Archive for the 'Toys and Games' Category

Furbys

It has been said that in the future robots will surpass human intelligence and take over the world. If that does happen in years from now, the first evolutional step in that process was the Furby.

Whilst the creepy critter couldn’t actually rise up and overthrow the human race, it did something much worse. They made kids grow affectionate towards them and go crazy to have one of these weird little owl and hamster offspring.

They burst onto the scene in 1998 in the United States and people had to have them, but not just children, grown adults too. Not content with being able to have babies and pets they needed a furry electronic toy in their lives and in the beginning they were selling for well over $100 before they arrived on our shores.

Furbys didn’t do a lot, just muttered their own language Furbish to the user when they interacted with it, or could communicate with fellow Furbys via infrared. They could move their mouth and eyes and would gradually “learn” English as they got older. And the worst thing was you couldn’t turn them off and they wouldn’t shut up unless you removed their batteries as they whined to be fed or played with. High-maintainence or what?

But they became a craze, and my little sister got one for Christmas. All I heard that day was strange noises as the Furby tried to be the centre of attention. Like many others it creeped me out, and a few months later my dog decided to intervene and finish the robot off. However it proceeded to eat my sister’s birthday cake shaped like a Furby rather than the real deal, and received no praise from anyone for its useless attempt at ending the reign of terror.

It wasn’t just the canine community who were sceptical. A myth spread that they could repeat words and phrases said around them and several American intelligence agencies banned them. Seems ironic that they were that bothered about intelligence when two years later they elected an IQ-devoid George Bush as their president.

Fortunately as with all crazes they died out, but as they were an electronic toy they could affectively live on forever. Over the past few years there have been many efforts to rid the world of these pests, such as microwaving them, setting them on fire, attaching them to a rocket or most worryingly death by drill.

With Furbys being relaunched a couple of years ago bigger then before, perhaps this evolution is indeed happening, and I applaud all those geeks on the frontline who are brutally destroying these monsters and thus preventing “iRobot” and “The Terminator” from happening. They may be our only hope.

P.S. If you want to stop cruelty to Furbys, apart from having your head seeing to, head here to adopt one.

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Sega Mega Drive

The Sega Mega Drive is to games consoles in the 90s as George Best was to football 30 year previously. Video gaming and football were obviously around before them but once they appeared on the scene the future would change forever.

The best piece of black plastic since Michael Jackson, the Mega Drive revived Sega’s fortunes in the marketplace and with some cracking games released during its eight year production its popularity lasts until today.

After the Sega Master System had been overtaken by the Super Nintendo in the late 80s, Sega realised that they had to produce a 16 bit fourth generation console to keep up. It was launched in North America as the Sega Genesis but when it arrived on our shores in November 1990 the Mega Drive was born.

The Mega Drive II followed soon after with a few tweaks making it the best console around. Add-ons would follow such as the Mega CD but even when Sega developed the Sega Saturn in 1998 it was still outsold by its older brother which went on to sell 29 million units worldwide.

With its simple design there was very little that could go wrong, but if it started playing up a simple blow into the port to force any dust out was more than necessary. However there was a glitch where if you gave it a good kick whilst you were getting destroyed on a game it would freeze, ending any torture early.

And there were plenty of classic games to play on it once you’d plugged it in and heard the classic Segaaaaa noise. I am still partial to a few games of World Cup Italia 90 and as mentioned elsewhere in this blog still bash buttons on Sonic the Hedgehog which was a worldwide smash hit.

Micro Machines was another favourite of mine due to the fact that you could plug an extra couple of controllers into the cartridge itself for four player gaming. Streets Of Rage was also a cool platform game, and I used to love messing around on Tazmania and Dizzy The Egg too.

Whilst all my mates are purring over their fancy PS3s or Xbox 360s, I still can’t resist the urge to set up my Mega Drive from time to time and kick some virtual ass on Street Fighter, safe in the knowledge that I’m playing the coolest console ever for a few hours. Well, dust permitting anyway…

Tracy Island

In 1992 the BBC relaunched Thunderbirds which would bring the 1960s classic puppet show to a new generation. Myself and many others loved it so much that we wanted to recreate the exciting adventures in our own bedrooms.

The demand for Thunderbirds toys was huge and in the lead up to Christmas ’92 a set of the Thunderbirds aircraft were launched along with a Tracy Island playset, International Rescue’s secret headquarters, and became the must-have toys of the year.

I was lucky enough to be given a set of the Thunderbirds that Christmas and after running around my nan’s house with Thunderbird 2 all day, I managed to lose Thunderbird 4 as it was the smallest. This really was a mission for the Tracy family and Brains to solve.

