Being a kid was fucking great. Of course, the irony of it is that you only truly appreciate how awesome it was when you grow up and find yourself wishing you could still be 10. I’ve been watching the videos of The Nostalgia Critic and it’s got me all in-the-mood for doing another (see my first) trip down memory lane post to bring you some of the “Man I wish I could still do that” thoughts that have been whizzing ’round the old noggin. So with that in mind, I bring you my top 5 toys/games/activities from my childhood.
5 – Rope swings.
Man, I loved these things… I still come over all childish inside when I see one, even if I am too fat to consider having a go. I don’t know if it was the added danger of using one or the sense of achievement I got from building one but what i do know is, I whiled away many a summer day dangling from a rope and any gripable (is that a word?) object I saw fit to affix to it and in the process leaving my hands so friction-burned that they were useless for a couple of days after. I think the reason that rope swings have made it into this list is that, when I lived in Canada, I had a tyre swing in my back garden and from what I can remember it was a beast… or maybe I was just really small.
4. TV and Movie inspired action figures.
I couldn’t name one particular franchise here because I had a sizable collection of several. He-Man, Ghostbusters, GI Joe and Batman were all there and all equally awesome. The action figure market has gone down the crapper in recent years, mainly because of video games but from what I remember, nothing was more fun than seeing a new movie or watching the latest episode of a treasured cartoon series and then re-enacting your own version with the sweet figures, minus all the bits you found boring, of course. What I wouldn’t give for a full set of good condition figures from any one of the franchises mentioned above… I can almost smell the plastic and taste those sharp, jagged choking hazards. Another thing thing was, I was never spoiled as a kid. I rarely got any of the bigger toys like vehicles or big bases so there was a lot of crossover. For example; the GhostBusters had to move from their dilapidated downtown NYC base and time share with the fellas at the MASK gas station. It was all good though, I made do with the figures… after all, they were the essence of the whole thing.
Any child of the 80s, any boy at least, can’t help but have made the action figure an important cornerstone in his play regime. These were times when imagination was still a pre-requisite to play time not the turn on XBox, turn off brain routine of today. After all, there were no mobiles, no Internet and very few video games. That brings me, conveniently on to the next item on my play thing hall of fame…
3 – The NES and SNES
I knew some people who had Sega consoles; the Master System and later the Genesis (MegaDrive) and i used to join in the button bashing with them but deep down I pitied them. They needed Nintendo in their lives, even if they didn’t know it. You see, back then any franchised release would be available on both consoles anyway, but Nintendo had Mario, simply the finest platform game series ever released. I so whole-heartedly believe this that I still, to this day, own a NES with Super Mario Bros. 3. It was the release of SuperMario Bros. All Stars on the SNES that helped to bolster that console’s place in my heart as the best games console ever made… that and Street Fighter II Turbo. Year 7 and 8 saw me and my buddy, Brahn hadouken the living crap out of each other nearly every school night amidst microwave pizzas and coca-cola.
I’m truly lucky to have been born when I was. A few years earlier or later and I might well have missed the boat. And what a fantastic boat it is.
I’ve had consoles since but none of them have measured up to the amount of enjoyment that Nintendo’s first two consoles gave me. Modern consoles have lost their just-for-fun persona and have become all business… but that’s for another time.
2 – A Bike
This one seems super-obvious but I can imagine it is easily overlooked. It was more often than not a means to an end, a route to the fun rather than the fun itself but I can’t ignore the fact that childhood would have sucked something awful if I didn’t have a bike. As well as featuring as my second most loved childhood possession, my bike was also the source of 90% of my childhood injuries. Although I was lucky enough to have avoided serious harm, I’m pretty sure that every week I used my bike I gained at least one new cut, bruise, scrape or sprain. None of that mattered though, I was always right back on it for another adventure.
That only leaves the top spot left and make no mistake, this one is the winner by a long long way. I know I’m not alone in naming my number one childhood pastime as simply the greatest toy that ever was, or ever will be…
1 – Lego
If there was ever a toy that could truly lay claim to “the only limit is your imagination” it was Lego. Brick by multi-coloured brick Lego never failed to entertain. Even if I had no final idea of what I wanted to build, I found myself piecing together something. House, castle, car, spaceship, tank or, simply, sculpture; Lego was never the same toy twice and therein lies the key to it’s success. It is all things to all kids. In fact, I can only think of one realistic downside to Lego. I find myself thinking of those Indian Yoga masters who can casually walk across hot coals, or the Shaolin monks who can balance on the end of a spear-tip and thinking; “That’s nothing. If they can walk, barefoot across a wood floor covered in Lego without screaming, then I’ll be impressed.”
Something is rotten in Denmark though, you see Lego has taken a turn for the worse in recent years and it may take a trip to the toy store for you to see what I mean. When I was growing up, the Lego was basic. Bricks of varying sizes, the odd sloped bit, some wheels, doors, windows and little men. There were very few pieces that were bespoke to any particular kit. Today that is sadly not the case. Many Lego kits now contain pieces that are not only bespoke to that kit, but are basically just one big piece that takes away a vast amount of skill (and fun) from building whatever it is. Huge pieces that comprise pretty much the entire bodywork of a car or large portions of a plane fuselage are not what Lego is about.
From what I’ve seen recently though, there is hope. Basic brick kits are re-emerging in toy stores and slowly muscling their way back into the hands of young builders just a few moon bases, space ships and tanks away from re-writing this very article in 20 years time… An article I’m looking forward to reading.
So there you have it. 5 things that my childhood could not have done without. I’d love to hear what your thoughts on this list are. What items or pastimes kept you out of trouble (or got you into it for that matter)?