It’s the End of the World as We Know It

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the world that we live in 2017 feels a lot more stressful than it did around this time 12 months ago. Here in the United States, the news seems to just get worse and worse with each new week. We all have enough to worry about right now, so I won’t recap a lot of the messed up things going on. But I will ask you to go back with me a few weeks, when it was one of those weeks when the current big worry was if North Korea was looking to Nuke some part of the US. Now I realize that this threat is actually not new and continues to be an on-going concern. But it was during this one of these weeks when I found myself in my local grocery store and I glanced at the magazine stand. And there it was, not just one, but two different ‘special edition’ magazines devoted entirely to DOOMSDAY prepping:

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My initial thought was, “This is our world now.” as I shook my head and let out a heavy sigh. That said, I still picked one up, mostly for a laugh. The headline “15,000 Nuclear Warheads WORLDWIDE, How safe are we?” made me cringe. Frankly, if it came something like that, I figure that we are all toast. It amused me to see two different magazines showcasing such fear mongering and portraying an apocalyptic warrior wearing a gas mask with some sort of smoldering ruins in the background. I mean, seriously! Check out these covers and look at the images and fear mongering headlines:

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It all conjures up memories of those awesome dystopian action films in the Mad Max series. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, it follows the adventures of Max Rockatansky, a police officer in a future whose wife and child are murdered by a vicious thugs shortly after societal collapse due to a nuclear war and the survivors have critical resource shortages.

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Max kills those responsible and then becomes a drifting loner in the Wasteland. As Australia devolves further into barbarity, this skilled warrior of the road finds himself helping pockets of civilization, initially for his own self-interest, but his motives always drift into more idealistic ones. The films always featured insane gangs of mutant thugs who would wear armor cobbled together with pieces of scrap metal and other garbage left over from the world before. These gangs would ride in tricked-out vehicles, like pirates roaming the wastelands always looking for their next victims. Gas was always the most prized resource in these movies, for it kept their vehicles running. Water being the other needed resource.

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It makes for some cool fiction, must like the Walking Dead series does. There’s just something very compelling about tales set in a post-apocalyptic world. Fun to watch and interesting to think about, but it is also extremely horrifying to contemplate actually living through such times. We all know about survivalists and doomsday preppers. Those who actively stock up and plan for the end of the world, all with their own various theories about how that end will happen. There has even been at least one reality TV show that I know of that featured such folk. Doomsday Preppers was an American reality television series that aired on the National Geographic Channel.

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The show profiles various survivalists, who are preparing to survive the various circumstances that may cause the end of civilization. The quality of their preparations is graded by the consulting company of survival experts, who provide analysis and recommendations for improvements.

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I had to grab at least one of these magazines, I found myself drawn to all the extreme imagery and found myself laughing as I just flipped through a few pages. If anything, I figured it would be good mocking material for later or maybe serve as a nugget of inspiration for a short story or something. So I threw the magazine in my cart and went on with my shopping.

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Later, I finally got round to looking at the magazine and was floored by how blatant commercial this magazine was. Oh sure, I expected ads. That is always a given. But flipping through the magazine it became very clear that doomsday prepping is a massive industry and some folks are totally cashing in on all of this fear. It’s an industry that’s always been with us. Heck, think about all those who built bomb shelters in their houses during the 50’s and 60’s? But I suspect that there has been something absolutely horrible that recently fueled an increase in this industry, but I just can’t put my finger on what that could be:

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The ads were pretty consistent as they all pitched a product or service that would help you survive through the end of times, this was usually emphasized with an image of some gas mask wearing wasteland warrior near a pile of rubble, must like the covers of these magazines.

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Most of the survival products also came in different varieties, the standard ones having a mostly boring “this is a tool” type of look about them. And then you always had the others, which would be usually in black and have the word “tactical” applied to it. This always gave it the air of it being something more akin to what you’d find in the Call of Duty games:

tacticalgear.JPGOne of the most common items I saw in these magazines and websites was the need for a ‘Bug-Out Bag’. For those not in the know, a Bug-Out Bag or BOB is a portable kit that normally contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster; however some kits are designed to last longer periods. The focus is on evacuation, rather than long-term survival, distinguishing the bug-out bag from a survival kit, a boating or aviation emergency kit, or a fixed-site disaster supplies kit.

 

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A sound idea provided the world around you isn’t an irradiated fiery wasteland. But outside of a nuclear or chemical attack, there are actually many reasons for having one (Natural disasters and what not).  Some survivalists also recommend keeping a ‘get me home’ kit in the car and/or at work. You can find plenty of suggested lists online that will detail what you should fill your own Bug-Out Bag with:

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And there are plenty of online Doomsday prepper sites selling these bags in various sizes and looks. Most have that tactical look, but I’m sure you can find something more stylish if you look further:

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In addition to selling you stuff, these magazines have some very basic articles that range from tips on picking the right type of gear, stories from survivors of extreme situations, lifestyles of the rich and prepared, etc. These articles would often follow the same design language of the ads and covers, and feature some sort of Mad Max-style wasteland warriors. My favorite was this family of dreadlocked survivors, each with matching goggles and masks.

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Heck, they even have a baby wearing a gas mask and sprouting tiny dreads!

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And this was an article about the importance of having some junk food in your supplies. You gotta keep up that wasteland morale!

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Now I’m not all down on all of this kind of stuff. I do believe in having emergency supplies for various potential scenarios. My family was once snowed in and stuck without any power for 11 days during one nasty winter. We certainly learned from that. But these magazines and websites do kind of leave a bad taste in my mouth.

nuclearpills.JPGI get that these companies are in business to make money and what not, but I could just see a lot of easily impressionable people out there spending way more money than they probably can actually afford to prepare for the end of days that may never come. Oh sure, they can eat or donate that stored food before it all expires. One of the most amusing was this site that sold survival food for ‘self-reliant patriots’:

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“My Patriot Supply was born with a passion for helping Americans achieve independence through preparedness and self-reliance.” – You could make drinking game out of this site, take a shot every time you see the word ‘patriot’.

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But still, it just feels like some of these companies are just benefiting from the fears of others and do as much as they can to increase those fears. I guess one could argue that some of these folks are purchasing a calmer state of mind and that alone might be worth it for some. And if the worst should come, I’ll look like the fool laughing at all of this. I’m willing to take that risk though. Because some of this stuff doesn’t even look like it would be quality enough to survive a few months. I suppose if you research everything properly, you can avoid such junk:

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I certainly don’t want to live in a world like we’ve seen in apocalyptic fiction. Mad Max: Fury Road had an amazing character, Immortan Joe, who was this old and diseased evil warlord who ruled with lies, fear, and violence. He had this extremist cult following and was determined to ensure that his kingdom remains intact long after his death. While very cool as a villain in the movies, what a horrible thought that such a person would come into power and rule over so many.

