10 Questions

Each month in the Inventor Newsletter I ask 10 Questions of an established inventor or game company. The results are posted below and will be updated monthly.

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Joyce Johnson & Colleen McCarthy-Evans,
Toying with Games (Aug '08)

Q - # of years in the industry, # of years as a toy & game inventor?  

A: J - I invented my first toy in 2000. I began designing games professionally and working with Colleen in 2002.
C - Had my first 3 games that I designed with a friend in 2000 (the Helpline games) published in 2002.

Q - About how many toys & games have you had published? Which is/are your favorite(s)?
A: J - Colleen and I have co-created 11 games that have been published with 6-8 more in various stages of completion and scheduled to hit the shelves this calendar year. My favorite published game is my first, In A Pickle.
C - Like my children, I love all the games equally.

Q - Favorite toy or game that is not yours?
A: C - Games I will play any time anywhere: Boggle (especially WeBoggle/WordsPlay), Visual-Eyes, and Keith Meyers' Sitting Ducks.
J - I'm a big kid at heart so I love to play (as well as create) kids' games. That being said, my favorite games overall are The Amazing Labyrinth, Scattergories and Sitting Ducks.

Q - What did you do before this? And how did you make the transition?
A: C - I was working as a school administrator when the Helpline games were published by Michael Stern and Keith. Then I met Joyce in Keith and Michael's class - Game Design for Fun and Profit - and took a leap of faith and began designing games full-time with Joyce. In A Pickle was published the following year and has sold over a half million copies.
J - I was working in real estate development and running my own greeting card company. Taking Michael and Keith's class gave me the know-how to transition.

Q - In a typical year... how many toy & game ideas do you prototype? how many presentations do you make? how many get licensed?
A: J - We typically prototype and present 10+ games a year. We do multi-game presentations to approx. 20 companies at Toy Fair, which is our big show for the year. We also present to companies throughout the year. The number of games licensed each year varies, with 6 being the most in a year, so far.

Q - What is your process for getting toys & games seen?
A: C - We present games in person at Toy Fair and other meetings as Joyce mentioned, and at various other industry events. We also do e-mail and phone presentations, and we've even demoed games via Skype.

Q - What is your favorite thing about the game/toy industry? Least favorite?
A: C - Favorite things - Creating a great new game and SELLING IT! Followed closely by getting to hang out with our friends in the business. Least favorite thing? The great philosopher Tom Petty said it best, "The waiting is the hardest part." That gets a little easier over time.
J - My favorite thing about the industry is the end result - watching kids, families and friends having fun playing our games. My least favorite thing about the industry is trying to hail a cab during a blizzard at Toy Fair.

Q - Do you see any current trends in the industry?
A: J - I try not to watch for trends, as I don't want my creative process to be influenced in a particular direction.
C - People are still buying, playing and enjoying games. That's the good news. I've seen enough redos of Bingo and Chutes and Ladders to last a lifetime, and would like that trend to shift so that some of those are replaced by new and creative game concepts, with or without licensed characters attached.

Q - What one thing that you know now, do you wish you had known when you were starting out?
A: J - I wish I would have understood the importance of manufacturing costs when creating a game. How a game is made and how the components all add to the cost.
C - Wish I'd known In A Pickle would do so well. I'd have relaxed more often and sooner.

Q - If you were to give beginning inventors one bit of advice, what would it be?
A: C - Playtest, playtest, playtest. And play nice with others.
J - Turn over every stone. There is opportunity everywhere in this industry.


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