is a game of physical skill produced by Milton Bradley Company and
Winning Moves. It is played on a large plastic mat that is spread on
the floor or ground. The mat has six rows of large colored circles on
it with a different color in each row: red, yellow, green, and blue.
A spinner is attached to a square board and is used to determine
where the player has to put their hand or foot. The spinner is
divided into four labeled sections: left foot, right foot, left hand,
and right hand. Each of those four sections are divided into the four
colors (red, yellow, green, and blue). After spinning, the
combination is called (for example: "right hand yellow")
and players must move their matching hand or foot to a circle of the
correct color. The game promotes itself as "the game that ties
you up in knots". There is also Blindfolded Twister, a variant
where there are four different tactile symbols on the mat, and the
players are blindfolded and have to find a circle with the named
symbol by feeling.
In a two-player game, no two people can
have a hand or foot on the same circle; the rules are different for
more players. Due to the scarcity of colored circles, players will
often be required to put themselves in unlikely or precarious
positions, eventually causing someone to fall. A person is eliminated
when they fall or when their elbow or knee touches the mat.
In 1964, Reyn Guyer owned
and managed a design company which made in-store displays for Fortune
500 companies. While working on designing a promotions for his
clients, Guyer's son, Reyn Jr. (above), developed the idea that a
game could utilize people as playing pieces on a life-sized board.
Best known for its adhesive
office products, in the 1960s the 3M Company was attempting to
diversify with a line of premium strategy games. Since Guyer had an
existing relationship with the company for its point-of-purchase
displays, he approached them with a square grid he called Kings
Footsie. The game required teams of two players to try and line up
their feet in a manner similar to Connect Four. (The players wore
colored ankle bands.) 3M rejected the idea.
Foley (pictured left center demonstrating the game) was a respected
and successful toy designer for Lakeside Industries in Minneapolis
and answered an ad for an experienced toy designer by Reynolds Guyer
Sr. of Guyer Company.
Foley interviewed with Reyn
Guyer Sr. and his son, Reyn, who were interested in product
development within the toy business. After interviewing Foley, Guyer
and his son discussed the possibility of starting a small division of
the company in product development. His father agreed, for a short
term, to support his son's idea for product development, and hired
Foley, who negotiated a royalty agreement with Guyer Company for all
games and toy items designed by Foley. Guyer Company agreed, and
officially hired Foley.
Foley hired Neil Rabens
(pictured left, on the right with Charles Foley), an accomplished
product design artist with an art degree from the Minneapolis School
of Art and Design.
The game ideas ranged from
small kids' games to word games for adults. Foley had an idea for
utilizing people as a part of the game idea, "a party game".
Rabens had the idea to utilize a colored mat, allowing people to
interact with each other, in a game idea he had developed while a
student in design school. Foley saw the idea and developed the
concept for having the colored dots line up in rows, and, with a
spinner, created the idea for calling out players' hands and feet to
the colored dots called out from the spinner. This would create a
tangled-up situation between two people, and the one that falls first
the support of Reyn Guyer Sr. and his son, Charles Foley and Neil
Rabens submitted for patents (US Pat# 3,454,279) and trademark rights
for what was originally called "Pretzel". Foley, with his
extensive experience in the toy industry, called on his good friend,
Mel Taft, Sr. V.P. for Milton Bradley in 1966, for a product idea
presentation. Milton Bradley embraced the idea for the
"Pretzel" game but renamed the game "Twister", to
avoid consumer confusion with a toy dog on market at the time named
Pretzel. It was a marketing decision Guyer disliked: For a
midwesterner like Reyn Guyer, "twisters" were catastrophic
tornadoes, not a game played during a fun evening at home.
Mel Taft, Milton Bradley's
head of development, thought Twister had potential, but other
executives felt playing it with members of the opposite sex could be
deemed in poor taste. (The original box art even used cartoon
characters instead of people to try and dilute its sexual subtext.)