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Alternative Tabletop Games

In a world full of digital entertainment, with video games leading the way, more and more people are turning towards playing board and card games. The board game industry has seen tremendous growth over the past couple of years and board game shops and hybrid board game shops/cafes have sprouted across the world. For a lot of people, online gaming just hasn’t captured that social feeling that you get when you sit around a table playing a game with our friends and/or family. I think this is the primary force driving this board game renaissance, direct human connections that cannot be made (at least for me) playing online games.

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Along with more players, the board game industry has matured and game publishers have been publishing new kinds of game designs and genres. It’s no longer just Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and Scrabble. And the games are not all family-friendly anymore either. Like any other form of entertainment media, if you look hard enough, you can find something to satisfy everyone. As an avid gamer of all forms of media, I am a huge board game aficionado. Granted, I’m a hyper consumer. I buy way too many games for my own good. That said, when I play tabletop games with others, I now groan at the thought of having play through another standard game of Monopoly or UNO. I know there are just so many other games out there! It would be like being a movie buff and every time you sit down with friends to watch a movie together, they always only have the Wizard of Oz or Gone with the Wind and nothing else. Both are great movies, but you want to expand your options eventually.

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Here are some suggestions of games to break out the next time you have friends or family over. Just to break the mold and expand everybody’s gaming horizons!

For anybody looking to get into more board game options, I suggest checking out the excellent board game review site, Shut Up and Sit Down (https://www.shutupandsitdown.com/ ) and the vast database over at Board Game Geek (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/ ).

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Exploding Kittens by Exploding Kittens LLC (2015)

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It’s really not as bad as the title suggests. Well, there are kittens and they do explode, but it’s not that bad in context of the game. Exploding Kittens is a press your luck style card game designed by Elan Lee, Shane Small, and Matthew Inman from the comics site The Oatmeal.

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Originally proposed as a Kickstarter project seeking $10K in crowdfunding, it exceeded the goal in eight minutes  and on January 27, 2015, at completion on February 19, 2015, it had over $8 million in pledges by 219,382 backers. I was one of the original backers of this game and I’ve shared this game with many people since I got my original copy. Every time I’ve broken this card game out to play with new people, they have always ended up buying their own copy shortly after.

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“Exploding Kittens is a highly-strategic, kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette, where players draw cards until someone draws an Exploding Kitten, at which point they explode, they are dead, and they are out of the game — unless that player has a defuse card, which can defuse the Kitten using things like laser pointers, belly rubs, and catnip sandwiches. All of the other cards in the deck are used to move, mitigate, or avoid the Exploding Kittens.” There’s also this handy video that teaches you how to play:

This is a very silly but somehow extremely charming game. I love the art and humor found throughout the cards. I think you really gotta have a sense of humor to enjoy this game. It’s easy to learn and plays fast. Since the initial release, there have been two expansions (Exploding Kittens: NSFW Deck and Imploding Kittens) released and digital versions made for iOS and Android phones. If you like games like UNO, this can be a fun alternative. And it works well for both those who love and hate cats.

Cash ‘n Guns (Second Edition) by Repos Production/Asmodee (2014)

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Disclaimer: If you are against playing any games that features firearms, even lightly, then you should just move on. I’ve seen some people turn their nose up at this game for that very reason. It’s not a pro-gun game so much as it is part of the theme of crooks after an armed robbery.

This is another one that I like to break out when gaming with novice players, it’s very easy to learn and the props just make the game feel that much cooler. This game can be played with up to 8 players and it comes with 8 foam pistols. The setting of the game is described like this:

“You and your criminal associates just pulled off the score of a lifetime, and now it’s back to the warehouse to divide up the loot. The only problem is: thieves aren’t exactly known for sharing well with others. When the guns come out, how long will you stare down the barrel of your friend’s pistol?”

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Cash ‘n Guns is essentially a bluffing game where each player points a gun at another player each round. Each player gets five “Click” cards and three “Bang” cards. Once the loot has been revealed, you’ll secretly choose a “Click” or “Bang” bullet card and place it face-down. Then, on the count of three, each player selects a target by pointing their gun at another player. Once the guns are out, it’s time to see who has the nerve to stay in the game. After another count to three, you’ll choose if you want to stay or dive for cover. If you take cover, you’re out of the round, but you’re also safe from injury. Those still in the round have a chance of getting some loot, as long as they’re not shot first.

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If you are shot with a “Bang” card, you then receive a wound, and you won’t receive any loot that round. More importantly, if you take three wounds, you’re out of the game. All of the players left standing after shots are fired can now take turns grabbing shares of loot until it’s gone. The fewer left standing, the more loot you each can claim. The player with the most loot after 8 rounds is the winner.

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Those are the basic rules, if this sounds interesting to you, I recommend watching the following review of the game here:

I’ve played this game with family and co-workers at an office party. It’s all in good fun and there’s just something very amusing about sitting around the dinner table and watching Grandma pointing a gun at your kid brother as he points a gun at you asking, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

Guillotine by Avalon Hill/Hasbro (1998)

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Who doesn’t love history? Guillotine is a fun little card game set during the French Revolution. It’s a grim topic, but the game is presented in a lighthearted way: The tagline being “The revolutionary card game where you win by getting a head. “

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Players represent rival guillotine operators vying for the best collection of noble heads over three rounds. Each round twelve nobles are lined up for the guillotine. The nobles are worth varying points depending on their notoriety. During your turn you play action cards to change the order of the line so you can collect the best nobles. But watch out, players lose points for beheading the heroes of the people. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

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This one has been around for many years but most people that I’ve shared it with never heard about it before I showed it to them. It’s casual fun with some dark humor spliced in.

Funemployed: The Interview Game of Actual Jobs and Absurd Qualifications by Mattel (2014)

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This one is more for adults. Funemployed is an amusing little party game where players interview for a specific job, but using the random (and often awkward) qualifications they get dealt with by the card deck. How all of this works is that one player gets to be the interviewer and the rest of the players are the job applicants. The interviewer plays one random job card down and the other player must ‘interview’ for the job, somehow using the qualifications they drew.

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After all the players interview, the interviewer must decide which player wins the round and gets the job. I’ve played this one with family and co-workers before and it was a blast. It really helps to have players who can get into a role and act out their pitch. The game can be played with a broader audience if you remove the more ‘adult’ cards from the deck. It’s not obscene, but there are some cards that bump the game into a quasi-R-rated territory. This one has recently be re-launched with a different look, but it’s the same game.

