We all have a certain way we remember our beloved childhood treasures…of course things were awesome back in our day, how could kids today even fathom the awesomeness of the console wars, Saturday morning cartoons, and the toys and pop culture items that tied into them?
Well today we’re going to take a more harsh look at just how awesome some of this stuff really was. Now don’t get me wrong I’ve been a Nintendo fan boy since that christmas I first got my action set but I’m also objective enough to know that a large number of the hundreds of NES cartridges I have proudly displayed on my shelves are not the gold I remembered them to be.
I’m going to stray a little from just talking about video games…as any kid from the 80s knows, the pop culture was tied into everything: the shows, movies, toys and obviously video games so it’s hard to talk about 80s nostalgia without taking it all into consideration. So let’s get started!
First up: Saturday morning
I remember having this conversation with a few friends in regards to today’s kids shows being more focused on “edutainment” where in our day in the 80s cartoons were just half hour commercials for action figures.
Looking back I remember watching G.I Joe, He-Man, Transformers, TMNT, M.A.S.K, etc and I sure had a lot of action figures from these shows, not really a coincidence though, these shows knew exactly what they were doing. They would get you hyped about the show and every commercial break usually had at least one for the figures from the show and as kids are want to do…you drive your parents nuts until they bought them for you.
Parents definitely had their wallets reached into as there was always multiple figures, vehicles, buildings, accessories, mail in’s, etc. Transformers even had a war to kill off characters just in time to release a new series just in time for Christmas…well played Mattel.
There’s still toys made to go along with popular kids shows today but aren’t marketed as hard as they were in the 80s, back then there seemed to be an attitude amongst toy companies that these cartoons were a license to print money, and they were right. Many of these toys from yesteryear are so well remembered they continue to be highly collectable today…now I wish I hadn’t sold all my ninja turtles for that NES game I just had to have.
Wait what’s that? I hear you thinking “Drew…you’re crazy brother…action figures were awesome..give your head a shake”. But were they really that awesome? The kid in the picture seems to be having a blast because he has a mad set of figures there and both castles, I see a battle cat in there, etc but that was the problem unless you had all of them you couldn’t always play out you favourite show, who is He-Man going to fight if you don’t have Skeletor? Cobra Commander? Mumm Ra?
No, you needed to collect them all and that meant you needed money. Now when I was an 8 year old kid I didn’t have a job so there went just buying them myself so the only other viable route was to clearly hit up my parents. Now at 8 I knew nothing about how money worked either so you’d ask for a laundry list of figures but as parents understood money would buy you what they could afford so you’d slowly build up a collection.
Next problem was you needed the vehicles, G.I Joe looks a lot less tough using Jem’s roadster to launch an armored attack on Cobra headquarters. So you would have to wait until things like your birthday or Christmas to scoop up the good vehicles because again parents were all like “these ain’t free”.
Plus you couldn’t just have one, Hasbro made sure there were plenty of vehicles and bases to collect. So as awesome as action figures are unless you were rich you probably didn’t have a full set of any of your favourite figures. There were also the send away items that required points and money and the only way to get points was to buy figures and vehicles so the cycle begins again and of course the mail in figures were always the coolest so you had to have them so if you were not able to get them it was a huge dissapointment.
So really action figures were just designed to make you drive your parents insane so you could collect them all…and they succeeded…mostly I never did get this under the Christmas tree:
Damn you Santa..
Oh yeah…remember these? You’d go down to the store with your allowance and grab a few packs of cards, you take them home and open them up, take out your checklist card and discover you got 8 more doubles and 2 cards you could use.
Anyone need a 5th Steve the Tramp?
You tried to trade them with friends but they were missing the same cards you were and if someone had it they weren’t about to trade it so back to the store to try again and again and again until you eventually gave up because you were always a few cards short of a set.
They made these cards for everything too: TV shows, movies, music, cartoons and the various comedic things like Garbage pail kids. So if you wanted to collect more than one kind you had to spend a ton to buy packs for everything and now you have piles of doubles nobody wants.
These cards have remained somewhat collectable but are usually only sought after in complete sets, sealed packs or boxes so even today nobody wants my Steve the Tramp doubles.
And because this is a video game blog…let’s get to our final contestant!!
The thing so many of us look back on with the most fondness…our old video games, they sure were awesome! It was like having your own arcade at home! I remember spending countless hours playing nintendo…so awesome, or was it?
We all know there’s some incredible games that came out in the 80s and 90s but let’s be real you know there’s more than a few stinkers in there that somehow slipped past Nintendo’s rigorous seal of approval system because you know…money and stuff. So a lot of what we got are games that were not always complete, buggy, glitchy, frustrating pieces of shit stuck inside a grey plastic cartridge.
As a kid you usually had to ask for games for birthdays, etc as games were expensive and nothing would ruin a kids birthday faster than cracking open a copy of Friday the 13th, Fester’s quest or Kid Kool, popping it in the NES only to find out it was a steaming pile of 8 bit shit.
Maybe you had the local video store where you could test out games before you bought them but sometimes parents just got suckered in because the sales guy at sears said everyone is buying Jaws for NES not Mario 3 this Christmas so you got a mediocre game that you had to occupy yourself with until your next birthday or holiday unless you could trick a friend into a trade, but then you’d be short a friend once they realized how much it sucks and that they just got screwed and depending on what they traded you, you may have exchanged one lemon for another.
A lot of times too your only reference for deciding to buy if it wasn’t for rent at your local store was the 3 screen shots on the box, the box art and the biased reviews in Nintendo Power. Sometimes you just had to wing it because it wasn’t like you could just pull out your smartphone and look up reviews so sometimes even if everything looked cool you could still get a dud.
I remember doing it with Renegade, it looked awesome from the box art and screen shots, I remembered it being fun in the arcade…and all I can say is I was lucky enough to be able to return it and fortunately my 2nd attempt at winging it did pay off as I ended up with a game I had never seen before but turned out to be awesome: River City Ransom.
So the collectability of old games is clearly going strong but we all know we have maybe 30-40 games we actually like and the others get checked to see if they work, go on a shelf and stay there because we know they stink but still need them for the collection.
Well this is all just my opinion, I still love all things retro but it’s good once and a while to take the rose colored glasses of nostalgia off and step back to actually take a hard look at how actually awesome these things are versus the way I remembered them as a kid. Not everything is as awesome as it once was but that hasn’t stopped me from collecting them anyway ha ha! At the very least it’s something cool to show the kids one day so they can see all the weird stuff the old man was into back in his day.
But seriously anyone need a Steve the Tramp card?