As game and toy inventors, we all aspire to create the golden gizmo – to invent the runaway hit that gets fought over in toy aisles in the run-up to Christmas and then settles in, gets comfy, and becomes a staple on toy department shelves for generations. I know somebody who invented a hit like that – one that’s been sold around the globe and giggled over for 50 years, which is cause for celebration.
John Spinello created Operation. BUZZZZ! You know Operation – everybody does. It’s a piece of Americana by now, and has been tickling funny bones longer than most of us have been alive. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the man who invented and holds the patent for the game mechanic of an iconic favorite like Operation would probably be sitting pretty after it’s sold millions upon millions of units and been attached to other products from apparel to accessories. Operation has even been partnered with other globally popular properties like Toy Story, The Simpsons, and Star Wars, just to name a few.
Sometimes, though, reality is such that simply having created something doesn’t guarantee a monetary return of equal or fair proportion, and royalties that flow for a lifetime don’t always flow back to the creative source. Believe it or not, John never saw royalties from his creation. Now, I can relate to a certain degree. As a staff designer/resident inventor inside toy companies, I’ve created many items that have made millions of dollars for others while I’ve not seen any return other than my regular paycheck. I admit that we independent toy and game inventors are largely volunteers, and choosing this career is hardly a solid business plan. Squandering our own sweat and treasure on the imagined possibility that eventually a company will pick up an invention, front the millions it takes to do it right, turn it into a moneymaker and eventually blow some serious decimal dust our way, is a hair’s breadth from total insanity.
So… call us crazy. We are the playmakers. And we love our work. As Bruce Lund so eloquently said in his keynote address at the TAGIE Awards a couple years ago, “We are not mere creators of trinkets and insignificant baubles and playthings. We are the toymakers, the shamans, the wizards, the blacksmiths, the court jesters and sometimes even the town fool, and what we do – the toys that we create, contribute to the ever-evolving ever-advancing forward motion of the civilized world.”
Yeah, John Spinello didn’t get rich from Operation. In fact, he made a grand total of $500. But he did bring laughter and fond memories to hundreds of millions of kids, and that, in my humble opinion, has certainly contributed to the forward motion of the civilized world, and continues to do so now 50 years running.
John’s in his golden years now, and is short on funds to take care of some of his own medical problems. Tim Walsh and I call John our dear friend, and we’ve teamed up to help him out. We have started a campaign to rally the hearts and minds of Operation players, fun-lovers and good people the world over, asking them to help John by sending him a few bucks and a “Dear John” thank-you note, by telling him about the fun they’ve had playing Operation, and by spreading the word. Tim and I have had all kinds of fun playing Operation, and we believe lending a hand to such a great American funmaker is a worthy operation indeed.
I Love Operation! Please visit www.iloveoperation.com and admit it… you love Operation too! Thanks for your support!
Update: The CrowdRise fundraiser for John Spinello has passed its $25,000 goal and is still climbing!