Puneet Varma (Editor)

Twister (game)

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Publication date  1966 (1966)
Genre(s)  physical skill game

Twister is a game of physical skill produced by Milton Bradley Company and Winning Moves, that has been inducted into the American National Toy Hall of Fame. 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, blue and green. 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: right foot, left foot, right hand and left hand. Each of those four sections is divided into the four colors (red, yellow, blue and green). 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.


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. There is no limit to how many can play at once, but more than four is a tight fit.

History and analysis

In 1964 Reyn Guyer Sr. owned and managed a design company which made in-store displays for Fortune 500 companies. While working on designing a promotion for his client, the S.C. Johnson Company, his son Reyn Jr. developed the idea that a game could utilize people as playing pieces on a life-sized game board. His first attempt he called "Kings Footsie", but when he showed it to the 3M Company, who had a line of up-scale board games, they rejected the idea.

Charles F. Foley 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, 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 would lose.

With 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 re-named the game Twister.

Twister became a success when actress Eva Gabor played it with Johnny Carson on television's The Tonight Show on May 3, 1966. However, in its success, Twister was also controversial. The company that produced the game, Milton Bradley, was accused by its competitors of selling "sex in a box". That accusation was probably because Twister was the first popular American game to use human bodies as playing pieces.

Early timeline

In 1964 Foley and Guyer Jr. took the games to Mel Taft, the Vice President of the Milton Bradley Co. Mel immediately saw the possibilities in a line of games where the people were the players, and the game he chose to lead with was "Pretzel". When it was discovered that the name was not available, the Milton Bradley Co. chose "Twister".

In the fall of 1965, Foley and Guyer Jr. took the game to the Milton Bradley Company in Springfield, MA where Mel Taft, the senior vice-president of R & D, chose Pretzel as the best of the eight game ideas. Mel found there was a trademark problem, so he changed the game’s name to Twister, and Milton Bradley began to market Twister in 1966. It was the first game on store shelves that used players as the playing pieces.

When the Milton Bradley Company found that several major retailers refused to stock the game, Taft called Foley to tell him that they were cancelling their television advertising and pulling the product from the store shelves. What executives at Milton Bradley did not know was the public relations company Mel had hired had already been paid. So, he let the plan to have TWISTER played on the Tonight Show go forward.

On May 3, 1966 Johnny Carson, the host of the show, was enticed by the TWISTER mat and demonstrated the game along with Eva Gabor. The next morning there were 50 people standing in line to buy the game at Abercrombie & Fitch where a few games had not been returned. Three million TWISTER games were sold in the following year. Several spin-off games have followed over the years such as: TWISTER MOVES, TWISTER DANCE, TWISTER HOOPLA and many others.

In 1967 Twister was named the "Game of the Year". With this success, Reynolds Guyer Sr. offered Foley and Rabens a chance to run their new toy and game development division. Mr. Foley agreed to run the Toy design company with the current royalty agreement be included in the new agreement. Reynolds Guyer Sr. wanted to dismiss any and all royalty agreements going forward. Mr. Foley did not agree with the newly proposed agreement (dismissing any and all royalty rights). Guyer Companies owed Mr. Foley 50% of all royalties on Twister but Guyer Companies choose to litigate with Foley thus buying him out of his owed Royalties. Mr. Foley and Neil Rabens formed their own company with an outside investor. Subsequently, Mr. Foley filed a lawsuit on all owed Royalties from Twister against Guyer Companies and Reynolds Guyer Sr. An out-of-court settlement in the form of 2.5% of Twister's gross profit for 3 years was arranged. When the patent was issued, Charles Foley and Neil Rabens names are the only names on the patent, (US Pat# 3,454,279), yet Reyn Guyer Jr. still claims to be the inventor of the game Twister. Guyer Companies remains the owner of the trademark.

On May 3, 2016, the Hasbro Company will begin the celebration of TWISTER’s 50th anniversary following Reyn Guyer’s introduction of his book, “RIGHT BRAIN RED”, which tells the whole tale of the game’s beginnings.

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.

