Hurray for Inventors!

Toy and game inventors deserve their time in the spotlight, according to the annual TAGIE (Toy and Game Inventors Expo) Awards. Bestselling books and hit songs earn authors and singers publicity as well as financial rewards. But create a million-selling toy or game and practically no one knows your name. The TAGIE Awards honor the people behind the playthings, celebrating their creations and the fun they’ve brought to our lives.

Nic and Chris pose with Art Dog at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair.

TMX Elmo Box, 2007. From the collection of Strong National Museum of Play, gift of Ron and Patricia Dubren.A few weeks ago, Nic Ricketts, the museum’s games curator, and I traveled to Chicago to attend the second annual TAGIE Award dinner and explore the world of toy and game inventors. Our first stop was the design studio of Lund and Company Invention. The firm and its founder, Bruce Lund, are probably best known for TMX Elmo, but they’ve created dozens of other fun and famous playthings as well. We felt honored to get a peek behind the scenes.

Leslie ScottFrom there, we made our way to Navy Pier where Nic and I appeared as part of TAGIE’s two-day seminar for new toy and game inventors. We were excited to share information about Strong National Museum of Play with a group of eager inventors and to learn firsthand about their creations. Nic’s high point for the afternoon was meeting Leslie Scott, the creator of Jenga, who was promoting her new book and playing Jenga with her fans.

Daryl Hannah and Hilary Shepherd promoting their game, LIEbrary.The evening awards dinner was a star-studded affair and, appropriately, took place in a beautiful setting at the Adler Planetarium. Undoubtedly the biggest star there—if you’re talking movies—was actress Daryl Hannah. She and her inventing partner Hilary Shepard were showing off their game LIEbrary, as well as helping present the evening’s awards. The TAGIE winners might not be quite such household names (yet), but it was great to see Peggy Brown, Russell Hornsby, Jack Degnan, and Seth Calvin earn recognition for excellence from a talented slate of nominees.

The Game of LifeMy own thrill for the evening was connecting with the winner of the 2009 TAGIE lifetime achievement award, Reuben Klamer. Klamer’s signature product, the Game of Life, will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2010, but it’s just one of more than 200 products he’s created through his lengthy career. The Game of Life was one of my favorites growing up, so it was wonderful to meet its inventor face-to-face. And that’s what the TAGIE Awards are all about—connecting a name and a face to the games and toys we all treasure.