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Twister

The game that ties you up in knots

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Boys And Girls Playing Twister

A boy and girl play the game Twister, as other young people watch in a paneled living room, circa 1968.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Twister is a physical game played with a small spin board (see second image) and a 4.4 by 6 foot vinyl floor mat (see first image) with colorful spots printed on it. Two or more players play at the same time by taking turns following the instructions given by the spin board, instructions like "place your left foot on a red spot" or "place your right hand on a green spot". The object of the game is to follow all the spin instructions without falling or touching an elbow or knee to the mat. And of course, the last player that does not fall is the winner.

Who Invented Twister?

Business partners, Charles Foley and Neil Rabens co-invented and patented the game of Twister in 1966 (U.S. Patent 3,454,279). The partners sold the game, which they called Pretzel to the game manufacturer Milton Bradley, who renamed the game Twister. Hasbro Inc. now manufacturers the game and says it has remained a top seller.

Controversy

Another person, Reyn Guyer made the claim that Foley and Rabens got the idea for Twister from him. Reyn Guyer claims that he invented a game called Pretzel while working on a Johnson’s Shoe Polish promotion at his father’s design company, the Reynolds Guyer Agency of Design, where Charles Foley and Neil Rabens also worked in 1965. Guyer claims that Milton Bradley changed the name of the game from Pretzel to Twister against his wishes.

Some sources agree with Guyer as inventor. Author David Hoffman describes Reyn Guyer's "toying with a notion (for the promotion) that included color patches that went on kids' feet along with a correspondingly colored walkaround grid, when it occurred to him that what he had come up with might work better as a game.

In an interview with BookemBob, Neil Rabens described the invention process, "Guyer had a few mat games that they intended to produce themselves but Foley suggested they contact established game companies on a royalty basis. I came up with the hand and foot concept and called it “Pretzel” which was later changed to “Twister.” Foley added some changes and it became what it is. He was the one who sold it to Milton Bradley for Guyer."

The United States Patent and Trademark OfFice have dismissed Guyer's claims and completely credit Foley and Rabens as the inventors of the patented game. All inventors have to be listed on a patent and Reyn Guyer's name is not listed on the Twister patent. Foley and Rabens assigned their patent rights to their boss, Guyer.

Sex in a Box

A third name for Twister might have been "Sex in a Box". On May 3, 1966, the game was played between actress Eva Gabor and teleivison host Johnny Carsonon on The Tonight Show. The game soared in popularity after the airing, but the television show made it apparent that Twister was a very physical game and when played by adults had the potential to become very touchy feely. Milton Bradley's competitors immediately attempted to discredit the popular game by accusing it of being "sex in a box".

Charles (Chuck) Foley

Inventor, Charles Foley made his first invention at the age of eight. It was a locking system for a cattle pen at his grandfather's farm. Over his lifetime, Foley invented many different toys and games. Twister was the most successful of his invention, hoeever, Foley was paid very little for the rights to the game. The inventor died on July 1, 2013 at the age of eighty-two.

Neil W. Rabens

Neil Rabens is not only a game inventor, he is an author, illustrator, musician, and more. Rabens was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1929. His father Fred T. Rabens also patented an invention, a vending machine with the novel approach of releasing a purchased item (US patent #2343578). Unfortunately, Rabens senior failed to capitalize upon his patent, however, his design was freely imitated after his patent expired.

World Records for Twister

According to Guiness World Records, "The largest twister board measured 52.15 m x 42.70 m (171 ft 1 in x 140 ft 1 in) and was achieved by participants of the Kick-In 2011 at the University of Twente (the Netherlands) in Enschede, the Netherlands, on 1 September 2011. The participants played twister for about 1 hour on the board."

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