Twister (game)

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Early box cover art

Twister is a game of physical skill produced by Milton Bradley Company. It is played on a large plastic mat that is spread on the floor or ground. The mat has four 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[edit]

Twister was submitted for patent by Charles F. Foley and Neil Rabens in 1966, and became a success when Eva Gabor played it with Johnny Carson on television's The Tonight Show on May 3, 1966.[1][2] 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".[3] That accusation was probably because Twister was the first popular American game to use human bodies as playing pieces.[4]

Although Twister was patented by Foley and Rabens, a number of sources also mention Reyn Guyer.[5][6][7] Guyer is credited as having conceived Twister in its earliest form while working on a Johnson's Shoe Polish promotion as vice-president of his father's design company, the Reynolds Guyer Agency of Design. Guyer originally called this new game idea "Pretzel", but Milton Bradley changed the name to "Twister" before they put it on the market, much to Guyer's dismay.[8][9]

Co-inventor Charles Foley was a salesman for a printing company calling on the Guyer Company's purchasing agent when he saw a model of Kings' Footsie on display in the office. Foley went to Reyn claiming he had some experience and connections in the toy business. Guyer and his father discussed the possibility of starting a small division of the company to explore the ‘people are the players' concept. His father agreed to take out a sizable bank loan to underwrite the idea. Guyer hired Foley and Rabens and the three men worked together to develop eight new game ideas for presentation. The game ideas ranged from small kids' games to word games for adults. When the three men were working with colored circles on the floor, Foley suggested they place them in rows by color, and Rabens suggested they use their hands and feet. A game they called "Pretzel" took shape.

Early timeline[edit]

In 1964 Guyer and Foley 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 1965, Sears Roebuck told Milton Bradley they would not market the game. In December, Taft called Guyer to say Milton Bradley was discontinuing the product because it was too risque. On May 3rd 1966, Taft, knowing that a P.R. firm had already arranged for Twister to be played on The Tonight Show, went to watch Eva Gabor entice Johnny Carson to play the game. The next day, dozens of people were lined up at the Abercrombie and Fitch store in Manhattan where there were a few early games available. Taft called Guyer to say Milton Bradley had reconsidered.[10]

In 1967 Twister was named the "Game of the Year".[who?] With this success, Guyer offered Foley and Raabens a chance to run their new toy and game development division. However, they had already arranged to form their own company with an outside investor. Subsequently, they threatened to sue Guyer and his father. 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, Guyer's name was omitted because "people being the players'" was not one of the patent claim. Guyer remains the owner of the trademark.

In 1985 Hasbro acquired the Milton Bradley Company, becoming Twister's parent company.[11] 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.
  • 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.[12]

As a phenomenon[edit]

Pop singer Britney Spears promoting an exclusive version of the game in 2012[13]

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".[14] Being one of the earliest toy fads and a "national craze for a short time,"[14] 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."[15]


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."[16] 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.[17]

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.

Buzz and Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket cheerleaders playing Twister using the floor of Alexander Memorial Coliseum

Use in fundraising[edit]

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[citation needed]. 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[18] and to completely blind individuals.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Musician "Weird Al" Yankovic has a song "Twister" on his Even Worse album about the board game, done in a style parody of 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.
  • 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.



  1. ^ "Who Invented Twister?", The Twister Homepage.
  2. ^ Twister History,
  3. ^ Polizzi, Rick, and Fred Schaefer. Spin Again, Board Games From the Fifties and Sixties. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1991. 116-117.
  4. ^ Asakawa, Gil and Rucker, Leland. The Toy Book. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992. 178-179.
  5. ^ "Famous Dyslexics: Reyn Guyer, Inventor of Twister and Nerf". 
  6. ^ Bellis, Mary. "Twister: The game that ties you up in knots". 
  7. ^ Huppert, Boyd. "Inventor of Twister still amazed by game's success". 
  8. ^ Hoffman, David. Kid stuff, great toys from our childhood. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996.
  9. ^ "How we made Twister". The Guardian. 24 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Twister". 
  11. ^ "Milton Bradley". 
  12. ^ "Twister inventor dies aged 82". The Guardian. 12 July 2013. 
  13. ^ Catarinella, Alex (2012-04-12). "Britney Spears Looks Amazing In $20,000 Bra". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ Peterson, Simkus
  16. ^ Carrington at al.
  17. ^[better source needed]
  18. ^ Amanda Elizabeth Hatch (4 December 2008). "Twister: New and Improved: Making the game accessible to all" (pdf). Retrieved 13 December 2009. So, how do you make the game 'color-blind friendly'? 
  19. ^ Loretta White (Fall 2008). "How to Adapt Milton Bradley's "Twister" Game". Future Reflections 27 (4). National Federation for the Blind. Retrieved 13 December 2009. 

External links[edit]