Fifty years ago John Spinello invented the hit game Operation, but now the 77-year-old needs help paying for a real life operation of his own. Despite the popularity of his invention, the $25,000 price tag for oral surgery is out of reach for Spinello, who sold the rights to Operation before it was first released for $500. To help cover the medical costs, friends of Spinello turned to crowdfunding for help.
“[Spinello] has had a good life, but has admitted to us that he is struggling to pay his bills and is in need of a medical procedure without sufficient insurance coverage,” the Crowdrise funding page reads. Spinello says he’s not broke, but has had a run of bad business luck. “Look, everyone needs medical care,” Spinello told the Huffington Post. “I prefer not to dwell on that aspect and focus more on the joy that the game has brought to so many over the years.”
Here’s more from HuffPo on Spinello’s creation of Operation:
Spinello invented Operation while he was an industrial design student at the University of Illinois. The Bloomington resident was tasked to come up with an electric game where the object was to insert a metal wand into holes without touching the metal edges of the openings. “I got an A,” Spinello said.
A family friend was so impressed that he helped Spinello get a meeting with Marvin Glass, a leading toy designer who gave the world novelty products like fake vomit and wind-up chattering teeth. He was also the force behind such classics as Mouse Trap and Lite Brite. “I walked into his office and I put it on his desk. I said, ‘You have to take this probe and go through the maze and see if you can complete it,’” Spinello explains in a video about the campaign.
Glass didn’t seem impressed until he touched the wand to the metal plate. “It went ‘BLATTT’ and a spark jumped out of the stylus,” Spinello said. “He threw [the stylus] up in the air and says, ‘I love it! I love it!’” Glass offered the young college student $500 – about $3,771 in 2014 dollars – and the promise of a job upon graduation in exchange for all the rights to the game. But the job offer didn’t happen. “I did get the two checks – eventually,” Spinello said. “I had to call for them.”
One of the friends who started the Crowdrise page, Tim Walsh, says the gamemaker Hasbro, who owns the rights to Operation, has supported the cause by allowing them to use the game’s logo and image for fundraising. Spinello is also trying to raise money by selling autographed copies of the game and plans to auction off the original prototype of Operation.
As of Wednesday night, the Crowdrise page had raised just over $21,000.