The Electric Grapevine | The Toys Go Winding Down | 12.07.09

Nik Green
By Nik Green
December 8th, 2009

In making the rounds scoping out Christmas gifts I’ve noticed a distinct drop in the quality of children’s toys since I used to play with them. With all the littering laws and fines in place, why isn’t anyone governing the quality of the garbage some of these toy manufacturers put out these days. I picked up a G.I. Joe figurine the other day and thought to myself, “Nah, these couldn’t have been this shoddy back then,” and figured maybe my hindsight was messing with me.

I went online (OK, fine I went to my closet) and looked at some of the toys from back in the day. I realized I wasn’t mistaken. The ‘Kung Fu’ grip has been replaced by the cheap plastic of the toy simply melting under the warmth of its user’s hands and forming a ‘grip’ around its weapon accessory. When did regular, pricey toys start to have the build quality of a Kinder Egg inclusion? Should they now be called, ‘The Real Malaysian Heroes’?

When I used to drive my toy cars around, even at age 8, I could differentiate between the realistic proportions and characteristics of Matchbox cars as opposed to the poorly made Hot Wheels counterparts. To me this was, and is really just a metaphor for real cars. Imports are, and always will be, better than American cars because Americans simply can’t build cars – be it real or of the toy variety.

Hot Wheels had the flared out, over sized tires at the back that would easily eject from the toy if pressure was applied to the roof while driving around. Matchbox actually had suspension that would articulate on each individual wheel. These kinds of steps backwards make me wonder how companies are allowed to fill our landfills with these awful toys that will last until Boxing Day at best. Many of mine are still intact, and will be for years to come. I highly doubt that today’s incarnations will be around anywhere near that long.

Being an avid video gamer since the dawn of the industry has shown me that companies are willing to slap any franchise title on a barely finished game and rip-off the public with it nowadays. The latest edition of NBA Live is literally not finished. Players are on incorrect teams. Options are missing or don’t work, and the game is altogether incomplete. I’m mad, but I can only imagine the disappointment a younger one would feel if they’d been given, or worse yet paid, 70 bucks for this atrocious effort.

Change is inevitable, but making trash can be stopped. Skip the Hot Wheels, spring for a Matchbox car and by all means read video game reviews from sources such as IGN or Gamespot. The visit could save you 70 bucks and blacklisting con artists such Electronic Arts will teach them they can’t shelve half finished products. The recent losses and job cuts by the mega gaming company has shown that maybe we are catching on to their ways.

The change in times is also evident in comic books. My personal hero Archie is no longer the same meek character he once was. An issue (albeit special edition) that I flipped through at the check out recently had a polyamorous Archie sporting bigger biceps and washboard abs, looking more like Fight Club era Brad Pitt than the redhead we know and love. Veronica was slamming him for a Facebook photo of him and Betty that he’d been tagged in over the weekend. Reggie was under investigation for being a coke dealer and Jughead was shunned out of the community due to his eating disorder and addiction to Paxil. This isn’t your grandfathers’ Riverdale.

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