CLUE®: The Golden Girls by USAopoly (2017)

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Okay, I will admit that I haven’t played this one yet. My point about it is more about how there are now so many new variations of classic board games now available. So if you ever get the hankering to play something like CLUE (or CLUEDO, as it is known outside of North America), you don’t just settle for the classic version. Why not try one of the new ones? In this case, they took Clue and mixed it with classic American sitcom, the Golden Girls. At first glance, I was like, “Wow, this is gonna get pretty dark… which Golden Girl murdered who and why?”

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Alas, they didn’t go that route for this one. The game’s description reads:

“The Golden Girls Clue® features a custom illustrated game board, where players attempt to solve the crime of WHO ate the last piece cheesecake, WHAT they left at the scene of the crime, and WHICH room they did it in.”

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So this is about finding who ate the last piece of cheesecake! I guess that’s more the Golden Girls’ speed. It is still interesting, because it changes up the dynamic of CLUE a little bit. Shakes it up a little, but doesn’t disrupt the mechanics of the game too terribly. The company behind this one, USAopoly, applies this to many brands. It started with variations of Monopoly and they’ve managed to carve out a whole section of the market by mashing up different brands with classic games.

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Other examples include (CLUE variants): Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, Rick and Morty, Doctor Who, The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc.

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If you are curious to see what other games they make, head over to their website at: http://usaopoly.com

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While all these variants may not be my personal cup of tea, I respect that these games merged with other brands would appeal to others and I think that’s a good thing overall because it only helps to bring more players into tabletop gaming. And this isn’t also to say that I do not have love for the original versions of these games, I could see myself wanting to play classic Monopoly or Clue at some point. I just know that there is so much more out there in the world of board games. I haven’t even talked about games like Pandemic Legacy or Dead of Winter yet. I’ll save those for another post. \

Thanks for reading!

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Amusingly Awkward Toys and Other Strange Merchandise

Toys are a billion dollar industry and sometimes the manufacturers will seemingly rush out a product without much though behind it and the end result can be unintentionally amusing or very awkward. Other times, it is one hundred percent intentional and it is just a gimmick designed to sell toys. I’ve collected toys all my life, so I’ve come across many unusual, and sometimes hilarious, toys over the years. Below are just some examples of these:

Batman Squirt Gun (1966)

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Not much needs to be said about this, one look pretty much says it all. There is just so much going on with this toy. The amusing pose of Batman, the placement of the trigger, and the location of where you need to refill the water from followed by a large plastic plug… well, yeah. There it is.

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The Incredible Hulk: Instant Muscles (1979 ) by Remco Industries, Inc.

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Back in 1978, there was a popular live-action TV show about Marvel Comics’ popular green behemoth. The show was called The Incredible Hulk and starred Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk.  The series was originally broadcast on CBS and ran from 1978 to 1982, with 82 episodes over five seasons. Remco was one of the toy companies to get the license to make official Incredible Hulk toys and other merchandise. My favorite of their offerings were these crazy Instant Muscles:

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The product description reads: “Imagine millions of kids “Hulking Up” and growing mighty muscles instantly just like their favorite TV and comics hero… The Incredible Hulk Instant Muscles is worn under a loose fitting shirt. When inflated with the Instant Muscles “Hulk Pump”, the amazing transformation takes place. GRRRR! KRRRRRRUNCH! Bullies and villains beware!”

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The idea was later re-used for the release of the HULK (2003) film, but this time with more modern inflatable muscles:

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And again for the Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) film. This time they ditched the chest muscles and focused on Hulk biceps.

51olJmF3VmL.jpgIt’s an interesting idea, but even more awkward when demonstrated by an adult man here:

Combine those Hulk biceps with some Hulk fists and you’d have some seriously Hulkness:

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Sadly, the ultimate piece of Hulk related merchandise was never made into reality:

Comic Action Heroes! (1976) and C.B. McHaul (1977) by Mego Corporation

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The Mego Corporation made some amazing toys back in the day. Starting in 1972, released the first comprehensive line of DC Comics and Marvel Comics superhero and villain action figures, coining the term ‘World’s Greatest Super Heroes!’ This was a line of 8-inch figures that wore cloth costumes and had some decent possibility.

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In a later effort to offer a scaled down size of figure, so that the playsets and vehicles would be smaller and cheaper to produce and sell, they came up with the ‘Comic Action Heroes!’ line of figures. These were smaller figures that had the costumes molded onto the figure, thus eliminating the extra cost of creating the suits. The line featured Batman, Robin, The Joker, and The Penguin, as well as other DC Comics characters. Later, in 1979, Mego re-released the line under the new name Pocket Super Heroes. All of this was a great idea, but for some reason, they chose this as the default pose for all the figures:

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As you can see, there was something odd fappining… err I mean, something odd happening with the placement of the right fist curled inward towards the figure’s lap. Once pointed out, you cannot escape it:

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Even the female characters weren’t safe from this pose:

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You couldn’t even sit Batman on the Batmobile without making it look funny:

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It got even odder with their 1977 line of toys that featured truckers and police called C.B. McHaul. This was a time when CB radios were all the rage. According to the super awesome website Mego Museum (http://www.MegoMusuem.com) :

“CB McHaul was introduced by Mego in 1977, the name was patterned after country musician C.W McCall, whose number one hit “Convoy” had become an anthem for the CB Craze. The CB craze was a short lived national phenomenon, most toy makers were taught a bit of a hard lesson when it came to fads. Companies raced to the market with T shirts, model kits, replica CBs but by the time the products had arrived CB radios were so “last year”. As fast as Mego was churning out product, their action figure line met the same fate despite the fact that it’s a very innovative and well-made toy line.”

The line seemed reasonable enough, even when showcased in a TV ad:

Things got uncomfortable when you looked closely at the figures. First you had the truckers:

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And then you had the Smokeys:

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Masters of the Universe (1982) by Mattel

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He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was an amazing hit during the 80’s. The premise of the series  revolves around the conflict between the heroic He-Man and the evil Skeletor on the planet Eternia, with a vast line-up of supporting characters in a hybrid setting of medieval sword and sorcery and sci-fi technology. Later spin-offs also featured He-Man’s sister She-Ra and her struggle against the Evil Horde. This toyline featured dozens of colorful characters, each with their special gimmick which translated to some sort of power or action feature that was unique to each figure.

