Today we are interviewing Jeffrey Breslow, author of the book “a game makers life“. Mr. Breslow was an inventor of games and this book gives us an inside look at the toy development industry and his 30 years in the business.
First of all, thanks so very much for spending a few minutes with us here at ViewsonBooks. You have written a fascinating autobiography/memoir about your life. It grabs you from Page 1 and does not let go until the very end. Just a wonderful book. Thanks for writing it and sharing your story.
Your book touches on some very relevant and current topics of conversation, but before we get into that, what is the reaction you get when you meet someone and tell them you invent games?
Typically, people can not believe that I make a very nice living playing with toys and games for 41 Years.
You worked for a visionary in Marvin Glass, was his company the only independent game/toy developer here is the US? Sorry for sounding naïve but you just do not run across this every day of the week!
There are many independent toy and game designers. Could be 50 to 100 companies doing this today. Marvin Glass invented the business of independent toy and game designer in the late 50’s. All the of large toy and game manufactures only see professional companies. These toy manufacturing companies today will not see someone who has one or two ideas.
You relate that “Buckets of Fun” was your first and breakthrough toy invention, in total how many games or toys did you invent, and about how many were sold to toy/game manufacturers?
Did hundreds of them, most were never sold. Maybe a few dozen were manufactured. Only a handful made money and some still sell today.
You describe Marvin Glass Associates building as a fortress, did you have any problems with working in a building that had no windows, and was so very rigid in control of all aspects of toy/game creation?
No, the environment inside was creative and playful. Was not a problem not looking outside.
For those who have yet to read the book, what were some of the biggest games that MGA developed and sold?
In addition to the ones on the cover of the book, Simon, Guesstures, Operation, Masterpiece, Uno Attack, Trump the Game, Rock em Sock Em, Hands Down to name a few.
MGA used to make toy guns but stopped after the JFK assassination, then began to develop them again after Marvin’s death. Were there any negative internal or external concerns about going back into that field?
No, toy guns were never a big part of what we developed. If it represented one percent of all that we did, that’s a lot. It was insignificant.
After Marvin died, what was the biggest change that happened at MGA?
We stopped working Saturdays and all night. We took regular vacations and the business prospered.
Did MGA develop board games? If so, I do not remember reading about that.
Some, not a big part of what we did. Mostly plastic three dimentional games.
The one that got away, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, were there other “oh gee we missed on that one” games or toys?
Missed lots of things, that’s part of the business of creativity.
Could you please describe how an independent toy developer sells their toys to game/toy makers?
We never sold anything. Just licensed the toy companies to make our product and pay us a royalty.
After Marvin’s death there was a terrible handgun shooting incident at your offices, by sheer luck you were spared, how many were killed and how many injured and did that change your companies views on inventing toy guns?
Four people died, including the shooter, who killed himself. Three people injured.
We didn’t make any toy guns, before or after the shooting.
As a survivor how did you cope? Any do you have any words of advice or wisdom for others who have suffered from gun violence?
You have to cope, you don’t have any choice. Our business had 65 employees and with families we were supporting 150 people. Life is never the same, but you move on.
You also did humanitarian work for the Refusnik Jews in Russia, you describe one such trip. Did you make other trips?
Yes, we set up a toy factory in Armenia, so I went back to the Soviet Union a second time.
You described Kiev as a beautiful city, it must hurt you to see what is going on in the Ukraine right now. What made Kiev stand out as opposed to Moscow or St. Petersburg?
My Grandfather (father’s father) was bornin Kiev and left Russia and his family at 17 around 1908. He really didn’t talk about the hardship of his life in Russia. Was glad he became an American, had two daughters and then my father.
After you retired from the toy industry you seamlessly moved into sculpting, had you ever done that prior to retiring, and were you surprised at your success in that field?
I knew I was going to sculpt fill time when I left the toy business and was doing it for many years before leaving. My success as a sculptor does not come close to my success as a toy and game designer, but I love what I’m doing.
Once again thanks so much for taking the time for this interview. As I said, you have had a fascinating life story!