Inventor of ‘The Game of Life’ and Prop Designer for Star Trek Dies at 99

Inventor of ‘The Game of Life’ and Prop Designer for Star Trek Dies at 99
Game and toys designer Reuben Klamer on April 18, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Michael Kovac, Getty Images)

Reuben Klamer, the inventor of Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life board game and the designer of a Starfleet phaser rifle for the original Star Trek TV series, died at his home in La Jolla, California on Tuesday at the age of 99, according to the Toy Association.

Klamer was commissioned to create The Game of Life by the Milton Bradley toy company, now owned by Hasboro, in the late 1950s and the board game was first unveiled at the 1960 International Toy Fair. The Game of Life is estimated to have sold over 70 million copies worldwide, according to People of Play.

Klamer created hundreds of games and toys during his career, including Magic Moon Rocks (released in 1959), the Art Linkletter Hula Hoop, and Fisher-Price Preschool Trainer Skates, among a host of others. But Klamer also designed props for television, including a gun for the hit 1960s series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the original 1966 version of Star Trek.

Klamer recorded a video when his original Starfleet phaser rifle, long thought to be lost to history, was discovered and auctioned off in 2013. Apparently Klamer was approached to produce the rifle in two weeks, something he recalls seemed “impossible,” but he was able to pull it off.

“With a gift for anticipating and capitalising on trends, developing consumer ‘must-haves’ across categories and working in a variety of media, Klamer’s products have been marketed by industry leaders in more than 60 countries on six continents,” the Toy Association said in a statement published online.

“He is perhaps best known as the originator of the modern The Game of Life, which in 1981 became part of the permanent Archives of Family Life at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and is second in popularity only to Monopoly.”

Actor William Shatner posing with the phaser rifle designed by Reuben Klamer for Star Trek. (Image: MovieStillsDB.com) Actor William Shatner posing with the phaser rifle designed by Reuben Klamer for Star Trek. (Image: MovieStillsDB.com)

Klamer served in the Pacific theatre during World War II, according to People of Play, and was tremendously proud of his service:

Mr. Klamer was born on June 20, 1922 to Romanian Jewish immigrants, Rachel (Levenson) and Joseph Klamer, and reared in Canton, Ohio. He studied social sciences at George Washington University and received a B.S. in Business Administration from The Ohio State University. Additionally, he completed electives in engineering at the University of Michigan after joining the U.S. Navy V-7 Program. A proud veteran, he graduated from the U.S. Navy Midshipman School at Northwestern University and distinguished himself in combat as an officer in the U.S. Navy amphibious landing forces in the Pacific during World War II.

Klamer has four children, Pamela, Andrew, Jonathan, and Jeff, as well as three grandchildren, Jasmine, Cameron and Atlas, according to Legacy.com.