Initially the game still had trouble once it got to market. Major
retailers balked, not sure where it fit in or if customers would
understand it. Milton Bradley's competitors accused them of selling
"sex in a box". Sears was one of many companies that
refused to carry the game. Around the holidays in 1965, Guyer got a
phone call from Taft telling him all promotion and manufacturing
would be suspended. It was the end of Twister.
In the 1960s talk show host
Art Linkletter had endorsed Milton Bradleys The Game of Life.
His picture even appearing on the box and the games currency.
Before Milton Bradley suspended production on Twister, they had
already paid a public relations firm to secure a segment on The
Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (above). On May 3rd, 1966, Carson
demonstrated the game on the Tonight Show. His guest that evening was
Eva Gabor, wearing a low-cut gown, and splayed out on all fours on
the polkadot vinyl mat, Johnny twirled the spinner and took his turn.
When he climbed on top of Eva, the studio audience went into
hysterics, screaming and laughing. Milton Bradley executives knew
immediatly they had a huge hit on their hands. The day after the show
aired, people were lining up 50 deep in front of the only store in
New York that was rumored to have any remaining stock: the original
Abercrombie & Fitch, which was best known at the time for selling
sporting goods and outdoor apparel. By Christmas 1966, it was the
game of the year. More than three million copies of Twisters were
sold during its first year of release.
was such a hit other companies tried to capitalize on Twister mania.
In 1968, Parker Brothers released a game called Funny Bones (left), a
card deck that required players to try and hold an oversized playing
card between various body parts. Funny Bones came and went.
While Twister was able to
overcome some initial reluctance from buyers, it still had to contend
with a rash of press reports about teenagers who would hold Twister
parties and play the game in the nude. Taft worried that the negative
publicity might prove ruinous to the company, but it blew over.
Milton Bradley was able to
successfully export Twister to a number of other territories. The
lone exception? Germany. According to Taft, German culture at the
time frowned upon women taking off their shoes in public, making the
game a non-starter in the country.
In 1985, Hasbro acquired
the Milton Bradley Company, becoming Twister's parent company. The
Reyn Guyer Creative Group continues to work closely with Hasbro to
develop and market new additions to the line of Twister products. Co-inventor
Charles Foley died on July 1st, 2013 at the age of 82.
Twister, much like its counterpart the
hula hoop, was one of the many toy fad phenomena that came about in
the second half of the 20th century. Being one of the earliest toy
fads, Twister was a game that was able to bring all age groups
together, whether children or adults, and was accepted by all social
classes. In the late 1990s, the National Federation for the Blind
circulated instructions for adapting Twister so people with visual
impairments could still play. Using different textures and Braille
for the colored circles, players can feel their way through the game.
Since its release, many active
participants have tried and succeeded in setting records for the most
contestants in a game, and the largest combined amount of Twister
game mats. The World's Largest Twister Mat was put together on June
18th, 2010 in Belchertown, MA on the Belchertown High School football
field. Over 2500 students and staff at the Belchertown School
District participated in the event. It consisted of 1008 Twister mats
donated by Hasbro and measured 244.7 feet X 99.10 feet for 24,156
square feet (2,244.2 m2). The purpose of the record breaking Twister
Mat was to kick off a fundraising drive for Jessica's Boundless Playground.
The previous record, as cited by the
Guinness Book of World Records, the largest game of Twister included
4,699 square feet (436.6 m2) of mats that were combined together.
Prior to that, the largest game was played in the Netherlands in
April 2005 with 2,453 square feet (227.9 m2) of mats. The record for
the largest number of contestants in a game of Twister was once
bestowed in 1987 with 4,160 contestants tangling themselves at the
University of Massachusetts in Amherst. However, this 1987 Amherst
claim was later disqualified upon evidence of officiating
inconsistencies. As a result, the category of "Most
Contestants" was temporarily banned from the Guinness Book.
Robert Bucci, a determined Engineering
student at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech),
successfully entreated Guinness World Records to reinstate the
category in 1992 by providing a comprehensively documented event plan
prior to their subsequent world record setting event during the 1992
S AA/SF National Convention at Stone Mountain, Georgia.
