November 02, 2017

Melinda Contreras

How to be a Game Inventor

Topics: Insider, Compose Music, Kids And Creativity, Creativity, Learning Through Play


Unsurprisingly, a frequently asked question at ThinkFun is “How do you find your games?” Or, “Who comes up with your games?” We love these questions because we are hopeful someone will soon be inspired to create their own game!


David Yakos, inventor of Circuit Maze and the Maker Studio line with Josh West, ThinkFun's Head of Product Design & Sourcing.

The simplest answer to the above question is only a handful of games have been developed in house by ThinkFun staff. For the rest of our games, we search all over the world for the next great game and anyone can submit an idea! Some of our inventors work for a toy and game design firm or own their own. However, sometimes we get pitched someone’s very first game, like Color Cube Sudoku, and we end up producing it!

Though there isn’t a specific path to guarantee your idea will become ThinkFun’s next Rush Hour or Gravity Maze, we’ve decided to share some commonalities you’ll find in ThinkFun’s most successful games.



Give a Classic Game a Twist

There’s probably been at least one point in your life when you’ve thought about a way to improve a product. It might have been out of frustration with a less than stellar item, but sometimes great products can also be sources of inspiration. We love to hear people’s ideas for taking beloved concepts to the next level. For example, Zingo! can be described as a matching game for preschoolers, or a more competitive Bingo. Where traditional Bingo is based completely off chance, Zingo! players must race to grab the two tiles that dispense from the Zinger during each turn. Kids really love this faster paced play because Zingo! has been one of our top selling games for years! It truly is “Bingo with a Zing!”



Mrs. Bremner, the inventor of Math Dice Chase, with her students.

Share Your School Project

It’s a pretty cool day for a student when a teacher assigns “Invent a Game” as a homework assignment. It’s even cooler when the student realizes that the game he/she submits to the teacher may very well end up in stores around the world. ShapeOmetry was first created as a math project by two 14-year-olds. Additionally, Math Dice was first created in a sixth grade class and has since inspired a line of Math Dice Products, including Math Dice Jr. and Math Dice Chase. Math Dice is loved by so many students that some school districts even hold yearly Math Dice Tournaments!



Philip Sheppard, the inventor of Compose Yourself, conducting the game's musical recording.

Share Your Personal Passions

Even if you don’t work for a professional toy and design firm, your field of daily work can inspire successful games. Games are a great way to introduce children to new fields outside of formal school lessons and we’ve worked with experts in the fields of yoga, coding, and music to help introduce some big concepts in a non-intimidating way. Pick your favorite subject and think about a fun, unique way to introduce it to someone that has minimal knowledge of the subject.



Nicholas Cravotta and Rebecca Bleau, the inventors of Houdini and the Escape the Room series.

Find an Inventor Buddy

Two heads are better than one! With our single player logic games like Gravity Maze, Laser Maze, and Circuit Maze, the person that comes up with the overall game concept and the person that develops the challenge set for the game isn’t always the same person.
If you have the general concept for a game, don’t be afraid to share your idea with trusted friends and family, even at a very rough stage. Inventing games isn’t a wide spread past time, but by talking about it, you might inspire some ideas from someone who never even thought about inventing games. Soon enough, you might have a partner who can help bring your game idea to fruition and make the game even better than you first imagined!



Be Curious

Our final tip for aspiring game inventors is to be curious and observant of your surroundings, because you never know what things you may draw inspiration from! Did you know that the Zinger in Zingo! was inspired by a credit card imprinter? Observe how things work and how people interact with different items. At ThinkFun our mission is to “Ignite Your Mind!®,” but it’s not only the players’ minds that we want to ignite. Inventors ignite their minds as they explore the world looking for their next game idea!