The thing I love about being in this industry is that there are so many inventors willing to help and support other inventors. We’re all in the same boat for the most part — sometimes things are great and sometimes things just plain suck, but we’ve each had our fair share of good and bad. We also know that as much as the business has a happy side, there are definitely the stories that don’t have endings like, “he plans on spending his retirement sailing off into the sunset in his yacht named for his iconic, best-selling game.” Okay, that RARELY happens (or never) but if you’ve ever seen the movie Toyland (which you definitely should!), there are more than a few instances where inventors have kind of gotten screwed. I’m not saying there’s an evil henchman out there looking to steal from inventors, but sometimes things don’t work out as people planned. Sometimes people don’t realize what they have on their hands and let go of it too soon — other times there’s no chance that it would become what it eventually became without letting someone else have it. It just happens! Money has often been a factor in these stories — so have lack of opportunity to further a product’s development or sales. In the end, there are lots of different stories about great inventors who no one knows about because they aren’t closely tied to their products anymore. Here’s one such story about an AMAZING invention (and inventor) and luckily there’s something you can do to help:
By Peggy Brown Originally appearing on the T&GCon Website
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!
You can make a Crowdrise donation to the I Love Operation Campaign from October 22nd until the end of the year! They’re asking for $3 but you can always toss in a couple extra bucks to show your support for this great inventor. You can also send John a note telling him how much you love his game — and as any inventor knows, the thing we like almost as much as money is fan love. There are the warm and fuzzies you get from a royalty check and then there are the warm and fuzzies you get from hearing someone rave about playing your game! Lets give John a little bit of both!