Thursday, September 23, 2010

Introduction and Pogs: The Bottlecap (?) Game

I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes I look at kids today and I get really, really jealous. Why? Because of the diminished responsibility of childhood? Because of their carefree nature, because I long for the days of recess and believing in Santa? No.

Because their toys? Are insane.

Seriously, I have three first cousins still under the age of ten, and it seems that they turn up their nose at anything that doesn’t perform more than one function. “That’s all it DOES?” was a resounding chorus whenever I’d innocent pass on one of my old toys with the naïve belief that they would enjoy it as much as I had. One, a girl, has a shelf overflowing with stuffed animals called Webkinz. They look innocent enough but you take them online and apparently they have a whole virtual WORLD. In my day, that would have been like, three separate toys. Another is a Wii Mario Kart master at the tender age of four, turning the wheel with the Wii remote stuck inside with the sort of skill that makes me wonder how he’ll be when he starts learning how to drive an actual car: “I already know that, I played Wii!”

But then I think, y’know, we had some pretty cool stuff in our day, too. Maybe it wasn’t as technologically advanced, but maybe that was a good thing. We certainly had to use our imagination more. Maybe our toys didn’t come with three separate intended purposes, but by God, we would make them have three purposes!

In “Stuff Fom Our Toybox,” I’m going to take a sometimes snarky, sometimes thoughtful, and always nostalgic look into the toys (with occasional detours into the realms of books and trends) that defined our 90s childhood, and why, deserved or not, we thought they were so awesome.

For my first entry, I thought it was only appropriate to begin with a toy that was defined by the 90s. A flash in the pan, it exploded onto the US scene in the mid 90s, only to disappear into obscurity a few years later, never to be heard from (or played with), again. And yet, when I speak about toys from our childhood, it is immediately what comes to mind for many.

I speak, of course, of Pogs.

The name POG actually comes from the name of a juice (who knew?)—Passionfruit, Orange, and Guava juice. The game of Pogs was originally played with the bottlecaps of this juice, until the Canada Games Company figured that if they slapped some pretty pictures on the top of round discs, they could make a lot of money off of easily amused children.

And they were right.

I didn’t know how to actually play Pogs when they were popular, but that didn’t stop me from owning at least a hundred. Charlie Brown Pogs, State Pogs, Flower Pogs, Pogs with designs on them, I had them all. According to Wikipedia, Pogs is played by stacking the Pog discs face-down and throwing one of the heavier slammers down on top of them. The ones that landed face-up the player got to keep; the ones that landed face-down were restacked and the next player got a chance to throw their slammer.

Well, this confirms that I definitely played it wrong, as I would just try and flip the Pogs one at a time with the slammer. But that doesn’t matter. I didn’t really want to play with my Pogs—I just liked to look at them, in the binder with the clear plastic sheet made specifically to hold them.

So why were Pogs so popular? Why aren’t they popular anymore?

In my opinion, Pogs were popular because they were cheap (they could often be found in bins at the check-out counter of stores), so our parents would buy them for us. They didn’t come in sealed packs or cartons for the most part (although if I remember correctly, you could buy tubes of them), so we knew exactly what we were getting. If you wanted a Snoopy pog, you got a Snoopy pog.

But the number one reason, I believe, is because they were banned in school. As Pogs were sometimes played for keeps, they were regarded as a form of gambling (cool! Right, eight-year-old me?), and as little kids we loooooved playing with something we ‘weren’t supposed to.’ Only unlike things like say, the oven, the car, or the VCR (ha! VCRs…), our parents didn’t really care if we played with them, so we took extra pleasure in flaunting the school’s authority knowing that we faced no real consequences from home.

Why aren’t Pogs popular anymore? Well, because looking back…Pogs was actually a pretty lame game. All it consists of is throwing a piece of metal onto a stack of cardboard discs. There weren’t multiple (official) ways to play Pogs, and the novelty soon wore off. As you did know exactly what you were getting, you didn’t keep purchasing Pogs in the hope of getting that One Special Pog that you had your eye on—you could just purchase it up front. There was no incentive to buy more.

Now you can buy Pogs on eBay in groups of 50 or 100 for .99 cents. But why would you want to—no one plays Pogs anymore!

So, feel free to leave your opinion below. Did you own Pogs when you were a kid? Did you actually know how to PLAY? Were they really as cool as we thought they were, or did we get tricked into paying for a game that originated from juice bottlecaps?

Next Blog: The Pokemon craze, and how Nintendo made millions and millions of dollars selling us the same thing over and over and over again.


  1. My parents never bought me pogs. I was deprived. They were so pretty...but no, they never really did anything, did they?

  2. Eileen! :D Haha, you were deprived. I remember I had Pogs for quite awhile before I even found out there WAS a game you could play with them. Unfortunately someone taught me, or explained it, wrong. It's good to know that the actual game wasn't any better.

    (PS: Thank you for being my very first new blog comment. :-) )

  3. I vaguely remember pogs for some reason. Just like you, I pretty much got them because they caught my eyes and I never played with them that I remember.

    I'll check out your next blog about Pokemon as that was so huge and still is surprisingly.

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  5. I remember those things, I use to see them everywhere. I might have had a few myself, but never really knew what they were for or how you played exactly. There was a lot of big fads of toys when we were younger. The more you had the cooler you were. But each generation gets more and more advance, so we continue to expect more and more.

  6. Me and my older sister played with them ALL the time as kids. we would also play in the most inconvenient and uncomfortable part of the house, the first landing of the staircase. I remember my mom wouldnt always get so mad that we were in the way, but we didn't care we had POGS! like that made us special or unstoppable. Those were my memories or the Pogs days.

    I was never REALLY big on Pokemon but i look forward to reading about it. Something else I look forward to reading about that I am sure you will sometime cover is Furbys. Those were creepy little suckers looking back on it. Right?

  7. Yup! I'm definitely doing Furbies! (According to Wikipedia, both 'Furbys' and 'Furbies' are correct. ;-) ) Actually they're my next entry after Pokemon, and it's funny that you called them 'creepy little suckers', as I already started my entry and the first line is "Even as a child, I thought Furbies were the creepiest things ever."

    And Pogs totally did make you special! Whoever had the most Pogs was, after all, the King (or Queen) of Cool!

  8. Oh man, Pogs... So awesome, and yet so useless. I remember my one friend actually had a Pog Maker, so you could pick out a picture from a magazine or something and get it cut, fitted, and glued to a blank Pog. That thing must've cost so much money, but we'd made like hundreds of them. I did know how to play the "proper" way, but I mostly just liked collecting them and not playing with them at all. At least they were better than Silly Bands.

  9. I remember Pogs, but my cousin use to play with them. My cousin would fight with the kids in school who had the best! He ended up giving a kid a black eye over POGS! It was hilarious. Good times :) And I agree way better than silly bands.

  10. i had hundreds of these. i loved the big metal "slammers". if you hit the board just right you could flip over every pog. my school actually outlawed them because the nuns considered it gambling

  11. Woot for lateness!!! I always hated pogs and never understood why they were so cool. One of my friends was completely obsessed with them, and while I tried to understand - I was really at a loss. No one else I knew had them, save for her, and whenever I asked someone if they knew what they were - they seemed at a loss.

  12. how about pog tiddlywinks?

  13. pogs were more of a collection item really than a toy, i remember it was a competion on who had the best looking slammer or pogs, :-) still it was better for kids to spend there money on things like then the rubbish they have out these days.and at least it got kids of our day outside and socialising rather than sat in doors playing on all these gadgets out now.such a waste of childhood