Throughout October, Kidscreen will take a peek at each of this year’s 12 nominees for the Toy Hall of Fame. Located within the Strong Museum in Rochester, NY, the Toy Hall of Fame has the most comprehensive collection of toys, dolls and video games in the world. Among its inductees are the View-Master, Play-Doh and hula hoop. Today, we look at one more toy that could join the list: Operation.
Operation is such an iconic board game that when the Toy Hall of Fame opens its upcoming exhibit on dolls, stuffed animals and action figures, there will be an oversized teddy bear Operation installation. “We figured people will know at a glance what this is and what they’re supposed to do,” says Christopher Bensch, chief curator of the Strong Museum. “It has really become part of our popular culture.”
Invented by University of Illinois student John Spinello as a school project, Operation was introduced to the masses in 1965 from Milton Bradley. The premise of the game was that kids could act as surgeons, weilding a “scalpel” (read tweezers) to remove funny unwanted items found inside the patient, Cavity Sam. If an unsteady hand resulted in the tweezers touching the sides of the opening, Cavity Sam’s oversized red nose would light up with an accompanying buzzer sound.
The simple concept did not require a lengthy instruction manual, and each game could be extremely short, if need be. And yet, it was intuitive enough that older players didn’t necessarily have an advantage over younger ones. “It’s something when parents and kids play together, kids with their little hands may actually stand a better chance of winning at Operation than mom or dad might,” Bensch adds.
As its 50th anniversary approaches, the game has seen licensed editions that include the likes of Homer Simpson, Shrek and Doc McStuffins as patients. The classic version is also still easy to find on store shelves today. Who knows how many times it has brought about the start of a promising medical career?
“I’ve heard that there are more than a few surgeons in the world who got their start as kids playing Operation and realizing that this is what they wanted to do when they grew up,” Bensch says.
The three main criteria for induction into the hall of fame are (1) longevity, (2) recognition or icon status, and (3) encouragement of learning, creativity and discovery. This year’s other 11 nominees are: American Girl dolls,bubbles, Fisher-Price Little People, Hess toy trucks, Little Green Army Men, My Little Pony, paper airplane, pots and pans, Rubik’s Cube, Slip ‘N Slide and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The two inductees for 2014 will be announced on November 6.