I threw a temper tantrum and caused all the adults enjoying their Christmas Day to scurry around searching high and low for the yellow submarine. After crying so much I fell asleep, and woke an hour later to find it wrapped up in my jumper and Thunderbirds were go once again.

This was nothing compared to the tears that parents across the land were faced with if they failed to track down a Tracy Island playset. They became very sought after and sold out quickly. But instead of Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon or John coming to rescue, the nation was saved by an unlikely heroine in the shape of Anthea Turner.

Turner was presenting Blue Peter at the time and set about her biggest “make” of all time, creating an identical version of the island out of household items and papier mache. Whereas in theory this sounds awful as Tracy Island had allsorts of gadgets such as retractable swimming pools and launch pads, she did a damn good job of it:

You could hear the collective sighs of relief after the show, but then more problems arrived. Demand was so high for the factsheet that it became rare itself, and the BBC even released a video that had the instructions on it. Plant pot sales across the land shot up like Thunderbird 1 itself and the crisis was averted.

My folks didn’t bother knowing that within five minutes Thunderbird 3 would have crash landed on the island and made a huge crater in the papier mache rock face such was my love of destruction, but thanks to Anthea and her endless supply of toilet rolls Christmas Day was saved. F.A.B. indeed.

Yo-yos

They say everything comes back around and in the late 90s the yoyo did return to the playgrounds of Britain, but unlike when my mum and dad’s generation were fascinated by them going up and down a piece of string, we took it to the next level.

Our technologically advanced toys could do allsorts of wonderful things, and with the addition of ball-bearings (don’t ask me how) they could spin longer, meaning that everyone had a yoyo trick up their sleeve.

Walking The Dog, Cat’s Cradle and Around The World were all popular moves in my school and I was even given a video by my grandad teaching me all these amazing and wonderful skills. But I had trouble myself just getting the spool back up the string again, let alone anything a bit more impressive.

I practiced in my bedroom alone at night, getting more and more frustrated at my inability to perform even the most basic of tricks. I would wake up and fret about the fact that I would be shown up by much younger kids in the playground and that my Sleeper would fail just like Chelsea’s attempts to win the Champions League.

And then there were the yoyos themselves. Whilst mine had cost a couple of quid at my local market and looked cool as it has little LED lights in it, my mates were investing in Proyos, something my weekly £1.50 pocket money just couldn’t stretch to.

Proyos were the royalty of the yo-yoing community and its king was a man who legally changed his name to Yo-Hans. This guy was a god to some of my friends for the outrageous things he could do with his particular equipment but to me he was just an idiot who spent too much time playing with kid’s toys, a bit like Tony Hawk.

Maybe I was jealous as my yoyo spent more time on the floor than Didier Drogba, and I soon gave up yo-yoing and left the others to it. Thankfully they died out after about a year and no-one has ever picked one up since, well apart from Yo-Hans.

I heard a rumour that they are on their way back in the very near future and if so I am staying well away from this craze again. Just like juggling, badminton or anything else that needs co-ordination, yo-yoing just isn’t for me.

Sony Playstation

Its advertising campaign told us not to underestimate the power of Playstation, and we didn’t. In my eyes, the chunky grey console is the greatest, because EVERYONE had one.

Nowadays it’s Xbox 360 vs. the PS3 but when Sony launched its first console in the UK in 1995 it would still come up against the Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast. But even if someone bought one of those, they would still have a Playstation.

My best mate was one of the first to have one and I used to beg my mum to go round his house after school for tea because I knew that we would have epic sessions on Actua Soccer or International Track and Field. I was glued to it as the graphics at the time were so superior compared to the Super Nintento I’d been used to.

Then Playstation finally entered the Rogers household when my dad decided he wanted one for his birthday. The day he opened it was a momentous day and we played on Gran Turismo all day, it wasn’t just a gift for him – it was for all of us. Playstation had crossed the boundary from games consoles being designed for children and teenagers as adults wanted to play on it too.

But the problem was that my sisters wanted to play too, and we had to share time on it. I was fortunate enough to find a £20 note lying on the floor in town one day, and even though I saw the old lady drop it I pocketed it and bought myself World Cup 98.

Unfortunately there was no change left over to buy a memory card so for months I tried to win the tournament in the hour I was given, only for one of my sisters to turn it off and all hell break loose.

