Sunday, March 16, 2014

Shot Wheels

I'm on the verge of a temper tantrum right now about toys.

Not the kind of temper tantrum that a 4-year old might have because he wants to play with one. No, this is much worse. This is the kind of temper tantrum that full grown adult man has when he's thrown down good money for the children that he loves on a toy that fails to work.

I've spent a whole lot of hours (more than you can guess) putting furniture, games, and play sets together for the boys. I've had to interpret idiotic Ikea-like instructions written in Chinglish by people who have never actually seen the toy themselves.

Sometimes, if things click together well, I'll occasionally comment on the excellent engineering that went into the design of a given toy. Other times I want to catch the guy that designed it and ring his neck. But nothing infuriates me like a toy that once put together properly doesn't even come close to working as advertised.

Case in point with the Mattel Hot Wheels Carcade that I spent almost two hours working on last Christmas. It's basically a pinball game that uses Hot Wheels cars instead of a ball. You load up a car and fire it up the ramp to hit the targets. Except for one small problem: The motor doesn't even come close to having the power to shoot a Hot Wheels car up the incline, let alone to give it enough force to strike any of the targets with any effect. Brand new quality batteries (a LOT of them) were installed in this piece of crap and it barely farts out the cars that came with it, let alone any of the myriad other Hot Wheels cars it claims to work with.

I put a book under it to give it some help. And then another. And then another, until I virtually had what was supposed to be an incline level with the floor. What I had successfully constructed was a $99 piece of garbage. The only thing that worked was the constant, loud sounds that emanated from this thing. No, there is no on/off button. Once you touch it, it continues to play music and shriek at you for 5 minutes -- unless you touch it, which resets the clock back to zero.

Tonight, I finished putting together a Spider-Man motorcycle play set. I was impressed by the quality of most of this thing until it came to the final linchpin that held it all together.  That’s where I noticed the problem. This thing was way too complicated to have any hope of working. Spider-Man is ejected out of the hand-cranked launch pad into a little stall that is lifted up and then circles around a central hub; reaching the top, the cycle flies out around a bend; triggers a little mechanism that captures the Green Goblin; and then Spider-Man must himself grab a safety hook with one hand and is swung to safety while his cycle crashes into a pit below.

It almost worked the first three times. The whole thing proceeded to deteriorate with each subsequent attempt until I was ready smash the whole thing and throw it out the window. The kids, who had not-so-patiently waited and endured my mutterings for 45 minutes of trying to assemble this stupid thing were disappointed with the results and then thoroughly astonished as I suddenly turned green, grew to a size of 8 feet tall, split all my clothes off, smashed through the wall, and then demolished the local toy store.

Before I ever buy another toy, I’m going to design my own. Using NASA specs. Then I’m going to stress test it under military conditions. I’m going to expose it to flame throwers, the impact of freight trains, and days on end of time/use simulations. The parts are going to fit together so damn well that as you open the box it’s going to seem as if they jumped out the packaging and locked themselves together without you having to so much as unfold the instructions.

And you know what? It’s going to be fun. Not just fun, but like mind-blowing, phantasmagorically, holy-Santa’s-Workshop-Batman-where-did-you-get-that-toy fun. And it’s going to last. In fact, it’s going to outlast all the kids who use it, the neighborhood kids who try to break it, and all the cockroaches who survive World War III. The EPfreakinA is going to bring a law suit against me because the toys I create are not only not going to be biodegradable, they’re going to be downright indestructible. The Department of Defense is going to try to hire me to design their next generation armaments.

And I’m going to tell them all to kiss my paternal butt. This is for my kids and they alone are worth the absolute best. Mattel and all the rest of them can go rot in a landfill somewhere.


aunty sissy said...

Just put the kids outside in the dirt... preferably wet dirt. They won't need toys. Maybe a spoon or a block of wood to push around... you will save money too, on everything except soap.

Anonymous said...

Any toy that operates itself is essentially useless as a toy. Save your money, buy cardboard boxes and markers and let the kids go to town. Aunt Sissy is right. P

Gleno said...

I'm not against that. I'm all for anything that forces you to use your imagination. However, these days, the technology exists to create toys that I could only have dreamed of. Instead, we get super expensive crap. I demand better.

Hoss said...

My eldest two brothers had a sand box. Dad placed it strategically in the center of a stand of three young oak trees in the back yard. The box was gone before my earliest memories; the sand mixed in with the stony clay Chesterfield soil. I cannot imagine a better 'Army Men' battle field. We dug massive trenches, built towering ramparts. Flooded the area time after time with the garden hose. You could play all day in the shade of the oaks. My older brothers bought firecrackers in the Carolinas for our mines and artillery. Army men, Glen. Imagination.