Could Video Games Ruin Toys?

Toy Fair is a rather large test tube of possible fun. It's been held, in recent years, at the massive glass-walled Jacob Javits centre in New York City, inside which there's a swirl of new toys and that popular foreign substance we love here: video games.

There are many ways in which we can measure the affect of video games on society — for example, exploring whether they cause crimes - so through my eyes as a video game reporter, I see Toy Fair as another place to see whether video games might be ruining a pretty nice thing.

There I was walking down an aisle of people selling sleds and noticing that very few people were in it. This was sad, I thought, and then I wondered: did video games cause this, too?

There aren't any kids at Toy Fair. They'd probably be best to judge whether video games are 100 per cent cooler than toys these days, or just 75 per cent more fun. The people walking down a few miles of rows of new toys are adults - reporters like me and lots of people in charge of stores that sell toys. What they've got to choose from include a lot of video game toys. Really, everywhere I looked, I saw Super Mario.

There are booths full of Teddy Bears, but also a booth full of stuffed Angry Birds. Halo is all over the place too. Mega Bloks Halo. RC-controlled Halo. Halo action figures. Video games are a draw. The card game people at Fundex had theta Tetris Card Game stand front and centre. The people who make the Scene It games were hooking people with a new Plants Vs Zombies board game. Yes, any game could be turned into a toy, and plenty of toy people seemed ready to jump on board.

At Toy Fair I was feeling bad for toys. Hey, if not for video games, I wouldn't have been there. I felt I owed it toys to walk down the sled aisles, maybe power-walk through the stuffed animal ones. I see how toy people are trying to cope. Some are trying to get in on the new tech of video games and gadgets, like the people who made a board game that has room on the board for an iPad. One radio-control-vehicle toy company jumped on the Medal of honour license, of all things.

In some places, I was able to lose sight of video games and see the wonder and potential of toys. I loved the flying blimp fish and the 4D Cityscape puzzles. There are people riffing riffing on Legos in interesting ways, for example… the people doing the LaQ toys (that's the aircraft carrier you see here). The people who are making the luxury edition of Clue probably have a fighting non-video game chance as well.

Around many corners, though, there were the likes of Activision's Skylanders, which are billed as an amalgamation of toy and video game… the Toys R Us president was at an event Friday talking about how excited he was for these "interaction figures." (Sorry, all of you boring action figures out there... your time's up!)

I wanted to say sorry to the toy people. Video games are an ever-rising tide, and I don't want to see the sled-makers get swamped. In my second year attending Toy Fair, however, I saw more video game stuff than ever, and I wondered if toys can really hold out - or if they, like so many other forms of entertainment — are going to be bent by the zeal people have for video games. Good luck resisting video games, toy people.


Comments

    OK, time to say that I'm from the UK and where I live (Leeds) there are at least nine shops in the city centre selling video games (2xGame, GameStation, some new shop, CEX, PC World, Currys, HMV, Argos) and only one shop that sells toys (Argos). And even then, in Argos you have to look through a catalogue and pick out what you want, then go to collect it.

    It's very saddening to see. There used to be quite a big toy shop, part of a chain that went into administration and closed. There also used to be Woolworths which had quite a lot, which also went the same way here in the UK.

    As good as video games are, they'll never replace my memories of playing with Construx and Lego, Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur, all my Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle figures, Thunderbirds matchbox toys and Starcom stuff (how on earth did they get those things to work without batteries?).

    And don't get me started on Micro Machines. Loved those bloody things.

    And my ancient Brio train set.

    And Scalextric.

    And... well, you get the picture.

    If I do ever have kids I'm stocking up on the toys for them before they all end up gone forever.

    Chipping in as a toy collector (Star Wars 3.75 inch, micro machines, Lego and Transformers), I don't think it's gone away at all. Hell, Star Wars has been making the same figures for 30 years and people still buy them. It's not even the same hardcore adult collectors either, I see new blood getting in on the scene (usually brought in via parents).

    Anyone interested in the toy subculture in contemporary society should check out James May's Toy Stories, an amazing documentary series from Captain Slow.

    Hmm, finding a decent Lego set's a bit 'ard 'round here. Decent meaning one of those top shelf Technic sets. I was lucky enough to score the rc bulldozer at t'r'u last year - on sale. I suppose if you don't want to go wandering all over the country to all the little and indy stores there's all ways the Lego online store which bypasses the local warehouse and grabs from the Danish one via Singapore.

    Those 4D Cityscape puzzles look interesting, the Las Vegas one especially considering how often The Strip changes. And the Berlin one must at least feature the Wall in some format.

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