Phase 10 Was Created By A Black Man 40 Years Ago. Here’s How He’s Honoring The Game’s Legacy This Black History Month.
Colby / Charlotte/ Mattel
Photo Credit: ESSENCE

While many of us are just trying to find the ground underneath our feet at 22, for Ken Johnson, he was already working on his second idea for a game to bring to the entertainment industry. After a concept for a board game failed to fully materialize, he decided to create his own take on the popular two-player card game Gin Rummy. What would come out of his work was Phase 10, an easy-to-learn and addictive game that forces you to make due with the cards you’re dealt while trying to complete all 10 phases and be the player with the lowest score by the end.

“What sparked the creation of Phase 10 was years of playing card games like Rummy,” Johnson tells ESSENCE. “I wanted to create a version of Rummy that was easy to learn, challenging, yet simple. In some sense, the failure of the first game I launched, a board game, motivated me to try again – and that’s when I decided to create Phase 10.”

As the game celebrates 40 years of enthralling play this year, its creator is grateful for the way its been embraced in homes over the years all over the world. It’s available in more than 20 languages in 30 countries.

“Since inventing the game in 1982, it’s brought me so much joy to see how this game has become a multi-generational family tradition over the years, transcending languages and cultures to bring people together all over the world,” he says.


And considering many people don’t know that the second-best selling card game is the brainchild of a Black man, he’s also proud to have a place in history and to honor the game during Black History Month.

“I am happy and grateful that my accomplishments serve as an inspiration and an example to other Black people,” he says. “It is my hope that they will see my example and that of others and use it as fuel to build the confidence and determination they need to reach their goals, knowing that others have led the way.”

Rights for the game were purchased by Mattel in 2010, and to mark four decades of Phase 10, they’re selling an anniversary edition of the game. Johnson looks at this celebratory version as an opportunity to show his gratitude to fans who’ve helped to make it an iconic, beloved game.

“We’ve been partnering on creating this special edition for the last two years, and I’ve included a special thank you note to fans for playing with us for all the years,” he says.

Purchase the special edition anniversary box, available now, exclusively through Amazon.


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