information, the germ of an idea, merge it all with some mechanics, and create something fresh and new!

Whew! Are we done yet?


All of that is BEFORE the work needed to get the concept to a publisher. There are many more skills needed when the game is ready to show.

Sell It, Sister!

Marketing – There are many levels to this one, but in short, we need to understand the marketplace. That includes competing products, the consumer as well as the retail buyer and, most importantly, our customer: the companies we pitch and license to.

Detective – We’ve identified the companies, now who are the right people? How do we find them and get in contact? (Enter the Amazing Mary Couzin and the POP Events!!)

Relationship Manager – Relationships require building and constant nourishment— plus keeping track of who’s moving where and what is each company doing.

• Marketing Materials – Several skills are packed into this one. Graphic design (yes, again!); advertising writing; sometimes even package

Video – Essentially, creating commercials. This involves a number of skill sets: Videographer, Editing, Sound Design, Script Writing, Acting, Directing, Voice Over.

Sales – The ability to clearly describe, “wow,” persuade and sell our concept, and to help our customer sell to their customers (in-house and retail).

Pitching and Professional Speaking – Similar to sales, we also need to be able to talk about industry, trends, play patterns, and so much more.

Deal Maker – Hooray! Someone wants to license a concept! Now we need to do the business deal. This is a whole other set of skills.

Self-Promoter – This one can feel awkward to the introvert in us, but self-promotion (even the shameless variety) is necessary. It can even be fun, sometimes.

Remember, there’s also the practical day-to-day running of a business.

The Grind



Shipping and Receiving

Email, tracking, follow-ups, scheduling… the list goes on.

And don’t forget the often overlooked:

Mind Reader ­– How many times have we heard “I’ll know it when I see it”?

Volunteer – Yeah, we do all this on spec. We crazy.

Party Planner – because when we get a win, it’s a call to celebrate!

Look at that list! I think I need a nap. Many (many, many) hats off to you, game and toy inventors!!

(Mary Jo 'hatless'!)


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • YouTube - Black Circle
  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black LinkedIn Icon
  • Black Pinterest Icon
bottom of page