Reuben Klamer, Creator of The Game of Life, Dead at 99

Reuben Klamer, best known for creating the much-loved board game The Game of Life, has died aged 99.

The prolific toymaker died at his home in La Jolla, California, on Tuesday, according to People of Play (formerly Chicago Toy & Game Group)—an organization known for championing game innovation that gave Klamer a lifetime achievement award in 2009.

Over the course of his illustrious career, Klamer had more than 200 toy credits to his name and promoted the use of polyethylene in toys over more dangerous plastics.

He also earned a name for himself as a special effects and props designer, most notably developing the phaser rifle that was used in the original Star Trek TV series.

However, his modern version of The Game of Life, which he created to mark the 100th anniversary of American board game manufacturer Milton Bradley (MB) in 1960, would become his most-famed work.

Since its debut, The Game of Life has sold more than 70 million copies and is widely considered to be the second most popular board game in the world, behind Monopoly.

In a 2010 interview published by the Gamers Alliance, Ohio-born Klamer revealed how he became an unlikely entrant into the toy and game business while working at an ad agency in Los Angeles.

Reuben Klamer dies aged 99
Reuben Klamer attends the Points of Light generationOn Block Party on April 18, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The game and toy designer has died at the age of 99. Michael Kovac/Getty Images for generationOn

"I go to dinner one night with the head of the Western division of the Ideal Toy Corporation who at that time was a very major company in toys and games," he recalled. "At that dinner was a young man who was the vice president in charge of toys and games for Ideal.

"He couldn't stop talking about toys. I mean, all evening long, all I heard was him talking about toys. At the end of the evening, I decided to go into the business."

"The entry into the toy business was such that I wanted to create," he went on. "It was such a marvelous opportunity at that time. It still is. So I just wanted to create and I opened up my office in Beverly Hills on North Rodeo Drive before the salons came in there, Gucci and Chanel and so forth...

"I just decided to... go meet Milton Bradley because I saw that they had crayons that they manufactured and that they were also interested in finger painting for kids and I went to them with an idea to do an art center.

"When I got there though, they were wrapped up there with a guy doing an art center. They were not interested at all. But they said they needed an anniversary game for the 100th anniversary of the Milton Bradley company. They asked me if I would do it. I'll try."

"The next day I went into their archives," he recalled. "I wandered through their archives, the dusty, musty archives, and on the wall there's a checkerboard. I went up closer and I brushed off the dust and on the bottom it said 'Checkered Game of Life.' When I saw that name 'Life' I exploded! That was the theme. I knew I could do a game around the game of life and that's what I decided to do. Period."

As for why his version of The Game of Life has been such an enduring success, Klamer said: "It's met the test of time. In a test of time, it's obvious that it did it because of the game elements. The core elements of The Game of Life: decision making, dedication to the family, money-making and fun. Most of all, fun."

Among the other games in Klamer's repertoire are Gaylord the Walking Dog, Fisher-Price Preschool Trainer Skates, Moon Rocks, the Art Linkletter Hoop, Dolly Darlings, Busy Blocks, Zoo-It-Yourself, and Erector-Constructor Sets.

He also oversaw the development of special effects and toys for classic TV show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and designed a line of toys for the Pink Panther cartoon series.

In addition to receiving a TAGIE (Toy & Game International Excellence) Lifetime Achievement Award from People of Play, Klamer was inducted into the Hasbro Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2000 and entered the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2005.

Twice-divorced Klamer, who served as a naval officer during World War II, is survived by four of his children—Jeffrey, Pamela, Andrew and Jonathan. His eldest son, Joel, passed away in 2016.

Correction 9/16/21 3:36 a.m. ET: This article originally referred to Reuben Klamer as "Robert Klamer." Newsweek regrets this error.