by Richard A. Gardner


In 1963 (or possibly 1964) Lee, my wife at the time, and I learned of a new game, " What's That on My Head? ". We enjoyed playing it immensely but learned, much to our disappointment, that only a small percentage of our friends and relatives could play the game. It was too intellectually challenging for the majority of people. Accordingly, the number of people with whom we played the game rapidly shrank. Not surprisingly, the game never enjoyed widespread popularity.

When my children, Andrew, Nancy, and Julie, reached the elementary school level, I devised question cards that were much simpler so that they could enjoy the game with their mother and me. I found that substituting numbers for the letters gave me much greater flexibility with regard to the new questions, especially questions that involved totaling the sum of the value of each of the cards. (Obviously, one cannot add up the value of letters, but one can add up the value of numbers.) As the children grew older, I introduced ever more complex questions. But the game was very much a family experience. As young adults they still continued to enjoy playing the game with me and their mother (by then my ex-wife). Sometimes we found ourselves playing until 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning, so absorbed were we.

In recent years the cycle began again, this time with my grandchildren. As my grandchildren reached the grade-school level, we played the game with the simpler cards. We went from a two-generational to a three-generational experience. We all enjoyed the wonderful sense of excitement, as well as the family bonding that the game provided. I came to appreciate that What's That on My Head? had the rare advantage of allowing people of any age to play together, and all could genuinely enjoy themselves. When playing most other games of this type, the adults and the children cannot possibly play at the same level, and this may result in loss of interest and boredom on the part of the adult. However, this drawback is tolerated and even ignored because of the adult's pleasure while watching the children enjoy the game. This is not the case with What's That on My Head?. Certainly, the adults can enjoy the children's excitement, but with What's That on My Head? the adults may also be challenged.

In the late 1990s, my children and their spouses (especially my son-in-law, Benjamin Rubin) encouraged me to produce the game through Creative Therapeutics, Inc., a company that I had set up in 1973 to produce therapeutic games that I had devised over the years. Accordingly, I already had in place a vehicle for producing the game with a market that was already familiar with my work. I agreed that the project was a worthy one. Over the last few years I devoted myself to the development of a modified and expanded version. I decided to create cards at four different levels, the first being for children of ages six or seven. Levels 2-4 were for teenagers and adults. I recognized that many adults might continue to play at levels 2 or 3 and that only a small percentage would choose to play at Level 4. In the process, the 25 original questions expanded into 360 with four questions (one at each level) on each of 90 question cards. Changing the letters to numbers facilitated this expansion.

The next step was to track down the original inventor(s) of the game and get permission to produce this updated and expanded version. This was no easy task, especially because the original publisher, Games Research, Inc., was no longer in existence, and the U.S. Copyright Office had no verification that the game had ever been copyrighted. As the result of diligence, tenacity, the Internet (especially the national telephone directory), and some very good luck, I finally tracked down the original inventor: Robert Abbott, who has been living in Jupiter, Florida in recent years. Robert was very pleased to cooperate in the rejuvenation of his forgotten game. We both agreed that what I was doing was similar to bringing a dead person back to life. Mutually agreed upon terms were finalized in a contract in which full rights of publication were turned over to me with the understanding that Robert's name would appear on the box. Of course, this was something I was happy to do, because it was from Robert's brain that the original idea for the game germinated. My daughter, Nancy Rubin, an attorney, provided valuable assistance to the intellectual properties attorney who drew up the final contract.

With that release I went full speed ahead in the production of the new game. I was helped in the game's production by my assistant, Dan Angel. Very valuable contributions were made by my good friend, Loretta Hartford. My companion, Natalie Weiss, also contributed to the game's development.

A couple of months after "discovering" Robert, he and his wife, Ann, visited me in New Jersey. Of course, we played the game together. We were joined by Natalie Weiss, Loretta Hartford, and Lee Gardner. The high point of the evening was my toast to Robert for his original contribution, Robert's toast to me for the modification and expansion, and our signing of the contract. This event, a momentous one for both of us, was memorialized by videotape.

Creating and expanding this game has been truly a labor of love. I am very pleased with the final product, and I am certain that it will give countless hours of joy to an ever-expanding number of people.