Though Guyer is closely associated with
Twister along with co-creators Foley and Rabens, his more lasting
contribution might have come in 1969. Guyer was working on new toy
development concepts when he and his partners began to throw around
foam rocks that were part of another players-as-pieces game with a
caveman concept. Sensing they had just come up with a kind of indoor
ball, Guyers team sold it to Parker Brothers. It became NERF.
Twister was originally
called Pretzel. Pretzel was also the name of a toy dog on the market
at the time.
To avoid consumer
confusion, the name was changed to Twister.
Milton Bradley Company or simply Milton
Bradley (MB) was an American board game manufacturer established by
Milton Bradley in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1860. In 1920, it
absorbed the game production of McLoughlin Brothers, formerly the
largest game manufacturer in the United States. Since 1984, it has
been a division of Hasbro.
In 1860 Milton Bradley (below right) set
up the state's first color lithography shop in Springfield,
Massachusetts. Its graphic design of Abraham Lincoln sold very well,
until Lincoln grew his beard and rendered the likeness out-of-date.
to find a new way to use his lithography machine, Bradley visited
his friend George Tapley. Tapley challenged him to a game, most
likely an old English game. Bradley conceived the idea of making a
purely American game. He created The Checkered Game of Life, which
had players move along a track from Infancy to Happy Old Age, in
which the point was to avoid Ruin and reach Happy Old Age. Squares
were labeled with moral positions from honor and bravery to disgrace
and ruin. Players used a spinner instead of dice because of the
negative association with gambling.
By spring of 1861, over 45,000 copies of
The Checkered Game of Life had been sold. Bradley became convinced
board games were his company's future.
When the American Civil War broke out in
early 1861, Bradley temporarily gave up making board games and tried
to make new weaponry. However, upon seeing bored soldiers stationed
in Springfield, Bradley began producing small games which the
soldiers could play during their down time. These are regarded as the
first travel games in the country. These games included chess,
checkers, backgammon, dominoes, and "The Checkered Game of
Life." They were sold for one dollar a piece to soldiers and
charitable organizations, which bought them in bulk to distribute.
The Milton Bradley Company took a new
direction in 1869 after Milton Bradley went to hear a lecture about
the kindergarten movement by early education pioneer, Elizabeth
Peabody (avove right). Peabody promoted the philosophy of the German
scholar Friedrich Froebel. Froebel stated that through education
children learn and develop through creative activities. Bradley would
spend much of the rest of his life promoting the kindergarten
movement both personally and through the Milton Bradley Company. His
company began manufacturing educational items such as colored papers
and paints and he gave many of these materials away free of charge,
which hurt the company financially. Due to the Long Depression of the
late 1870s, his investors told him either his kindergarten work must
go or they would go. Bradley chose to keep his kindergarten work. His
friend George Tapley bought the interest of the lost investors and
took over as president of the Milton Bradley Company.
Bradley was an early advocate of Friedrich Froebel's (left) idea of
Kindergarten. Springfield's first kindergarten students were Milton
Bradley's two daughters, and the first teachers in Springfield were
Milton, his wife and his father. Milton Bradley's company's
involvement with kindergartens began with the production of
"gifts," the term used by Froebel for the geometric wooden
play things that he felt were necessary to properly structure
children's creative development. Bradley spent months devising the
exact shades in which to produce these materials; his final choice of
six pigments of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet would
remain the standard colors for children's art supplies through the
By the 1870s, the company was producing
dozens of games and capitalizing on fads. Milton Bradley became the
first manufacturer in America to make croquet sets. The sets included
wickets, mallets, balls, stakes, and an authoritative set of rules to
play by that Bradley himself had created from oral tradition and his
own sense of fair play. In 1880, the company began making jigsaw puzzles.
The company's educational supplies turned
out to be a large portion of their income at the turn of the century.