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Initially, these character themes were pretty tame. You would have a character like Beast Man – the savage right-hand man of Skeletor, he has control over many wild creatures and has brute strength. Or Ram Man, the heroic ‘human battering ram’, his special ability is to knock opponents or obstacles down with his super-hard helmet. As more waves of characters came out, they started to get more diverse. Let’s start with Stinkor:

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Stinkor, who was labeled as the ‘Evil Master of Odors,’ is essentially a humanoid skunk whose superpower is the ability to release a toxic odor from his body that renders foes immobile. Stinkor was first introduced in 1985 and came packaged with a mini-comic titled ‘The Stench of Evil’. The character’s design was mostly phoned in, they just repainted the body of another character (Mer-Man) and re-used the armor of another (Mekaneck). The thing that really stood out about this action figure was that Mattel didn’t just imply he had bad odor powers, they took it a step further and made this action figure really smell horrible.

The unique scent was achieved by mixing the plastic used in the mold with patchouli oil. It was done this way, instead of being sprayed or coated, to prevent the smell from wearing off over time. Many toy collectors mention that, even 30 years after its original purchase, the Stinkor toy still retains its smell.

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Stinkor’s counterpart was the heroic Moss Man, also introduced in 1985, he was described as a ‘Heroic Spy & Master of Camouflage’.

3019_l.jpgThe original Moss Man figure is a repaint of Beast Man covered in green fur (the figure was flocked with a green fuzzy material, giving him a fuzzy texture).

Like Stinkor, this figure was infused with a scent – this time it was something more pleasant, the smell of pine trees. Basically, he smelled like that aerosol ‘tree scent’ stuff that people who buy fake Christmas trees use during the holidays.

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I could see Moss Man freaking out any college students who smoked weed, because the flocked green fuzz made him look a little bit like a bag of marijuana reborn into a hulking brute’s body.

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Both Stinkor and Moss Man were remade a few times years later, both given a slightly more modern look:

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Moss Man was also recently used as a Comic Con promo a couple of times. One year they gave out Moss Man Pine Scented deodorant to Convention goers (something I’ve been suggesting for years):

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And later, they made a special-edition Moss Man Chia Pet:

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While on the subject of Masters of the Universe toys, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim show, Robot Chicken (Season 2, 2006), created their own unique character for the series. Mo-Larr, the Eternian Dentist:

This character later got his own figure made as part of a two-pack with Skeletor in the Masters of the Universe Classics toyline:

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Tauntaun with Open Belly Rescue Feature (1982) by Kenner

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Everyone who’s seen Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, would remember the scene where Luke Skywalker is freezing to death and Han Solo needed to improvise in order to keep him warm, right? No? Well, here’s a refresher:

It was a great scene, but watching this the first time as a kid was pretty shocking. That said, the tauntaun toy I later played with had a hard plastic belly that did not allow for any Luke insertion. Later as an adult, I discovered that Kenner decided to modify their tauntaun toys to allow kids to recreate this action from the movie. No joke!

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I only assume this was done in an effort to sell off any unsold tauntaun toys from the year before, either that or they were just flooded with letters from kids who wanted to slice their tauntaun bellies open. At least it was a clean cut, no guts were exposed. Either way, this was a surprisingly macabre feature to add to a massively successful children’s toyline.

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Given how everything in the Star Wars universe has been remade in toy form multiple times over the past 40 years, the tauntaun with an open belly feature was also remade later in 2003 in a “The Battle of Hoth” figure multipack. This time, they added the tauntaun guts (no joke)!:

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Not to be outdone, ThinkGeek sells  a ‘Slumber in the Belly of the Beast’ Tauntaun sleeping bag! The product description reads:

“This high-quality sleeping bag looks just like a Tauntaun, complete with saddle, printed internal intestines, and a plush lightsaber zipper pull. Now when your kids tell you their favorite Star Wars movie is Attack of the Clones, you can nestle the wee-ones snug in simulated Tauntaun fur while regaling them with the amazing tale of The Empire Strikes Back.

Use the plush lightsaber zipper pull on the Tauntaun sleeping bag to illustrate how Han Solo saved Luke Skywalker from certain death in the freezing climate of Hoth by slitting open the belly of a dead Tauntaun and placing Luke inside the stinking (but warm) carcass. If your kids don’t change their tune on which Star Wars film is the greatest ever, you can do your best Jar Jar impression until they repent.”

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If this sounds like something you would want, order here: http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/bb2e/

The Meat – ROCKY 40th Anniversary (2016) by Jakks Pacific

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Okay, I understand this toyline was made for adults rather than kids. In my defense, I saw this thing on the shelves at a ToysRUs among children’s brands like Pokemon and Sonic the Hedgehog. For those not in the know, Rocky is a 1976 sports drama film both written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. It tells the rags to riches American Dream story of Rocky Balboa, an uneducated but kind-hearted working class Italian-American boxer working as a debt collector for a loan shark in the slums of Philadelphia. Rocky starts out as a small-time club fighter, and later gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship. In the film, Rocky trains for the fight using whatever he can find, including meat carcasses as punching bags.

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Well now, thanks to magic of toys, fans can recreate that scene for their own personal enjoyment:

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The text on the back of the package, describes the Meat’s role in the Rocky mythos:

“It started when Rocky picked up his best friend, Paulie, at his meat locker job. One frustrated punch at a side of beef became a one-two and soon a secret, unique training tool was created. Day after day, Rocky Balboa punched frozen meat to train. This rare (No pun intended) method would help give Rocky an edge. Keeping him on his feet for 15 grueling rounds with World Heavyweight Champ Apollo Creed.”

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These aren’t the only Rocky themed action figures. NECA also makes some wonderfully detailed Rocky figures:

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My favorites are the ones that depict Rocky taking a massive hit and spitting out blood. You gotta just admire the attention to detail that some of these toy companies put into their products.

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Conan the Adventurer (1992) by Hasbro

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It’s always fun to take an R-rated brand and turn it into a softened up shell of a version of the subject matter that it was originally based off of. The Conan the Adventurer toyline is based off the animated series of the same name.  The cartoon was a loose adaption of Conan the Barbarian, the literary character created by Robert E. Howard in the 1930s. As expected, the cartoon watered down all the violence and other adult themes of Conan and repackaged it into a kid-friendly show. That said, even as cartoons go, this one wasn’t really that good:

The action figures weren’t that well done either. They were poorly sculpted and looked cheaply made.

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The only reason why I included this one to the list was for this reason:

Conan’s “Sword Swinging Action” took the awkwardness of Mego’s Comic Action Heroes poses to the next level with animated movement. It makes you wonder if the designers of these toys saw the same thing that everybody else saw or just didn’t care.

