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Quick on the draw: The mind behind “Pictionary”

Pictionary inventor, Robert Angel, spoke about his experience and received the Turner School’s 2019 Entrepeneur of the Year Award. Photos by Miguel Agyei.
Photos by Miguel Agyei.

It has been said that big things have small beginnings. For Pictionary inventor Rob Angel, this was a 2.9 GPA, a job waiting tables and a piece of paper and pencil that created one of the world’s most successful party games.

This past Tuesday, the famous game creator shared the story of his self-described “17-year startup” in the Peplow Pavilion as part of this year’s Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker event, held by Bradley’s Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He detailed the game’s rise from his small apartment to a global empire.

“I thought [the event] was really interesting,” Lasha Petree, sophomore entrepreneurship major, said. “Some things just fell into [Angel’s] lap and he ran with it, and then … he had obstacles that came in front of him, but he never stopped.”

Pictionary began as an informal drawing version of charades with friends that became a fun highlight of Angel’s directionless post-college life. He then dedicated himself to the idea of “[sharing] the joy [he] was having” by making it a board game.

His work making and publicizing the game taught him the merits of being dedicated to an idea. Angel read the dictionary for word inspiration, organized hundreds of thousands of cards for the game’s first edition and embraced unorthodox attention-grabbing techniques such as playing it in restaurants.

From this, Angel became committed to preserving the game’s integrity and never undermined it for personal gains. This led him to turn down a $1 million contract and ultimately sell “Pictionary” to Mattel. After almost two decades of expansion, he felt an urge to move on and explore life through personal adventures and non-profit work.

“If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it,” Angel said. “You don’t know who you can trust, but you do know how you feel.”

Angel closed his speech by encouraging his audience to be OPEN: opportunity-seeking, possibility-considering (jumping in over judging), energetic and taking action now.

“We had never had … anyone from the game design world,” Ken Klotz, Turner’s managing director, said. “Since one of our most popular programs at Bradley is game design, we thought that he would be a perfect fit.”

Angel found relatability in the audience from his own experience of not knowing the “next step” after college. The event concluded with Angel receiving the Turner school’s 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

“Once he kept going, it all cleared a pathway for him,” Petree said. “I liked how he never gave up on his dream.”

Klotz boiled down Angel’s message into one succinct takeaway.

“In the face of difficulty, with few or no resources, just do something,” Klotz said. “Start. Launch. Inaction is the killer, not resources.”

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