You would think that after creating a successful game such as Operation, John Spinello would be a wealthy man. After all, it’s generated tens of millions of dollars for Milton Bradley and its successor, Hasbro, having been touched such cultural cornerstones as The Simpsons to Disney. But it didn’t.
And now, the creator of Operation is in need of an operation himself…but Spinello cannot afford the $25000 needed for his oral surgery.
Time reports that in 1964 while as a engineering student at the University of Illinois, Spinello invented the classic game, then sold it to Milton-Bradley for $500 (about $3800 in 2014 dollars), and has not since seen any royalties for a game that, in his estimation has sold about $40 million for both MB and Hasbro.
However, he’s not bitter about that; indeed, he told The Huffintgon 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.” But he rightly points out that “everyone needs medical care”, even the creator of a game about said theme.
Fortunately, help is on the way. Fellow toy designers Tim Walsh and Peggy Brown started a crowdfunding campaign to help raise funds, while a sister site, ILoveOperation.com, is selling limited edition copies signed by Spinello himself. And if that’s not enough, Spinello intends to sell his original prototype in December.
Still, it should never have gotten to this point. As Walsh and Brown told HuffPo, “John 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.”
You could argue that Hasbro owes him nothing; after all, Spinello sold the game to Milton Bradley who paid him what he thought was a fair price, and Milton Bradley is now gone, having been subsumed by Hasbro. But you could also argue that a company may have unfairly taken advantage of a young student who, in theory, could have made millions off the game.
$25,000 isn’t too much, is it, Hasbro? Hell, give it to him (as well as a pension, I think) and I’ll stand in line for the MLP “Nurse Redheart” edition of Operation if so.