Operation is a battery-operated game of physical skill that tests players' hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The game's prototype was invented in 1964 by John Spinello, a University of Illinois industrial design student at the time, who sold his rights to the game to Milton Bradley for a money of USD $500 and the promise of a job upon graduation. Initially produced by Milton Bradley in 1965, Operation is currently owned by Hasbro, with an estimated franchise worth of USD $40 million.
The game is a variant on the classic electrified wire loop game is popular at the fun fairs around the United States. It consists of an "operating table", lithographed with a comic likeness of a patient (nicknamed "Cavity Sam") with a red lightbulb for his nose. In the surface are a number of openings, which reveal cavities filled with fictional and humorously named ailments made of plastic. The general gameplay requires players to remove these plastic ailments with a pair of tweezers not touching the edge of the cavity opening.
How to Play
Operation includes two sets of cards: The Specialist cards are dealt out evenly amongst the players at the beginning of the game.
In the North American version, players take turns picking Doctor cards, which offer a cash payment for removing each particular ailment, using a pair of tweezers connected with wire to the board. Successfully removing the ailment is rewarded according to the dollar amount shown on the card. However, if the tweezers touch the metal edge of the opening during the attempt (thereby closing a circuit), a buzzer sounds, Sam's nose lights up red, and the player loses the turn. The player holding the Specialist card for that piece then has a try, getting double the fee if the players succeeds.
Since there will be times when the player drawing a certain Doctor card also holds the matching Specialist card, that player can purposely screw up the first attempt in order to attempt a second try for double value. The game can be difficult, due to the shapes of the plastic ailments and the fact the openings are not quite larger than the pieces for the players.
- Adam's Apple: an apple (fruit) in the throat ($100). "Adam's apple" is a colloquial term referring to the thyroid cartilage surrounding the larynx that becomes more visually prominent during a male's puberty.
- Broken Heart: a heart with a split through it on the right part of the chest ($100). The phrase "broken heart" refers to an emotional feeling in which someone is very unhappy for a reason such as a breakup with a romantic partner.
- Wrenched Ankle: a wrench in the right ankle ($100). "Wrenched ankle" is an alternative term for a sprained ankle.
- Butterflies in Stomach: a large butterfly in the middle of the stomach ($100). The name comes from the feeling in the stomach when nervous, stirred or afraid.
- Spare Ribs: two ribs blend together as one piece ($150). "Spare Ribs" are a cut of meat or a dish prepared from that cut.
- Water on the Knee: a pail of water in the knee ($150). Colloquialism for fluid accumulation around the knee joint.
- Funny Bone: a cartoonish bone ($200). A reference to the colloquial name of the ulnar nerve which is itself meant to be a play on the anatomical name for the upper arm bone (thehumerus).
- Charley Horse: a pint-sized horse resting near the hip joint ($200). A "charley horse" is a sudden spasm in the leg or foot that can be cured by massage or stretching.
- Writer's Cramp: a pencil in the forearm ($200). A "writer's cramp", which is a sore in the wrist that can be cured by resting it.
- The Ankle Bone Connected to the Knee Bone: A rubberband that must be stretched between two pegs at the left ankle and knee. This is the only non-plastic piece in the game and the only card that requires the player to insert instead of remove something ($200). The name is taken from the black spiritual "Dem Bones".
- Wish Bone: a wishbone similar to that of a chicken located on the left part of the chest ($300). A "wish bone" is a colloquial name for the Furcula which is a bone found in birds and some other animals. Typically, the Furcula of a chicken might be used by two players for granting competing wishes.
- Bread Basket: a slice of bread, with a small notch that took out of the top for grip ($1,000). The word "breadbasket" is slang for the stomach.
- Brain Freeze: an ice cream cone located in the brain ($600). Refers to the experience of "brain freeze", a headache felt after eating frozen desserts and slushies too quickly.
"Brain Freeze" was added in 2004, when Milton Bradley allowed fans a chance to vote on a new piece to be added to the original game during the past year. Voters were given three choices and could make their selection via the company's official website or by cellphone for a chance to win a $5,000 shopping spree. The winning piece beat out tennis elbow and growling stomach.
Revisions and Expansions
In 1964-1965, Saturday morning children's game show is called Shenanigans had a life-sized, three-dimensional Operation game as one of its challenges.
Aside from the traditional board game version, Milton Bradley also produced a handheld version which had a screen in Cavity Sam's stomach.
This also had a PC video game introduced in 1998.
In 2002, a brain surgery version was released, requiring the player to take pieces out of a wisecracking Cavity Sam's head, within 15 seconds. Sam's nose lights up after time runs out.
In May 2004, Hasbro and DreamWorks released a Shrek version of the game.
In 2005, Hasbro planned the release of The Simpsons version of the game, including a talking Homer Simpson being operated on by doctors Julius Hibbert and Nick Riviera. Items in the game include Bowler's Thumb, Foot in Mouth, and Rubber Neck. When a player misses, Homer screams or says one of his catchphrases such as "D'oh! or "This is not good!".
In December 2006, a Spider-Man version was released in which the player operates on the Marvel superhero Spider-Man. In early 2008, Hasbro included another Marvel superhero when it released an Incredible Hulk edition of the game to promote The Incredible Hulk feature film. In 2010, Hasbro also released an Iron Man version of the game to promote the film sequel's Iron Man 2.
In early 2007, Hasbro and Nickelodeon released a SpongeBob SquarePants version of the game including new items such as a "shoehorn" and a "Krabby Patty pleasure center".
Later in 2007, Hasbro released another version of the original game called OPERATION Rescue Kit in which the participant plays four new timed games with three skill levels. Each skill level reduces the starting amount of time. Cavity Sam has a heart monitor in this version, and the player can pump oxygen into him to add more time.
In August 2008, Hasbro released a "Silly Skill Game" version which features thirteen new sound effects for each of the other parts. The winner of the game is the player who removes most parts successfully.
A Doctor Who version of the game was released in United Kingdom, where players get to "operate" on a Dalek.
In 2010, Hasbro and Pixar released a Toy Story 3 version featuring Buzz Lightyear as the patient. This following release of the Toy Story 3 feature film into theaters. Another Pixar film was promoted in 2011, when Hasbro planned a Cars 2 edition including Mater.
USAopoly released a Family Guy version of the game including Peter Griffin as the patient. USAopoly and Disney also released a The Nightmare Before Christmas version of the game (including Oogie Boogie as the patient). In the holiday season, USAopoly released a Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer version of the game (including the Abominable Snow Monster as the patient, with Rudolph's nose lighting up when the player hits the sides).
On The Hub's television game show Family Game Night hosted by Todd Newton, a segment called Operation Relay is played, where two families compete one after the other. Family members take turns taking pieces out of an oversized Operation gameboard, and then running through an obstacle course to finally place them in a container at the end of the course. If a player fails to take a piece not touching the side, or drops it while going through the obstacle course, they must move to the back of the line, and it's the next person's turn. Each piece is worth a specific amount of points, and whichever team has earned the highest score when time expires wins. Also on the show is Operation Sam Dunk, in which families play skee ball to collect the most points possible. Each family gets two turns and the team with the highest score wins the game. For the show's third season, Operation is introduced, in which one family can win money for a shopping spree by taking off pieces to earn up to four rolls and then play skee ball in a similar manner as in Operation Sam Dunk.
In 2013, Hasbro introduced Disney's Doc McStuffins and Despicable Me 2 versions of the game.