Michael McGinnis, with a large sculpture version of his puzzle game, Perplexus. (Press Democrat photo by Christopher Chung, 2012.)

Perplexus, the three-dimensional, labyrinthine puzzle invented by Santa Rosa Junior College art teacher Michael McGinnis, was named Game of the Year on Saturday, Feb. 9, by the Toy Industry Association in New York.

Worldwide balloting for the honor began last November, with association members, consumers, retailers and journalists voting online.

“It is wonderful to be recognized with this award,” McGinnis said. “But this was never made to win awards. It was made to serve as a skill-building tool, and to give people enjoyment.”

Read a Press Democrat profile of McGinnis here

To play the game, you hold the ball in both hands, and tilt it to move a small metal ball through a maze of layered ramps.

McGinnis first conceived the idea for Perplexus in 1979, while still a junior at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma.

He continued to tinker with the project while working on the junior college’s art faculty and art gallery staff, where he has worked since 1987.  McGinnis, 51, and his wife, Becky, live in Santa Rosa.

In 2002, the toy industry giant Hasbro picked up Perplexus for worldwide distribution, but later dropped it. McGinnis now works in partnership with KID Interactive, San Francisco-based toy inventors.

The puzzle is available at nationwide chain stores, as well as several local shops.

McGinnis has created a series of four Perplexus puzzles, ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced. This year’s Toy of the Year Award went to the most challenging edition, titled Epic.

“We’re going to continue the series, and also do large-scale versions of the games,” McGinnis said.

In addition to his work on the mass-marketed game version of his creation, McGinnis also designs much larger versions of Perplexus, measuring several feet in circumference. He builds them in a shop behind his home with help from Graton artist and craftsman James Yonts.

These giant working puzzles sell as sculptures to museums and collectors for as much as $30,000.

Despite the success of Perplexus, McGinnis continues to teach at Santa Rosa Junior College.

“I want that connection with students,” he said.

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  1. Robert Muller

    Congratulations! Well done!

    February 11th, 2013 1:42 pm

  2. Andre

    I am so proud to call Michael my friend and colleague!! Congrats Michael, one of the nicest people I know.

    February 11th, 2013 6:10 pm

  3. bonnie

    Congratulations to the McGinnis family. They are the nicest most genuine people in the world! Couldn’t be happier for your success. Congrats.

    February 12th, 2013 1:02 pm

  4. Kim

    Way to go Michael! I believe he has won this award before.

    February 14th, 2013 5:14 pm

  5. dan taylor

    Michael McGinnis said Perplexus was nominated for this award last year, but didn’t win.

    February 15th, 2013 8:07 am

  6. Perplexus Epic

    So , congratulations

    February 18th, 2013 2:46 pm

  7. Ron Rozewski

    Michael McGinnis is not only a great guy and super artist, he is also a Renaissance man in the truest sense of the word.
    Perhaps he should be an adviser to the government, surely a mind like his could resolve the budget crisis?

    February 24th, 2013 10:51 pm

  8. İstanbul paintball

    Congratulations! Well Done!

    July 6th, 2013 4:12 pm

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