  • 2003 Hasbro adds Twister Moves to the line. With two and three CDs players are encouraged to listen to the music and occupy the colored circle that is called for in the lyrics. The product helps to double overall Twister sales to 2 million units by 2004.
  • 2006 Twister Dance is added. Players dance on small Twister mats to 40 different tunes.
  • 2007 Hasbro adds Twister Scram to the line. Players spin the spinner and run to different colored dot mats before all of them are taken.
  • 2008 Twister Hopscotch is added. In a variation of hopscotch, multi-colored rings are attached together. As one player spins the spinner, the rest of the players must do different actions on each different colored ring as they skip through them.
  • 2010 Twister Hoopla is added to the line. This version is very similar to the original Twister. The same gameplay is used, but miniature multi-colored hoops are used instead of the original dot mat.
  • 2012 Hasbro brings in Britney Spears to promote updated Twister Dance Rave.
  • 2013 Hasbro adds Twister Rave Skip-it Game
  • Co-inventor Charles Foley died on July 1, 2013 at age 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. Microsoft Encarta labels Twister as being an "industry phenomenon" that "briefly captures the public's imagination, and sells in the millions". Being one of the earliest toy fads and a "national craze for a short time," Twister was a game that was able to bring all age groups together, whether children or adults. Twister being both globally spread and highly popular is unlike other games of its stature, in the sense that it is accepted by all social classes. In an article by Peterson and Simkus, they state, "While the evidence of the first half of this century suggests strong links between social status and cultural taste, there is growing evidence that there is no longer a one-to-one correspondence between taste and status group membership in advanced postindustrial societies like the United States."


    Twister has been seen as a prime example of how globalization is able to influence culture, and how the different variations of the game reflect elements of cultural diversity. In an article by sociologists Ben Carrington, David L. Andrews, Steven J. Jackson and Zbigniew Mazur, they state, "…interpretations of the cultural impact of globalization can be classified into two distinct theoretical camps: the economic and the cultural camps." From an economic standpoint, Twister does not exclude any socioeconomic demographic, and has very little cultural resistance, seeing as it can be easily understood globally by all cultures.


    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 18, 2010 in Belchertown, MA on the Belchertown High School football field. 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 SAA/SF National Convention at Stone Mountain, Georgia.

    Use in fundraising

    Twister tournaments are used as a source of philanthropic events put on by college fraternities and sororities to raise money for a charitable cause. Many of these Greek tournaments are held annually, and are a good way to get involved with the community. Some of the Greek organizations that partake in these tournaments include Alpha Xi Delta of Cornell University, Tau Kappa Epsilon of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Sigma Nu at Villanova, Kappa Delta at Ball State University, Alpha Chi Omega at Missouri State University, and Sigma Sigma Sigma at Florida International University.


    There are publicly available instructions on how to alter a Twister game to make it accessible to color-blind individuals and to completely blind individuals.

  • Musician "Weird Al" Yankovic has a song "Twister" on his Even Worse album about the board game, done in a style parody of the early Beastie Boys.
  • In Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, the title characters challenge Death to a series of games in order to escape Hell, one of which is Twister, where Bill and Ted ultimately defeat Death.
  • R.E.M.'s song "Man on the Moon" features the lyrics "let's play Twister, let's play Risk".
  • In Type O Negative's "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend" video the game is being played.
  • In the TV show Friends, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Joey, Ross and Chandler play Twister at the end of the 4th episode of season 1 ("The One with George Stephanopoulos").
  • The music video for the hit song "Un-Break My Heart" by Toni Braxton features scenes in which her and Tyson Beckford play this game.
  • In Honey and Clover, Morita decides to make his own version of a Twister mat with far too many colors.
  • The TV game show Family Game Night on The Hub uses the game "Twister Lights Out" – a combination of Twister and "Lights Out" – as one of their minigames.
  • The 2009 Britney Spears song "3" features the lyrics "Twister on the floor, what do you say". Later, Spears was the face of "Twister Dance" in 2012.
  • Lady Gaga's 2008 hit Just Dance features the lyrics "A dizzy Twister dance, can't find my drink or man".
  • In the CW's Supernatural, the character of Castiel makes a reference to the game and later appeared playing it in the 23rd episode of season 7.
  • In the August 28, 2014 installment of the comic strip Get Fuzzy, ferret Fungo Squiggly, the sole entrant (and thus winner) of Bucky Katt's "Spend-a-Day-with-Bucky Contest" arrives wanting to play "Twister" with Bucky. Bucky does not approve.
  • On the April 13, 2015 episode of Let's Make a Deal, a contestant wore a Twister costume.
  • In the episode "Mother Daughter Laser Razor", of the animated TV show"Bob's Burgers", Linda has a Twister mat set up for family game night.
  • References

    Twister (game) Wikipedia