Bill Markham; Game Inventor


Bill Markham, who in 1960 created The Game of Life board game that went on to sell 30 million copies and ended up displayed in the Smithsonian Institution, died Thursday at his Thousand Oaks home. He was 76.

Markham, who owned Markham Concepts in Westlake Village, continued to invent games until his death, according to his wife, Lorraine Markham.

Markham invented about 50 games and toys, selling them to such well-known toy companies as Mattel, Hasbro, Milton Bradley and Parker Bros. But it was his creation of The Game of Life for Milton Bradley in 1960 that cemented his reputation.


With more than 30 million copies sold in 18 languages, The Game of Life is the second-best selling board game in history, exceeded only by Parker Bros.’ Monopoly. Players begin with a car and $1,000 and make choices about their careers and family, with the winner the first player to reach the goal of “Millionaire Acres.”

In a 1991 interview, Markham explained the game’s enduring popularity by saying it reflects the choices people actually make in their lives. “It simulates the ups and downs of the wheel of life,” Markham said. “You can go to work right away or start slower by going to college and gain an advantage later on.”

Markham was born in Oklahoma City on Jan. 16, 1917, and served in the U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps during World War II. After college and art school, he worked in advertising and graphic design.

His first wife, Sue Markham, died in 1989 after 40 years of marriage. Markham married Lorraine McGovert in 1991 and adopted five of her six adult children.

Mrs. Markham said her husband had always longed for children. “He completed the whole Game of Life in his last two years when he married, adopted my children and had grandchildren,” she said.

Survivors include his wife; four daughters, Cindy Markham of Agoura, Susan Markham of Chatsworth, Valerie Markham of San Jose and Bambi Markham of Thousand Oaks; a son, Derrick of Reseda; and a stepson, David McGovert of Thousand Oaks.


Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Monday at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Mortuary in Westlake Village.