The Punisher – Marvel Shape Shifters (1999) by ToyBiz

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Ever since the release of the Transfomers, kids have loved playing with toys that transform from one thing into another. This was applied to many different toylines and this case, it was applied to ToyBiz’s line of Marvel Comics action figures.  They had a Spider-man that transformed into a spider and a Hulk that transformed into a Dinosaur. So it kind of makes sense that the Punisher would transform into a gun. Guns were pretty much what the Punisher was all about. The problem isn’t with the concept, it is with the execution. And in this case, when the Punisher transforms into a pistol, the gun barrel comes out of his crotch:

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Yup, not much needs to be said here. I believe this one was done intentionally with the hope of causing people to smirk.

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Not even the flavor text of the packaging can help this one:

“Former soldier Frank Castle took his family on a picnic in New York’s Central Park, where they were attacked after witnessing a gangland crime. Frank alone survived and became the merciless vigilante known as the Punisher! The Punisher relies on a vast array of weaponry and shape-shifts into a power pistol for ultimate battle power. Join forces with the Punisher as he combats crime!”

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I guess we should be thankful that he didn’t turn into a tank, then the gun barrel would have been much longer.

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Jar Jar Binks: Cherry Flavored Tongue Candy (1999) by Cap Candy Inc.

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The year was 1999 and after 16 years of waiting, we finally got a new Star Wars movie after Return of the Jedi (1983). Episode One: The Phantom Menace had arrived and now Star Wars fans around the world could all agree that the Ewoks were no longer the worst part of the Star Wars saga. We were introduced to the train wreck known Jar Jar Binks. Now I’m not gonna go into what all makes Jar Jar so horrible. Enough has been said about this subject. I am going to highlight a piece of horrific merchandise that was birthed by the Star Wars machine. Somebody, somewhere, thought this was really a good idea:

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That’s right, you too can suck on Jar Jar’s tongue for a few bucks. Now let’s entertain a world where people liked this character for a second. Even if we loved Jar Jar, I don’t think anybody wants to lick his tongue as a tasty treat. We didn’t get Chewbacca or Yoda tongue lollipops before this abomination was created. We loved those characters and nobody ever requested such a thing.

I get the idea of things that are gross as being fun for kids. Cap Candy (a division of Hasbro) apparently had a line of ‘Monster Mouth Candy Tongues’, and this was part of it. I never saw any other examples of this line, but that’s how they sold it.

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Frankly, I think somebody at Cap Candy just had a weird fetish and this was their way to expressing it to the world. Maybe they were hoping to create a new confectionery line of tongue-sucking mania?  Just imagine if they applied this to other brands? Disney Princess tongues, NFL player tongues, Dinosaur tongues, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Marvel Comics: Spider-man Balloons and a Wolverine Inflatable Hammer (????)

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To close this out, I will leave you with some inflatables. Whether they be just balloons or some sort of inflatable toy, if you are going to license out your characters to another company that makes such products, maybe do a quality control check regarding where the air nozzle is placed?

Sounds like an easy thing to look out for, doesn’t it? Because if you don’t, you get products like this:

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“And Knowing is Half the Battle!” – Looking Back on 80’s PSA’s

Re-watching old cartoons brings me back to my childhood in the 80’s and their nonstop barrage of PSA’s. For those who don’t know, a PSA (Public Service Announcement) is a message in the public interest disseminated without charge, with the objective of raising awareness, changing public attitudes and behavior towards a social issue. Kid’s television programming used to be littered with these things all the time. I don’t know if it was because these shows were legally forced to do it or if the networks actually just cared about the welfare of children. It also could have been a sneaky way to soften the argument that these kid shows were just about selling toys and at least these PSA’s were educational and promoted safety. Either way, we were exposed to a lot of these and some of these were kind of awkward.

Here’s a look at some of the ones that make me laugh (or cringe) today. Now this isn’t to diminish the message, a lot of them are still valid to for today’s youth.  Stay safe, kids!

 

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1983 – 1986)

When “America’s daring, highly-trained, Special Mission force” wasn’t out fighting terrorists, they spent their time off duty helping random kids. Oh sure, it was a little creepy to be out playing at the park or sometimes in your own home and having some special forces trooper suddenly show up to impart a life lesson. What always amused me was how these kids always knew the code-name of these guys and would greet them like, “Oh hey, Shipwreck. What’s up?”

Every episode featured at the end had a PSA, always using G.I. Joe characters in brief scenarios to impart safety tips to children. These lessons gave birth to the catchphrase: “And knowing is half the battle”. When I think of PSA, G.I. Joe was always comes up first in my mind.

Pee-wee Herman (Paul Ruebens)

Back then, we knew Pee-Wee Herman from his various TV appearances in adult comedy and the 1985 family film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (Featuring Tim Burton’s major film directorial debut). The success of this movie paved the way for an award-winning daytime children’s TV show called Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (1986 to 1990) and a film sequel (Big Top Pee-Wee, 1988).

That all said, it was odd to see somebody as goofy as Pee-wee give us a warning about crack cocaine in such a dramatically shot video. I’m not sure when this PSA aired, but it was most likely before Paul Ruebens’ 1991 arrest in Sarasota, Florida for masturbating during a film at an adult movie theater. Far as I know, he never did a PSA about that.

Smokey the Bear (1973)

 Smokey the Bear had been doing PSA’s long before the 80’s. I had remembered seeing this one replayed during my Saturday morning cartoons and being confused and horrified as a young boy.

First off, who was this lady and why was she talking in such a suggestive way and then… OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?! Yeah, I wasn’t prepared for her to rip her face off either. This one creeped me out then and it still creeps me out now.  Let’s just move along…

 

The Transformers (1984 – 1987)

So much to think about with this one. First off, the kid pulls out a Slim Jim (lockout tool) from inside his pocket. Not too many kids carried these, so there is no way that this is this kid’s first stolen car. He’s done this before. Second, given that this is a Transformer – a robotic life form, you just gotta wonder exactly where on this thing’s anatomy that he just stuck that thing in? Given how many “Kick him in the camshaft!” type of jokes they’d use on the show, I’m gonna choose to think that the doors are not a sensitive spot.

Now the Transformers came out a year after the G.I. Joe cartoons. They were done by the same animation studio (Sunbow Productions) and owned by the same toy company, Hasbro. While the Transformers didn’t contain as many PSA’s as the G.I. Joe cartoon had, they did recycle the same scripts from the G.I. Joe cartoon for the few that wound up making. They were so lazy, they even used the same tagline “..and knowing is half the battle!” I suppose if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Star Wars: C3PO & R2D2 (1983)

 You didn’t get much bigger than Star Wars for most kids of the 80’s. I would have never expected that we’d get an anti-smoking PSA from the two characters that didn’t have lungs. This one was produced by the United States Department of Health and Human Services aired in 1983, the same year that Return of the Jedi was released.

