Chicago Toy & Game Group is a series of events, awards, and resources that “encourage and promote the power and joy of invention in social, educational, and professional environments.” They are dedicated to “building community through play by providing opportunities for people of all ages to connect with one another and experience the joy and educational value of traditional play.”1
The idea for Chicago Toy & Game Group (ChiTAG) began at the Essen Game Fair in Germany in 2001. Mary Couzin, a game inventor and founder of DiscoverGames.com, noted how the Europeans celebrated toy and game designers, something that was lacking in America. Two years later in 2003, she launched the annual Chicago Toy & Game Fair to gather the families, consumers, media, retailers, educators, inventors, and manufacturers at the beginning of the holiday season in order to “play, celebrate, discover, support, and promote the creation of toys and games.”2
The following year Mary was joined by Anita Daniel, who became the Director of Operations. Anita's international experiences brought the additional idea of utilizing games “to help people learn about other cultures through the magic of play.”3 However, before expanding internationally, ChiTAG focused first on involving the educational community and the talents of young people.
In 2005 ChiTAG partnered with Live Oaks Games to create the Games for Educators website and newsletter. These resources are to assist educators, parents, and librarians in utilizing games in classrooms and homes for learning. To further establish games in classrooms, in 2006 ChiTAG launched the Play with Purpose Conference, a day of workshops designed to teach educators how games develop the cognitive abilities of their students.4
Involving youth ages 6-18 years of age, ChiTAG began sponsoring the Young Inventor Challenge in 2007. With the encouragement to “Imagine, Inspire, Innovate,” youth create a toy or game which is judged by popular vote at the annual ChiTAG Fair. Besides recognition, the competitors are introduced to toy and game industry representatives who encourage them to “dream big and discover the possibilities of play!”5
ChiTAG added the International Toy & Game Inventor and Industry Conference (T&G Con) to their Fair week in 2008. These two days of networking annually bring together independent inventors and game industry experts. The conference concludes with the Toy & Game Inventor of the Year Awards (TAGIE), which were also launched in 2008. As a night to celebrate inventors, TAGIE Awards honor “the creative minds behind our most beloved and popular playthings.”6 These awards include the Lifetime Achievement Award, the In Memoriam Award, and the Hassenfeld Family Initiatives Humanitarian Award.7
Two specialized conferences were added to the mid November Chicago Toy & Game Week in 2011: the International Summit for Professional Inventors (I-SPI) and the Social Media @ Play conference. Experts in the toy industry and web world assist inventors and retailers in marketing trends and strategies for promoting their invention or business. Also founded in 2011 was the Chicago Toy & Game Foundation for philanthropically supporting children's organizations.8
The Chicago Toy & Game Week hosts all of these ChiTAG events – the International T&G Conference, TAGIE Awards, the Social Media @ Play Conference, the I-SPI, the Play with Purpose Conference, the Youth Inventor Challenge, and the free two day ChiTAG Fair.9 In 2012 a toy and game-inspired haute couture fashion show was added as an event called playCHIC. Throughout the Chicago Toy & Game Week and through their online resources, ChiTAG celebrates and reaffirms “that the power of play and the genius of invention are a magical combination.”10
- 1. “About Us.” Chicago Toy & Game Fair. < http://www.chitagfair.com/about/about.htm > 7 Sep 2012.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. “Our Team.” Chicago Toy & Game Fair. < http://www.chitagfair.com/about/about.htm > 7 Sep. 2012.
- 4. “About the Chicago Toy & Game Group, Inc.” Chicago Toy & Game Group. < http://www.chitag.com/us/?page_id=13 > 7 Sep. 2012.
- 5. “Chicago Toy & Game Week.” Chicago Toy & Game Group. < http://www.chitag.com/us/?page_id=146 > 7 Sep. 2012.
- 6. Op.cit., “Chicago Toy & Game Week.”
- 7. “The TAGIE Awards.” The Toy and Game Inventor Awards 2012. < http://www.tagieawards.com/us/?page_id=5 > 7 Sep. 2012.
- 8. Op.cit., “About Us.”
- 9. Op.cit., “Chicago Toy & Game Week.”
- 10. “Retail & Trade Attendees.” Chicago Toy & Game Fair.” < http://www.chitagfair.com/visitors/retail.htm > 7 Sep. 2012.