They produced supplies any grade school teacher could use, such as
toy money, multiplication sticks, and movable clock dials. Milton
Bradley continued producing games, particularly parlor games played
by adults. They produced "Visit to the Gypsies," "Word
Gardening," "Happy Days in Old New England," and
"Fortune Telling." They also created jigsaw puzzles of
wrecked vehicles, which were popular among young boys.
When Milton Bradley died in 1911, the
company was passed to Robert Ellis, who passed it to Bradley's
son-in-law Robert Ingersoll, who eventually passed it to George
Tapley's son, William. In 1920, Bradley bought out McLoughlin
Brothers, which went out of business after John McLoughlin's death.
Milton Bradley began to decline in the
1920s and fell dramatically in the 1930s during the Great Depression.
Fewer people were spending money on board games. The company kept
losing money until 1940, when they sank too low and banks demanded
payment on loans.
to avoid bankruptcy, the board of directors persuaded James J. Shea
(top right), a Springfield businessman, to take over presidency of
the company. Shea immediately moved to decrease the company's debt.
He began a major renovation of the Milton Bradley plant by burning
old inventory that had been accumulating since the turn of the century.
With the outbreak of World War II, Milton
Bradley started producing a universal joint created by Shea used on
the landing gear of fighter planes. They also reproduced a revised
version of their game kits for soldiers, which earned the company $2
million. Milton Bradley did not stop creating board games, although
they did cut their line from 410 titles to 150. New games were
introduced during this time, such as the patriotic Game of the
States, Chutes & Ladders and Candyland.
The advent of the television could have
threatened the industry, but Shea used it to his advantage. Various
companies acquired licenses to television shows for the purpose of
producing all manner of promotional items including games. In 1959,
Milton Bradley released Concentration, a memory game based on an NBC
television show of the same name; the game was such a success that
editions were issued annually into 1982, long after the show was
cancelled in 1973 (similar practices were used for box game
adaptations of the game shows Password and Jeopardy!).
Milton Bradley celebrated their centennial
in 1960 with the re-release of The Checkered Game of Life, which was
modernized. It was now simply called The Game of Life and the goal
was no longer to reach Happy Old Age, but to become a millionaire.
Twister made its debut in the 1960s as well. Thanks to Johnny
Carson's suggestive comments as Eva Gabor played the game on his
show, Twister became a phenomenon. In the 1960s, Milton Bradley games
were licensed in Australia by John Sands Pty Ltd.
In 1967, James Shea Jr. (bottom right)
took over as president of Milton Bradley (becoming CEO in 1968)
succeeding his father. During his presidency, Milton Bradley bought
Playskool Mfg. Co. the E.S. Lowe Company, makers of Yahtzee, and Body Language.
During the 1970s and 1980s, electronic
games became popular. Milton Bradley released Simon in 1978, which
was fairly late in the movement. By 1980, it was their best-selling item.
In 1979, Milton Bradley also developed the
first hand-held cartridge-based console, the Microvision.
In 1983, seeing the potential in the new
Vectrex vector-based video game console, the company purchased
General Consumer Electronics (GCE). Both the Vectrex and the
Microvision were designed by Jay Smith.
the late 1980s and early 1990s, Milton Bradley marketed a series of
games (such as HeroQuest and Battle Masters) in North America that
were developed in the United Kingdom by Games Workshop (GW) that drew
heavily from GW's Warhammer Fantasy universe, albeit without explicit
reference to the Warhammer product line.
In 1984, Hasbro bought out Milton Bradley
ending 124 years of family ownership. The 1990s saw the release of
Gator Golf, Crack the Case, Mall Madness, and 1313 Dead End Drive.
In 1991, Hasbro acquired Milton Bradley's
former arch-rival Parker Brothers. In 1998, Milton Bradley merged
with Parker Brothers to form Hasbro Games. After the consolidation,
Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers turned into brands of Hasbro
before being both dropped in 2009 in favor of the parent company's
name, since adjusted to Hasbro Gaming.