Eventually I finally got my own and I’d spend countless happy hours in my room playing WWF Smackdown 2, FIFA 2000 and V Rally 2. Throw in the cheat books, demo disks and multitap gaming against your mates and the Playstation was the complete gaming experience.

Ultimately the PS2 came along and everyone moved with the times, but the Playstation had done its job. But the funny thing is now that even though PS3 has followed, I haven’t. I still love my PS2 and I love my Playstation games even more. After selling them off years ago I find myself raiding Ebay for the classics to regain the pleasures I used to have.

You can keep your online gaming, headset chatting and realistic graphics, give me a Playstation, a controller and a copy of Abe’s Odyssey and I’ll show you a good time. Just don’t forget the memory card…

Tamagotchis

We all had the conversation with our folks at one point, “Mum, can we get a (delete as necessary) cat/dog/rabbit/chipmunk/giraffe/penguin?”, to which you would probably have your request rejected and no pet to play with. Then Tamagotchis entered out lives and you finally had that furry friend to care for.

Ok so it wasn’t furry, just a pixilated version of the particular creature you fancied, but you could still feed it, wash it, play with it, educate it and even give it injections. I think I first learnt what an overdose was after Day 1 with my Tamagotchi, the poor little guy just couldn’t handle the amount of inoculations I forced upon him.

I was skeptical of this craze to start; it just got out of hand. Girls in our school would be caring for their pets during lessons and then burst into floods of tears when their virtual friend snuffed it. Being the pragmatist that I am, I just couldn’t get past the fact that you could just start again seconds later by pressing the reset button.

There were even rumours that some kids in my school took a day off to grieve once little Oscar the digital dog stopped running around after his bone, and once the inevitable banning of the cyber pets hit my classmates they would find a Tamagotchi sitter to ensure their little friend was safe and sound during school hours.

Having two cats and a dog myself I didn’t see the need for a fake animal in my life. But then during the build up to France 98 I was suckered into purchasing anything that had the logo on it as I got excited for the upcoming tournament. Lo and behold I found myself adopting a virtual Footix, the mascot of the tournament.

Footix was a cockerel and like all Tamagotchis he needed all the usual TLC, but he could be taught football skills and could also fly. This blew my mind and I went about making him into the best football-playing cock ever, yes even including Michael Owen.

My poor cats and dogs would feel my neglect and I’m sure one of my cats Maggie tried to attack it once, but Footix was safe in his plastic shell kicking his ball around. Then came the football tournament itself and I got so wrapped up in it I couldn’t give two hoots that my cockerel was dead.

And that was the end of my flirtation with the Japanese craze, but I do miss teaching my pet football skills, as my cats just never quite got the hang of it

PS: If you stil have a Tamagotchi craving, head here. Enjoy!

Pogs

Never before has cardboard caused so many arguments. Pogs were a playground craze during the mid 90s where competitors would stack brightly coloured cardboard discs and using a plastic “kini” attempt to knock down the tower and flip the discs over.

With such a simple concept and also pocket money friendly the game took off big time. There were many different designs meaning you could also collect the discs, with the ones featuring Pogman being the most valuable. Whilst all this sounds fun and simple enough, it was when fans started playing for “keeps” that all hell would break loose.

“Keeps” was when players would agree that however many Pogs were flipped over would be kept by that person, meaning that if you were a poor player you could have your whole collection taken off you by a Pog hustler in a few games. I was a prime example on my housing estate, looking for weaker players to beat to boost my stack.

This mild form of gambling was frowned upon in the States, but here in Britain the real problem was the verbal or physical confrontations that often followed a game of Pogs. You could tell who had been playing in school because their face would be stained by the tears of losing their prized collection, or mugged as they’d tried to collect their winnings.

Controversy also occurred in my estate thanks to my attempt to bend the rules. I invested in a metal kini called a Shredder which was so effective it could flip over a stack of 10 Pogs with ease. It was the equivalent of me hitting a golf ball with a driver and someone else using a baguette. Involved in a couple of scrapes myself, the Shredder was banned and I went back to hunting down my poor Pog player prey.

At the height of their popularity I bought myself a Pog maker, where you could cut out pictures from magazines and stick them onto a piece of cardboard, meaning I could make entire collections featuring Newcastle United or the Welsh rugby team.

But as my passion for the stars on these discs developed, my interest in the game decreased and Pogs died out just as quickly as they arrived on the scene, and never to be remembered for the great game that it was but the incredible amount of playground degeneration that it caused.


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About me

Hi I'm Jonny, creator of this blog. Like most people in my generation, I feel that the 90s were indeed an epic decade and this is my tribute to all the things that made it great!