This one always made me a little sad by the way it ends with a somber C3PO asking R2, if believes that he really doesn’t have a heart. I always knew that R2 dropped truth bombs on C3PO, I just didn’t realize how cruel he sometimes was to his life partner. *sniff*

Mr. T (1985)

I love how awkward this one gets towards the end. It’s one thing to have Mr. T, the badass from Rocky III and TV’s the A-Team, show us some tough love about drugs. It’s another for him to manhandle me in the middle of a diner while everybody else just watches without saying a word. Back in the early 80’s, then First Lady, Nancy Reagan, had an anti-drug campaign known as ‘Just Say no’. Reagan recruited the venerable Mr. T for this campaign in 1989 and he stuck by it for many years after that.

For those who didn’t know, Mr. T (whose real name is Lawrence Tureaud) was no stranger to the world of drugs. In the early days before he earned fame as an entertainer, he worked as a bouncer. It was at this time that he created the persona of Mr. T. His wearing of gold neck chains and other jewelry was the result of customers losing the items or leaving them behind at the night club after a fight. Along with controlling the violence as a doorman, Tureaud was mainly hired to keep out drug dealers and users. During his bouncing days, Tureaud was in over 200 fights and was sued a number of times, but won each case.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983 – 1985)

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While this seriousness of this topic in no way should ever be diminished, this one always made me feel strange watching it. There was just something about seeing He-Man and She-Ra, posing like some sort cross-gender pro wrestling team giving me advice on how to seek help if anybody ever touched me inappropriately. It also didn’t help having the show’s comic relief character, Orko, throw a couple of air punches at the thought of somebody trying to touch him.

It was also strange to hear He-Man suggest contacting my Minister or Rabbi if I ran out of other adults I could trust. I know that He-man’s mother is from Earth and could have told him about all Earth culture, but this show featured a hybrid setting of medieval sword and sorcery and sci-fi technology. Now,  all of a sudden, He-man’s talking about minsters and Rabbis. Too much for my young brain to handle! That all said, I am glad that some shows made an effort to spread the word to kids about this. Even if it only helped one kid, it was well worth doing.

The ThunderCats (1985 – 1989)

How did these guys even know about our human Underage Drinking and Minor-in-Possession Laws? These catlike humanoid aliens came from a planet called Thundera, who knows what their society was like? In the pilot episode they didn’t even wear clothes until they got to the planet known as Third Earth. Which begs the question, where the heck was Second Earth?! Third Earth is the home planet of a wide variety of sentient and non-sentient beings of both native and alien origins. After doing some digging, I found out that at one point in its past, Third Earth was known as First Earth. Maybe that’s how they knew about our laws? But that still doesn’t explain what was Second Earth!

Also, even as a kid, the last person I’m gonna take advice from is Snarf. That guy was less like the loveable comic relief and more like some elderly uncle living in your house who suffered from dementia, he’d show up at the worst times, totally naked and would spout nonsense and break something expensive. That was Snarf to me.

McGruff the Crime Dog (1984)

This one creeped me out as a child. Kidnappings always seem to be in the news during the 80’s and sadly, most missing kids were never recovered alive. It’s an important subject and one that all children must be aware of. McGruff the Crime Dog was originally created through the Ad Council and later the National Crime Prevention Council to increase crime awareness and personal safety in the United States. McGruff the character was created by Sherry Nemmers and Ray Krivascy in 1979 and debuted in 1980 with a series of Public service announcements educating citizens on personal security measures, such as locking doors and putting lights on timers, in order to reduce crime by driving prevention awareness.

McGruff proved to be a successful campaign with over $100 million in free air time donated in the first year alone. McGruff campaigns continued over the years to cover topics such as child abduction, anti-drug messages, and anti-bullying campaigns. From 1982 to 2012, a number of municipalities participated in the McGruff house program which offered temporary haven to children fearing immediate harm.

As an adult, the only thing I wish that they did with this character is give him some clothes to wear under his coat. When your crime awareness character is essentially naked under a trench coat, it makes me think something sketchy is about to happen.

Singing Blue Pills – Long Island Poison Control Center (1983)

While the message is sound and the ad was done very cute with singing pills, I can’t help but laugh at this one. Mostly because when somebody mentions, “Blue Pills” these days I tend to think of Viagra. And I would think that Viagra is the LAST thing a little boy needs to swallow.  Apparently this one aired in New York, specifically in the Long Island area. I never saw this one as a child, but came across it as an adult later over the Internet.

One person who did see it as a child was apparently the rapper known as Busta Rhymes. In his 1997 song, Dangerous, the chorus of the song (This is serious/We could make you delirious/You should have a healthy fear of us/’Cause too much of us is dangerous) was taken from this PSA.

Fight Club PSA’s (1999)

While these were made in jest, I felt like adding them to this piece. Fight Club is one of my favorite movies of all time and on the DVD extras, these PSA’s were included. The second one is my favorite of the two because it stays true to the character of Tyler Durden wanting to spread chaos into the world, in this case, through some misinformation. The studio was confused by how to market the movie, they considered that the film was primarily geared toward male audiences because of its violence and believed that not even Pitt would attract the female audience. Research testing showed that the film appealed to teenagers. David Fincher, the director, refused to let the posters and trailers focus on Pitt. Fincher created and released two early trailers in the form of fake public service announcements presented by Pitt and Norton; the studio did not think the trailers marketed the film appropriately.

Sadly, the marketing campaign for the film’s release was indeed focused on just Brad Pitt, as well as concentrating on the concept of fighting (which, if you have seen the movie, is NOT what the actual film is all about). The campaign was highly criticized as giving the impression that the film was basically just about men beating each other up, completely ignoring the comic and satiric elements of the narrative (especially the anti-commercialism messaging), and for marketing the film to the wrong audience.

Fensler Films: G.I. Joe PSA Compilation (2003)

There’s no way I can mention all this without linking to these G.I. Joe PSA’s that were re-edited and changed in the most irrelevant ways possible. I love these, but they are not for everybody. Just a warning, these are probably not for your kids (especially if you have a problem with your kids being exposed to “bad” words).

A few months ago, some saint remastered these in to HD format. Here’s the description they put on youtube:

“The infamous G.I. Joe PSA parody cartoons are a series of 25 spoof public service announcement videos created by Chicago-based filmmaker Eric Fensler of Fensler Films. The parodies were take-offs of the cringe-worthy PSAs that appeared at the end of the 1980s GI Joe cartoon show by Hasbro in the 1980s. The videos started appearing on Ebaum’s World in 2003 and the internet went absolutely ape sh*t.

