I was always the bad guys. An action figure enthusiast all my life, with my brother as my playmate, inevitably I was Skeletor and Darth Vader, and later Cobra Commander. Which was fine by me at the time; even then I knew Skeletor was a more interesting character than He-Man. Besides, often enough we combined forces whenever we played, so that Vader and Luke ruled the Empire together (how's that for making the best of being the bad guys?).

As for nostalgia... well to be honest I still collect and play with toys. Money is always too tight for fun, but I was in line outside Toys R' Us at midnight for the unveiling of the Episode I figures. I think McFarlane Toys, as well as Art Asylum and Moore Action Collectibles, is redefining the concept of action figures. The level of detail, texture, and articulation allows for complete poseability. Which is all to say that I don't just collect toys as investments; I open each one that begs to played with (which is most of the figures I would buy these days. Back when I could afford to blow a good portion of my paycheck on frivolity, I would not open all of my Star Wars figures, but certain characters need closer examination).

I have also maintained a healthy (I think) relationship with video games, enough so that I feel the overwhelming pressure to reserve new systems before launch. My first console, too, was the Atari 2600. Some of my particular favorites included "Dragonfire" and "Fishing Derby." So if you have those two games, Ryan, I'll kick yer ass. (BTW, you ought to try and find this game on eBay.)

I have put up with my share of rolled eyes, and derisive chuckles, when I speak with passion about toys, but none will dissuade my dream of owning a house large enough to furnish an enitire room with my stored toys. The centerpiece of which would be the impressive 7.5 feet long USS Flagg. I don't ever want to stop playing with toys, because they encourage me to use my imagination in ways that television and video games never would. If you spent a great deal of your youth looking at the world as Skeletor would, imagine the compassion you could achieve. It's not easy being purple AND having a skull for a face. He's really very sensitive.
by andrew wollman on 3/26/2001 01:58:21 PM | bang on

I tend not to have a whole lot of nostalgia for my childhood, at least not just yet. Perhaps it's just because I was such a solitary, sheltered child, growing up out in the country without the benefit of a neighborhood structure or anything of that kind. I pretty much just read a whole lot of books, messed around on computers, and played in the dirt a lot. A lot like my life now, I guess, only with more free time and wonder, and less drinking, socialization, worry, and sadly, no internet. If I'd had the internet back then, when I was so much better at concentrating and absorbing information, I would be an absolute genius by now. Probably an evil genius, but hey, what can you do?

Anyway, due to my situation, I missed out on all kinds of things, like cable tv, Atari, most fashion trends, social graces, and so on and so forth. I did at least have legos and construx and lincoln logs and model rockets and all kinds of educational and scientific toys, as my parents encouraged my early love of learning and science, but I don't really associate too many memories with that kind of stuff. I built a treefort or two also, though I couldn't do much with them unless I managed to weasel my sister into playing with me. I think the key is that I associate memories more with people and experiences, or I suppose shared experience would be the concept I'm looking for. I'm much better at remembering when I have someone else around to help draw it out of me, and to associate with and give form to the vague emotions and impressions that are swirling around in my oft-addled mind. But, I think the whole setup good for me overall. I may not have many memories from my early years, but I think that I owe my self-reliance and probably a lot of my creativity, perceptiveness, and ingenuity to those formative years of figuring things out for myself and getting to know who I was and what my limits and abilities were.

And, I made up for anything I might have missed socially and pop-culturally later on, by moving to town right at the start of high school, right into a neighborhood full of many of my better friends, and sort of coming into my own socially right away. And that was perfect, because I was able to figure out a lot of who I was without being unduly influenced(or scarred) by others when I was young, and then apply that to real life and social situations when I was ready. That's where most of my really good memories and nostalgia start to come in...
by Jared Dunn on 3/26/2001 03:18:01 AM | bang on

Lately I find myself getting more and more excited about the kinds of toys and activities I was involved with when I was a kid. I've been poking through my attic, stumbling across old books and playthings made of wood and metal. Particular matchbox cars and and little plastic guns I've stumbled upon reminded me of people and periods of time I'd completely forgotten. I've been re-reading all of my old Uncle Scrooge comic books. I ordered a series of Muppet Show videos immediately after watching an ad on TV. There's nothing cooler than Muppets appearing periodically in my mailbox. I bought an Atari 2600 with 50 games on Ebay, and from time to time I head downstairs for a dose of simple video games I haven't played in 16 years.

The toys I most enjoy rediscovering are the constructive geek toys, because they're still fun to play with. As a kid I had Legos, Capsella, Construx, Lincoln Logs, and stuff my father had played with when he was a child: a bin of white modular bricks and a classic Erector Set. These things, along with public television, are probably responsible for much of my intelligence.

In a magazine interview that I found somewhere, DJ Shadow said that at the age of 12 or 13 he started selling all of his toys to buy records, and at age 25 he started selling off records to buy the toys he always wanted as a kid. I'd be willing to invest some paychecks into a couple of radio-controlled cars, some Nerf weapons, and a few DuckTales episodes. I now have steady income, and the nostalgic appeal of these things continues to increase. I'd pay fat money just to live in a big old treehouse.

by Ryan Gantz on 3/25/2001 03:58:43 PM | bang on