Grass Valley couple earns Inventor of the Year nominations |

Grass Valley couple earns Inventor of the Year nominations

Grass Valley board game inventors Rebecca Bleau and Nicholas Cravotta pose for a photo, surrounded by some of their games.

What started off as some family fun soon became an award-wining career for board-game maker Nicholas Cravotta, who got the idea to create a game through playing with his children.

Cravotta and his wife, Rebecca Bleau, are nominated for Rising Star Designer at the 2012 Toy and Game Inventor of the Year (TAGIE) awards, which will take place at the Chicago Field Museum in Illinois.

“It’s quite an honor to be nominated,” Bleau said. “The TAGIE awards are known as the Academy Awards of the toy industry.”

Cravotta said the recognition and ability to feel accepted by the gaming community is an honor.

“When you start something new, there’s a feeling that you’re a fake,” Cravotta said. “Like ‘What do you mean I get to play and make games and get paid for it? Is this real?’ It’s very powerful to say, ‘No, we’re a part of this.’ It’s a small industry, and to be accepted along with people who made Etch-A-Sketch and Mouse Trap is super exciting.”

The results will be announced Nov. 16 during a ceremony at the Field Museum.

Bleau and Cravotta designed their first game — now sold under the title “Acuity” by FatBrain Toys — in 2005. Cravotta boarded a plane to New York after a friend recommended he try to sell the game that began with a cardboard prototype.

“I made a game for my kids, and my friend said, ‘Hey, you should sell that,’ and (Rebecca and I) hopped on a plane to New York for a toy convention,” Cravotta said. “And the rest is history.”

Today, Bleau and Cravotta have their own design company, BlueMatter Games, based
in Grass Valley. Their passion, they said, is to invent new ways
to “feed the fun part of your brain.”

Bleau and Cravotta have won numerous industry awards for their games, including the Mensa Select and Gold Parent’s Choice awards.

The team developed games, including Dizios, Palette, CrossWise, LineUp, Spud!, Say Uncle and ARGH! It will be featuring two new games this fall, PicWits and Frog Wobble.

With PicWits, each player is dealt a hand of picture cards, and each player takes a turn as a judge who plays a caption card and picks which photo goes best with the caption.

“The matchups can be literal or ludicrous, accurate or outrageous,” according to the game directions.

Frog Wobble is “the world’s first cooperative stacking game,” Cravotta said, in which players must work together to add balancing frogs to the plank, without toppling.

Both games can be purchased at or locally at Foothill Mercantile in Grass Valley and at Mountain Pastimes in Nevada City.

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call (530) 477-4230.

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