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Hall of Fame Game Inventor Tells Inside Story Of the Toy Industry

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 A Game Maker's LifeJeffrey Breslow’s new memoir, “A GAME MAKER’S LIFE: A Hall of Fame Inventor and Executive Tells the Inside Story of the Toy Industry,” is the gripping account of how the inventor held his company together after an employee opened fire in the Marvin Glass and Associates conference room in 1976. The gunman killed two of the Chicago firm’s partners and an employee and critically wounded two more employees before killing himself. Jeffrey Breslow, a partner, missed taking a bullet only because the gunman didn’t see him -- he had just stepped into an adjoining office to take a phone call. The gunman left behind a hit list of fourteen names. Breslow later learned that his name was second on the list.  

Before the shooting, Breslow was the youngest partner of toy industry giant Marvin Glass and Associates at age 33. After the shooting, and despite his youth, Breslow’s partners voted him in as managing partner. Thrust into leadership by default, he faced incredible challenges, including consoling the families of the victims, dealing with the staff’s PTSD and rebuilding a sense of safety and morale. He was also determined to keep the successful but reeling business alive. He needed a miracle -- and he got one. His partner Howard Morrison created a blockbuster, Simon, which Smithsonian Magazine says “ushered in the era of electronic games.” The firm was back in business.  

Jeffrey BreslowIn spite of the tragedy, Breslow still felt incredibly lucky. Marvin Glass had personally hired him in 1967, soon dubbed him a “boy genius” and made him a partner after 18 months on the job.  

From the first iconic toy Breslow developed, called “Bucket of Fun,” he gifted us with some of the most memorable toys of childhood, including: “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots,” “Ants in the Pants,” “Fashion Polly Pocket,” “Guesstures,” “Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash,” “California Roller Baby,” “The Animal” and “Masterpiece.”  

The secret to his success was creating games that each player thought they had a chance of winning. Clients of Marvin Glass and Associates included Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers, Ideal Toy, Fisher-Price, Playskool and many others.

Breslow rose to the challenge and learned to:     

  • Consistently do the unexpected.     
  • Never take “No” for an answer.     
  • Help employees maintain their well-being.     
  • Unlock the secrets of pleasing clients.     
  • Be persistent, especially if an idea was unusual or cutting-edge.     
  • Hire more women. Half of toy customers are female, and yet women were under-represented at his company.   
  • Find mentors -- they don’t just come to you.  

Breslow would go on to an unprecedented career. He is the only toy designer to win the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval twice and was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 1998. It’s surprising that a man who played for a living had his leadership mettle forged in crisis, but “A GAME MAKER’S LIFE” is more than a memoir, it’s a guide to success under pressure, rebuilding a business and learning how to honor those who were lost -- by bringing joy to children and families around the world.

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