A few years after I had launched Jenga at the London Toy Fair, the game was picked up by Irwin Toy, the biggest toy company in Canada. At the New York Toy Fair, early this year, I put a question to Hal Ross, formerly a sales director of Irwin Toy, and George Irwin, the current Chairman and CEO:
Why did Jenga work?
Today, each of these men is renowned throughout the toy world for an almost magical ability to pick and back a winner. Yet, even they seem unable to pinpoint and articulate what it is about Jenga that explains its success, other than to say that it’s simple, and simple in this case worked.
But, why did simple work?
I’m not sure there can be one simple answer to this question because I think we play games for reasons that are multifaceted and multilayered, some of which I discuss in more detail in the book. However, one possible reason for Jenga’s success may come from the fact that the game addresses much of what we want from a game, in the simplest way possible. Good design is all about providing the simplest, the most economical, and the most elegant solutions to a problem. However complex the problem, we instinctively prefer the simple solution to the convoluted or complicated.