There has always been a trend with kids toys to sell something that looks awesome either on paper or in a television advert but once you get the actual thing, it’s, well, utter crap. Bigtrak was probably the one offender that sticks in my mind from my youth. Now I never had a Bigtrak, but from what I can tell, if you were lucky enough to come downstairs on Christmas day to find the computerised all terrain track laying vehicle wrapped up and under the Christmas tree, your visions of programming it to do all sorts of exciting things would descend into the reality of pressing some buttons for an intermidable period of time, only to see the thing fail to move due to the depth of the shagpile carpet your parents inexplicably thought was a good idea at the time.
My own “Bigtrak” came in the form of Gore the Lord Protector. Gore the Lord Protector was part of the Zoid range of build it yourself robot animals/dinosaurs that may have had their own cartoon but definitely looked really cool in the adverts that ITV had on incessantly in the run up to Christmas. I remember the excitement of waking up on Christmas morning and spending a couple of hours building Gore the Lord Protector, only to see it move apathetically on the spot due to it’s pathetically weak motors and general poor design. What was worse, unlike my funky Action Force (the UK branding for GI Joe) toys, it wasn’t really possible to play with Gore the Lord Protector. After some umming and arring, I took the thing to bits entirely and then rebuilt it because that was really all it was good for.
Gore the Lord Protector was a crap toy and in the however many years since I found that out, there are now so many more crap toys out there to con kids out of enjoyment. A lot of them seem specifically aimed at girls; either that or Fifi has an uncanny ability to fall under the influence of their advertisements. Why have a soft toy that you can play with when you can get a hard battery powered puppy that can sort of ride a battery operated skate board? Why have a nice doll that you can dress in a variety of clothes when you can have an oddly shaped one that crawls like something from a Japanese horror movie?
It’s like there is a special ops department in every toy makers creative department that devises a cunning advertisement that cannot help but ensnare the young and then, as an afterthought, they have a quick chat to product design over a coffee and some piece of tat is churned out that is destined to get played with a lot on Christmas Day but will never see the light of day afterwards.
This is a different sort of Christmas tat to the likes of Bigtrak or Gore the Lord Protector in a sense because back then we were oversold the abilities of our toys dramatically. Now days we’re just sold stuff that looks good in an advert but is so limited in it’s functionality that it’s almost impossible to play with. The trick is talking the kids out of wanting something that is in essence an anti-toy and convincing them that they’d like something that they can actually play with…