Blast From the Past: '90s Toys
by Daniel Zhou | published Dec. 29th, 2015
We were exposed to a lot of media while growing up: video games, books, movies, television shows and toys. Some of the most popular toys — Tamagotchis, Beanie Babies, Hot Wheels, Pokemon Cards and the Rubik’s Cube — were influential to the childhoods of many people.
Tamagotchis, first sold by Bandai in 1996, were a handheld virtual pet simulation game. The pets have three basic meters that all owners must keep an eye on: the hunger meter, the happy meter and the discipline meter. The hunger meter can be filled by feeding the pet, the happy meter can be filled by playing mini games with it or feeding it and the discipline meter can be filled by pressing the scold option when it refuses to play or be fed. The pet also needs to go to the bathroom, be cured from sicknesses and go to sleep.
Tamagotchis were especially popular with children, as they encouraged responsibility and nurturing behavior. They were also popular among teenagers and adults, as it gave them an idea of what it would be like to take care of children or pets. There is even a new version with a myriad of added features.
Beanie Babies are a line of stuffed animals made by Ty, Inc., starting in 1991. There were originally nine Beanie Babies; that number has now grown to over 2,000 different stuffed animals . All Beanie Babies have a heart shaped tag at the top and a fabric “tush tag” at the bottom. The tags also include four-line poems related to the Beanie Baby and the date of birth for the toy.
“I used to collect Beanie Babies in my childhood,” said Siobhain Page, a second year Interior Design major. “My aunt collected Beanie Babies, so I started to do it also. I had 20 to 30 Beanie Babies at one point. I stopped collecting Beanie Babies when I grew older. However, I still have a little giraffe Beanie Baby keychain on my backpack.”
Ty, Inc. had a strategy of deliberately making Beanie Babies scarce and regularly retiring Beanie Baby designs, which increased their popularity and value immensely.
“My siblings and I were usually very territorial about our belongings while growing up,” said Greg Carrobis, a third year Game Design and Development major. “However, when it came to Beanie Babies, we didn’t fight over who owned which Beanie Babies, we just collected them. We used to put on puppet shows all time using Beanie Babies as the actors.”
Hot Wheels is a brand of to-scale die-cast toy cars — usually models of automobiles from major manufacturers, including Chevrolet, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and more — introduced by Mattel in 1968. Their scale ranges from 1:18 to 1:64. For example, 1 inch on a Hot Wheels car would equate to 64 inches in on the real automobile. Hot Wheels were originally intended to be made for children and teenagers, but became popular with adult collectors because of limited edition models.
Pokémon cards are part of the Pokemon trading card game, which is a collectible card game based on the Pokémon video game series, currently published by Nintendo. Players pretend to be a Pokémon trainer, use Pokémon to battle and use the Pokémon's attacks to reduce the opponent’s hit points (HP).
There are three types of Pokémon cards: Basic Pokémon, Stage 2 Pokémon and Stage 3 Pokémon. Basic Pokémon can be played immediately onto the field, while higher stage Pokémon can only be played when the corresponding Basic or Stage 1 Pokémon is on the field already. Energy cards are attached to Pokémon to provide added benefits. Trainer cards help remove some of the damage Pokémon have taken, remove energy from the opponent’s Pokémon or revive Pokémon that had been reduced to zero HP.
Pokémon cards were mainly marketed toward the people that had seen the Pokémon anime and/or played the video games before.
“I initially didn’t know how to play the Pokémon card game," Carobbis said. "But I liked Pokémon cards and collectible card games because my dad used to play 'Magic: The Gathering.' My neighbor had Pokémon cards, so we first got them from him. We made up our own rules on how to play. In fact, I was exposed to the card game first, before the Pokemon video game series.”
The Rubik’s Cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and professor Erno Rubik in 1974. It is a three-dimensional combination puzzle in which each face is covered by nine colored stickers; these colors are blue, orange, white, green, yellow and red. To solve the puzzle, each face of the Rubik’s cube must have all of its stickers be one color. The puzzle has remained an increasing source of frustration for some people.
“My dad got me into playing with the Rubik’s Cube,” remarked Page. “I always messed around with it and played until high school, but could never figure out how to solve it. I quit trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube when my friends in high school solved it before I did.”
To date, 350 million Rubik’s Cubes have been sold. The Rubik’s Cube has had a profound impact; Speedcubers, who solve twisty puzzles as fast as possible, come together to hold competitions and develop new methods to solve the Rubik’s Cube. The fastest time the Rubik’s Cube has been solved is 5.25 seconds. There is even an organization called The World Cube Association, started in 2003, that organizes Rubik’s Cube Competitions.
All of these toys can still be bought, collected and played with today. We will always have good memories any time we see somebody play with a Tamagotchi or Pokémon Cards, and reminisce over the fact that just a few years ago we were also playing with them.