Christmas in the Catalogs

It seems that Christmas gifts have changed a lot over the last twenty years. Video games have taken over a great number of pages in the toy catalogs. It did not always use to be that way; twenty years ago, there were few digital toys. Sure there were “electronics” in the form of remote control cars and talking action figures, but not as many video games as there are now.

Just this last week, I was browsing through the major toy catalogs, and each one had at least ten or twelve pages devoted to video games. Two pages to specialized “young children’s” games, special video game handhelds developed for the six-and-under crowd. Each major video game console has two pages: one for the games, and one for the specialized peripherals. Same goes for the handheld gaming systems and games, and let us not forget computer gaming and accessories.

Back when I was young, out of the entire catalog, there was a single two-page spread that contained all of the information we needed to know about video games. The two available consoles—Nintendo and Sega—were in the corner, another corner for some of the accessories, and then one page for games. That’s all; that’s it. And we were happy!

I start to reminisce over the Christmas gifts I got over the years, and realize there’s so little of them in the catalog anymore. I remember the Year of Transformers Toys: nowadays Transformers are only featured when one of the movies was out. There would be pages of Optimus Prime in all his different forms, and my three brothers and I would want them all.

There was the Year of Paintball, when my oldest brother and I got our first paintball markers, and tons of paintball apparel: t-shirts, wallets, and jackets emblazoned with all kinds of witty paintball-related words. (Though, in retrospect, there’s probably a good reason paintball equipment is not sold as toys any longer.)

The Year of the Super Soaker was probably the best one of all. Living in South Texas, it is not as “white” a Christmas as other places. By noontime, after the presents were opened, it was warm enough to grab our new water bazookas—Super Soakers, not to be confused with puny waterguns—and head out into the courtyards. I found three Super Soakers in the catalog this year. I just shake my head; these kids do not know what they’re missing.

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