In 2012 Jose the Bronx Rican created and released a DVD “remaster” by hand-editing the original PSA’s (from their own DVD release) and adding Fensler’s audio. I’ve taken all 25 remastered cartoons, put them into a single video compilation, and upscaled them all to HD. If you haven’t seen these yet, brace for lulz. PORKCHOP SANDWICHES!”

Retro Arcade Gaming: Controller Standouts

Last week I was strolling through memory lane, thinking about the days of arcade gaming in the 80’s. While I have never stopped playing games, I do remember the first time I came across unique (at the time) control schemes for games over the years. Input modality is something that is ever changing between humans and computers. Video games have always been in the forefront of this space, constantly expanding on the variety of controller options. Here are some arcade games that left a big impression on me the first time I came across them in my youth:

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TRON (1982) published by Bally Midway

Tron was based off the 1982 movie of the same name; it was one of the first big-budget action movies to take the concept of video games and try to write a fantasy narrative around it. While considered a classic by some (I loved it), it was a box office failure but most critics all agreed that it was a feast for the eyes as it featured amazing digital visuals. The arcade game featured four different modes that were each based off aspects seen in the film.

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Like the film, it featured lots of glowing blue lights and design elements in the game and on the arcade cabinet. The controls featured the same joystick featured in the 1982 game GORF, but this one was a translucent blue that lit up within the cabinet. Next to the joystick was a rotary dial. Given the four different game modes, the controls acted very differently depending on which mode you playing. It was an elegant method of mixing previously used control mechanics together. The fact that these would change depending on the game mode was very cool at the time.

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While the movie may have bombed, but was still loved by nerds, the game was a big hit in the arcades. “The New York Times reported that 800 arcade cabinets were sold by 1982. The book ‘The naked computer’ reported that Tron made $45,000,000 by 1983.” Considering that the movie only made $33 million at the box office, you can see why they game left more of an impression on people than the film.

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Check out the original arcade flyer (via the super awesome Arcade Flyer Archive ): TRON

 

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Tapper (1983) published by Bally Midway

Tapper, later also known as Root Beer Tapper, was a unique game that put the player in the role of a bartender. The player must serve impatient bar patrons before they got angry and left, while collecting tips and empty glass mugs before they hit the floor. The game was originally produced in association with Budweiser.

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There were several variations of the game that were released, each with similar gameplay but different graphics and music. The first version featured heavy Budweiser branding:

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In 1984 we saw Root Beer Tapper, which was developed specifically for arcades because the original version was construed as advertising alcohol to minors. While the game was originally designed for bars, there was more money to be found in widening that audience to arcades for all ages.

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The game featured actual beer taps and a joystick. Players would use the joystick to move the bartender up and down and the taps were used to fill beer into the mugs. The very first machines had game controllers that were actual Budweiser beer tap handles, which were later replaced by smaller, cheaper, plastic “beer taps” with the Budweiser logo on them.

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The original bar released versions had some other awesome extras, the cabinets were designed to look like bars — complete with a brass rail footrest and drink holders.

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Tapper is considered an arcade classic. It has been remade many times and the game mechanics have been copied numerous times since release. The game, the bar, and the bartender were recently featured in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph (2012) animated film:

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Check out the original arcade flyers: Tapper and Root Beer Tapper

 

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Star Wars (1983) published by Atari, Inc.

This was one of the games that had the biggest impact on me as a child. I, like most in the world, was a huge fan of the Star Wars series. With two films under their belt, and the third about to be released), there had yet to be a satisfying Star Wars video game experience. We had one designed by Park Brothers for the Atari 2600 console; it was based off the Empire Strikes Back and featured Snow Speeders vs AT-AT’s. But the game wasn’t really that good. It was a little bit like Atari’s Defender, but left me wanting more. The Star Wars arcade game finally gave me what I wanted, the ability to control and X-Wing, take on Tie-Fighters, and do the famous Death Star trench run featured in the first film.

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The graphics were simple but awesome, using 3D color vector graphics, which was very similar to something we saw in Atari’s 1980 tank simulator called Battlezone. The controls were very unique to me, it consisted of a yoke control with four buttons (two trigger style and two in position to be pressed by the thumbs — each of which fired a laser positioned on one of the four wings of the fighter).

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The game was available as standard upright or a sit-down cockpit version, my preference being the sit-down version. There was just something magical about finally getting control, at least simulate visually, an X-wing. I still remember the very first time I tried this game, I didn’t want to leave it.

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The Star Wars arcade game was one of the top selling games of 1983, as Atari produced 12,695 total units. I can only image how much money these things generated. Check out this video announcement promo from 1983:

There also was an Empire Strikes Back conversion kit that became available in 1985. It converted the arcade into the sequel which featured the Battle of Hoth and the subsequent escape of the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field:

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Sadly, these were more rare to find as the arcades were beginning to fade away around this time.

Check out the original arcade flyer: Star Wars

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Spy Hunter (1983) published by Bally Midway

Spy Hunter was an amazing vehicular combat game that put the player in control of the technologically advanced “Interceptor” car that was upgradable with various weapons and gadgets. Your goal was to stay alive and destroy various enemy vehicles. It featured an amazing theme song that I thought was impressive for a video game until my father informed me that it was just the theme from an old TV show called “Peter Gunn”. Later I learned that the game was originally supposed to be based off the James Bond franchise, and it was supposed to be using that theme. But for whatever reason, that deal never went through. So we got an electronic arrangement of Henry Mancini’s theme to Peter Gunn, which still worked amazingly well.

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Spy Hunter’s controls consisted of a steering wheel in the form of a futuristic aircraft-style yoke with several special-purpose buttons, a two-position stick shift (offering ‘low’ and ‘high’ gears), and a pedal used for acceleration.

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Your vehicle always has machine guns, but later you could upgrade your weapons by driving into the back of a large truck called the “Weapons Van”, which was summoned by pressing the blinking “Weapons Van” button on the center of your control yoke. Three special weapons were available, oil slicks, smoke screens, and surface-to-air missiles (which you used to shoot down helicopters later in the game). Each had limited ammo and were lost if the player’s car was destroyed. It was was also possible to convert your car into a speed boat if you drove through a special boathouse which shows up every now and then on the road.

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This game always drew a crowd. Much like how the Star Wars game was the first time we could control an X-Wing Fighter, Spy Hunter was the first time we could control an awesome car like the Batmobile or any of James Bond’s tricked out rides. The game spawned a few sequels and remakes over the years. For some reason, Spy Hunter II featured more of a Mad Max type of theme but retained the look of the original car and kept the music. It just wasn’t as good. Later remakes were found on the consoles during the early 2000’s and there was talk of a Spy Hunter movie that would star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The movie was never made, but a few sequels of the remake were made. Overall, people still come back to the original arcade game.

