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Get To Know Ken Johnson, The Black Man Who Created The Game Phase 10


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Get To Know Ken Johnson, The Black Man Who Created The Game Phase 10


Colby / Charlotte/ Mattel

While many of us are just trying to find the ground underneath our feet at 22, for Ken Johnson, he was already working on his second idea for a game to bring to the entertainment industry. After a concept for a board game failed to fully materialize, he decided to create his own take on the popular two-player card game Gin Rummy. What would come out of his work was Phase 10, an easy-to-learn and addictive game that forces you to make due with the cards you’re dealt while trying to complete all 10 phases and be the player with the lowest score by the end.

“What sparked the creation of Phase 10 was years of playing card games like Rummy,” Johnson tells ESSENCE. “I wanted to create a version of Rummy that was easy to learn, challenging, yet simple. In some sense, the failure of the first game I launched, a board game, motivated me to try again – and that’s when I decided to create Phase 10.”

As the game celebrates 40 years of enthralling play this year, its creator is grateful for the way its been embraced in homes over the years all over the world. It’s available in more than 20 languages in 30 countries.

“Since inventing the game in 1982, it’s brought me so much joy to see how this game has become a multi-generational family tradition over the years, transcending languages and cultures to bring people together all over the world,” he says.

And considering many people don’t know that the second-best selling card game is the brainchild of a Black man, he’s also proud to have a place in history and to honor the game during Black History Month.

“I am happy and grateful that my accomplishments serve as an inspiration and an example to other Black people,” he says. “It is my hope that they will see my example and that of others and use it as fuel to build the confidence and determination they need to reach their goals, knowing that others have led the way.”

Rights for the game were purchased by Mattel…



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