Toys and games bring joy to the lives of millions. While the majority of people view games as a way to unwind from busy school and work schedules, some people make toys and games their careers–Jeff Pinsker is just such a person.
Presently serving as the President of Pressman Toy Corporation, Jeff has a long and impressive history in the entertainment, toy and education industries. Jeff has worked for industry giants such as Scholastic and start-ups such as Infinitoy, and he is also a board member to several toy companies. Jeff has always been interested in amusing people–in fact, his first job was a practical joke business! Yet aside from the fun and joyous side of games, Jeff also views games as legitimate learning tools that can help people interact socially.
“Even small children can learn basic social skills from games,” Jeff stated in a recent interview. “Concepts like taking your turn, not cheating and paying attention can all be instilled by playing even the simplest games.” Games can also do a lot to improve one’s knowledge about subjects ranging from history to spelling to math. Moreover, certain games have historical significance, such as how “Doctor’s Bags” became popular in the 1950s when the polio vaccine was a reality of life that made many children afraid to go to the doctor’s office. As Jeff said, “Pressman Toy introduced pretend doctor’s kits to the market to make going to the actual doctor less scary. The company has offered a lot of innovative pretend-play kits over the years.”
Pressman Toy Corporation was founded in 1922. Originally a family-owned business, it also holds the distinction of being one of the first big toy companies to have a woman President when Lynn Pressman took over operations after the death of her husband, Jack. The corporation had early successes with games like Chinese Checkers, and was one of the first toy companies to created licensed toys with companies such as Disney.
Another of Pressman’s top sellers is Tri-Ominos, a game that is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015. “Tri-Ominos was first developed by a teenager who had emigrated to the US from France during World War II. He perfected the game by playing it with his family, but got turned down by game manufacturers forty to fifty times! Thankfully he never gave up, and in the 1960s Pressman brought the game to market. It turned into a very successful game that is still being sold half a century later, and now there’s even a free app that had one million games initiated in its first two months,” Jeff explained. “It’s a great story of perseverance, and to honor the game we are holding a sweepstakes where one lucky winner will be awarded a solid gold Tri-Ominos tile.”
Pressman has also persevered. Today the company offers in excess of 200 products, spanning a number of genres. The company is known for producing board game versions of popular TV game shows such as Wheel of Fortune. They also actively seek to find new and exciting games–or develop interesting “twists” on classic games. Currently, the company’s most popular item is “Let’s Go Fishin’” and they are planning to release an updated version in the very near future. “The next version will include a fish that will actually jump up at you as you pull out the little fish,” Jeff explained. “I think it will prove to be very popular.”
Pressman has several beliefs about what makes a good game: it should not have too many rules but still offer choices and strategy, it should keep all players involved on every turn, it should combine luck and skill, and it should not take too long so multiple games can be conducted–and winners alternated–within the span of a half an hour or so.
“We know that people hate to lose so we also like games that give even those in last place a chance of redeeming themselves,” Jeff stated. “It helps hold the players’ interest. We like games that have an all-play feature. For example, if a question is asked everyone has the chance to answer it, not just one player. Mostly, we seek games that adults and kids can play on equal terms and enjoy together.”
Generally, twenty to thirty minutes is ideal for family game night and games such as “Mastermind” and “Rummikub” fall within those time limits. When asked about his favorite game Jeff confessed that it’s not a Pressman Toy product. “I like a game called Diplomacy. It involves talking with other players as you plan your next moves, and then hoping no one stabs you in the back by retracting their promises. I love the social aspects of it.”
At their core, games are a social experience and everyone has their own spin on how games should be played. “I find that every set of players has their own rituals when it comes to games,” Jeff said. “A lot of people deviate from the rules and create their own way of engaging with a game. I think that makes the play experience even more fun, and it means that everyone is a game inventor.”
To find out more about Pressman visit their official website, Facebook, Twitter.