Check out the original arcade flyer: Spy Hunter

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Operation Wolf (1987) published by Taito

It was the late 80’s and this was an era of brutal action movies like the Terminator, Rambo, Robocop, Commando, etc. These films alongside the military toy line, G.I. Joe, firmly put gun fights into the imaginations of kids everywhere. For good or bad, kids of my day wanted to shoot each other during play. These were before the days when we had immersive first person shooter video games like found in the Call of Duty and Battlefield game series. Oh sure, some of us had things like Lazer Tag and the wealthy could engage in paintball matches. Back then toy guns looked like real guns and sadly, kids were often getting shot by the police because the toys looked too much like real weapons. Regardless, people were a little gun crazy during the 80’s. In comes the Operation Wolf arcade game.

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This game featured a built in light gun that was modeled after an Uzi submachine gun, it was mounted on top of a square base covering the pivot shaft which allowed players to swivel and elevate the gun. There was also a button built into the grip for launching rocket propelled grenades.

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While arcade games that featured a light gun were nothing new, we’ve had them since the 1930’s, following the development of light-sensing vacuum tubes. But none them were very good and this was the first time, in my experience, to come across a gun game that featured a force-feedback kick in your hand as you fired off hundreds of digital rounds. It was amazing how much this added to the game experience, something that has followed gaming ever since.

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The game itself featured a simplistic action movie-like storyline, players took on the role of an unstoppable Special Forces operative and the object of the game is to rescue the five hostages locked away at an enemy controlled concentration camp. This was one of the first shooters to actually attempt to create a storyline. Mixed among dozens of enemies were hostages and civilians, you got dinged health if you shot any of these folks.

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Operation Wolf went on to inspire dozens of other Arcade gun games, the series spawned three sequels: Operation: Thunderbolt (1988), Operation Wolf 3 (1994), and Operation Tiger (1998). But none of these were even close to being as good as the original, at least for me.

Check out the original arcade flyer: Operation Wolf

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X-Men (1992) published by Konami

This one came out when I was older, I was a senior in high school and it was during the height of my comic book collecting years. Like most nerds of that time, I was heavily into comic books. Batman Returns (the second Tim Burton Batman movie) came out that summer and in the world of comics the biggest ticket was Marvel’s Uncanny X-men books. A year before this game came out, Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 (vol 2) comic debuted to monster sales and it is still the best-selling comic book of all-time with sales of over 8.1 million copies (According to a public proclamation by Guinness World Records at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con). In comes this huge arcade cabinet featuring the X-Men!

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While it didn’t feature the current X-Men cast, it did most of the classics. The player chooses one of six X-Men: Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler or Dazzler. The designs were actually based off a little seen pilot episode for a potential X-Men animated series called “Pryde of the X-Men”.

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In the game, players control one of the six playable X-Men characters. What made this so amazing was that the arcade cabinet allowed for up to six people to play together at the same time! Six people?! This was nuts! Previously, you could play up to maybe four players at once on a game, but six?! Konami made this possible by utilizing two screens housed into a deluxe arcade cabinet.

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The actual gameplay was incredibly repetitive and simple; it was a simple side-scrolling beat’em up game much like Konami’s previous hit, the Teenage Mutant Night Turtles arcade game. This was a genre made famous by games like Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Ninja Gaiden.

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But there was something really special in playing a game like this with six of your buddies against hundreds of enemies. It was always amusing to see which of your friends carried the rest of the team in terms of skill. Often there would be arguments over who got to play Wolverine, whereas somebody always got stuck playing Dazzler. This game was loved by many and was later re-released on other platforms as a retro classic including the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and on mobile devices (iOS and Android).

Check out the original arcade flyer: X-Men

 

Game of Thrones Art

In celebration of the return of Game of Thrones (Season 7 premiered last night!), I wanted to post some of my favorite Game of Thrones art that I’ve seen over the years. Most of this artwork is based off the HBO television series, while others are based off the books, GoT themed board/card games, or GoT merged with other pop culture for fun.

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“I will rule” by Fernanda Suarezhttp://fdasuarez.deviantart.com

Fernanda Suarez is an awesome artist, I am a big fan of her work. She’s responsible for a lot of the amazing art you can find some board/card games published by Plaid Hat Games, most notably the amazing Dead of Winter and Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn games. https://www.plaidhatgames.com/games

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“A Girl Does Not Wait” and “They Are Coming” by Ertaç Altınözhttp://ertacaltinoz.deviantart.com/

This artist has some amazing “What if?” GoT pieces as well as zombiefied versions of past characters big and small. Well worth a look at his gallery.

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“Wolves of the North Cover” by Cristi Balanescuhttp://cristi-b.deviantart.com/

This piece was the cover of one of the of the expansions from Fantasy Flight Games‘ A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. Lots of wonderful art found in their online gallery.

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“The Color of Death” by Yanare Kuhttp://yanareku.deviantart.com/

Alas, poor Drogo! We hardly knew ye. I love this depiction of Jason Momoa’s Khal Drogo.

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“Game of Thrones Excel! Round 3 – Dany vs Robert”, “Game of Thrones Excel!!!!!”, “King vs Khaleesi…now loading!” and “Game of Thrones Excel! Round 2 – Tyrion vs Cersei” by Dynamaito (Roberto Flores)http://dynamaito.deviantart.com/

I love these screenshots from a GoT fighting game that never existed. It’s fun to think of a Street Fighter-esque game using these characters.

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“Queen of Dragons” by Tomasz Jedruszekhttp://www.morano.pl/main.php

Another great Daenerys painting, this one showing off her army behind her. This is one of those those shots we were waiting for years to see watching the show and reading the books.

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“Game of Thrones (Spoilers)” by Adam Withershttp://adamwithers.deviantart.com/

This one is paying homage to a classic X-men comic book cover (Uncanny X-men #141, the Days of Future Past storyline) but using Game of Thrones characters. It pleases the nerd within on multiple fronts.

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“Mother and Children” by Jake Murrayhttp://www.murr-art.com/fantasy/

The cover to Fantasy Flight Games’ second edition of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. It’s another take on Daenerys, I just really love the composition and the color selection on this one.

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“Crow & White Ghost” by G-host Leehttps://www.artstation.com/artist/g-host-lee

A cool shot of Jon Snow with Ghost. Every boy should have a Dire Wolf by their side.

If you enjoyed any of this art, please take the time to check out the galleries of these fine artists. Each of them have more incredible work that is totally worth checking out! In the meantime, we shall have to wait for the next episode.

Valar Morghulis. 

Valar Dohaeris.