Synopsis of Toy
“It takes a steady hand…”
Inside that boiling and mysterious game soup cauldron, there are a slew of ingredients not-so-tangible: the luck of the draw, the way the cards turn over and the chips fall down and the dice come up. Lady Luck. Magic mojo. Getting your game on. Feeling hot or cold, on or off, in the zone or miserably out of it…on those special nights when you just have it, or when you just can’t get it. Ah, the quest for Lady Luck can be an exhaustive one, so for the game-player who throws his arms up in defeat when that capricious wheel of fate spins him round and round, toy companies like to have a few so-called “skill” games on their roster too. This way, when the game-player can’t, for the life of him, sidle on up the Lady, there’s still a place for the lonely fella can go. A place where plenty of fun can be hand and Lady Luck isn't the only broad on the guest list. A place, for instance, like that place we commonly refer to as...
The wacky doctor’s game! Come one, come all, you lovers of viscera, you savers of lives, you tamer of tweezers, you one-day takers of oaths Hippocratic. Sit down and play Operation with us, and let’s save the fat man’s life. After all, anybody who’s laid out like that—scantily clad, with various bones and organs exposed for all to see—anyone like that deserves our very best shot.
Milton Bradley introduced Operation in the mid-1960’s, billing it as a skill and action game. Though who knows what kind of bodily harm was possible, the game’s object was very simple. There was a goofy looking man drawn on the op table, and scattered around his body were little compartments, which housed ailing body parts—a plastic funny bone, a bad ankle, an Adam’s apple, etc. Players took turns removing the parts with the included tweezers, but if they touched the sides of the compartments, the electric tweezers would buzz and then you, Mr. Shaky Fingers, were the loser. Malpractice suit, anyone? There were no dice, you didn’t have to spell words or count a thing, and the only cards were the ones that told you which ailment to remove and how much you'd earn. The name of this game was skill, baby, and you just needed to concentrate, breathe deep, and keep those jumpy little tweezers as still as possibly could.
There were homegrown variations of the game, of course—variations in which players were allowed to yell and make jokes or blow in the operator’s ear, or scream out pretend sound effects for the patient as the tweezers got close to him. But a good doctor doesn’t get distracted by noise pollution like that. Batteries weren’t included (you didn’t think that “buzz” came from static electricity did you?) and no one under the age of six is allowed into the operating room.
Milton Bradley’s decades-old television commercial for the game still plays in our heads when we see the box or hear mention of its name, and certainly one or two future med students were subconsciously inspired by the inner satisfaction of entering that body electric, clamping onto an ailing part and then removing it, just as smooth as you please. If the fat man were real, he’d certainly thank you kindly when he came to and got some clothes on.