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Game changer

Rosie Roberson's work is play, and with the public's help, it could win her an award.

The Ashland board- and card-game designer has been nominated for a Chicago Toy and Game Group Toy and Game Inventor Award — or "Tagie" — in the category of "Rising Star Designer."

"I was surprised because it's game-industry people who nominate inventors," Roberson said. "It's definitely an honor I wasn't expecting."

Roberson believes she was nominated in part because of her past body of work, which includes seven games that are on the market, and because of attention she's received within the industry for two games coming out next year — with the help of colleague Joyce Johnson — including her first family party game.

Roberson's card games include Disney's "Jonas All Access," "Wizards of Waverly Place Under My Spell" and "This Big!" which received the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval and Dr. Toy's Best Vacation Product. Roberson says her work often is a family effort. She frequently collaborates with her husband, Josh, and her three children often serve as inspiration and help in her creative process.

"My kids definitely inspire me and do play testing," she says. "I get a lot of inspiration from my kids."

Her daughter's fifth birthday inspired Roberson to branch out from software design to something decidedly lower tech.

"She got a game that was really cool," said Roberson, who majored in art with a minor in math and computer science. "I was looking for a creative outlet."

For Roberson, the game design process varies depending on factors such as the gaming audience and the publisher, but says she usually starts with a theme.

"It's easier for me to start with a nugget of something," she says, although the final product may end up with a completely different theme.

"The play testing is what tells you whether it's going to be fun or not," she said.

Many game designers dislike the minutiae of writing rules, she said, but after her experience writing software, she doesn't mind that task.

Play-testing the games, however, can be hard.

"It's a bummer when it's not very fun," she said. "Sometimes you have to change things on the fly."

Roberson said the awards — categories include Excellence in Game Design, Excellence in Toy Design, Rising Star Designer, Young Inventor of the Year and Excellence in Electronic Toy or Game — are an industry attempt to give American game designers more credit.

"In Europe, the game inventors are much more known," Roberson said. "(Chicago Toy and Game Group organizer) Mary Couzin is really trying to promote game inventors in the U.S."

The "Tagie" winners will be announced at a gala on Nov. 16 at the Field Institute of Natural History in Chicago where Roberson will rub shoulders with game publishers she's worked with in the past, as well as movers and shakers such as Mattel and Hasbro.

Online voting is open until Oct. 31 at www.tagieawards.com/us/?page_id=924.

Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at nmorgan@mailtribune.com.

Henry Roberson, 5, works on his poker face while playing a game of “This Big!” with his mother and creator of the game, Rosie Roberson.