Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Confessions of a toy pusher



Hello, I am that annoying person who compiles a list of dumb-arse toys you should buy for your kids every Christmas.

 

Kidspot.com.au calls this list, 'Top 20 Toys for Christmas (insert current year here)' and everyone clicks on it. 

 

At first I thought it was going to be like Tom Hanks' job in Big. And at first it kind of was: I was sent free toys, I was invited to morning teas with FREE CAKE, I was pretty much on the take and sold to the first person who sent me a free sample of Barbie's Glam Camper van.

But I have been doing it for three years and this is my scorching of the earth to ensure I never have to do it again.

As part of the ‘research’ for this list, I am sent invites from toy marketers to all their morning teas, toy fairs and toy exhibits so that they may show me their wares. I have attended many of these fairs, I have been given a private viewing of a Furby Boom during which I lost the will to live and I have read countless marketing blurbs describing the latest revolution in bead art technology.

After three years, this is what I know and I will now impart it to you, free of charge:

There are about 15 categories for ‘new’ toys every year and despite their efforts to polish up the same old turds, every year when I show up to eat their free cakes, the 'new' toys are the same ones they dazzled me with last year.

Here are the 15 categories of toys I am guaranteed to see every year

 

1. The toy that connects to an app


This is actually every single toy in existence. Once they’ve finished showing you all the features of the toy the rep then excitedly tells you that the toy also ‘connects to an app’ on your mobile device. LIKE THAT’S SOMETHING WE PARENTS WANT TO HAPPEN!

Like we want our kids stealing the iPad AGAIN to play their stupid games on it and ask us for money to buy into the next level.

Like we want our kids to sign up with our email addresses to ANOTHER COMPANY THAT WILL END UP SELLING OUR DETAILS TO THE HIGHEST BIDDING SPAMMER.

Like we want our kids to load up our iPad with so many apps and games that we can no longer download the latest episode of The Walking Dead!

ENOUGH WITH THE APPS!!!!

2. The A.I thing that talks to you and eventually reaches self awareness so that it can kill you in your sleep

 

I just do not get the appeal of these creepy talking things. Not only are they stupid battery chewing hunks of plastic landfill CRAP!!!! But there is something so passive about a toy that does all the story-lining and voice work for your kid.

Remember playing with your dolls and doing all the voices? Even the voices of Ken and Stiffy (Ken’s weird friend the GI Joe doll whose legs did not bend hence the name, ‘Stiffy’ Just me?)

That was half the fun. Now there’s a Furby that names ITSELF before multiplying by having its own Furby babies to amass the army that will eventually take over the earth.  It also comes with its own arsehole 'personality', takes virtual showers and complains when the water pressure is too low.

If I wanted an arsehole for a toy, I'd get an old G.I Joe doll and name it Stiffy.

3. The animatronic pet for sad kids who aren’t allowed to have a dog or a cat

 

Sometimes they come on a skateboard and have sunglasses because what's more fun than a real dog? A dog on a skateboard with sunglasses.

Then there's birds in cages that whistle and repeat back what you’ve just said, a butterfly that lands on your hand and there may or may not have been a faux stick insect in a cage.

Just buy your kid a freakin’ guinea pig for Christ’s sake!

4. The pink horse thing with hair

 

I don’t know why the horses have to have hair, but they do. And I don’t know why they all have to live in a house  or a shoe together, but they do. What I’ve discovered about girls’ toys is that there is a big focus on:

  • Share house living
  • Lurid pink d├ęcor
  • Horses with hair
  • Big eyes. BIG BIG EYES
  • A thematic tie-in to the movie coming out that you will have to sit through next school holidays.

5. The teeny tiny cute thing with big eyes and lots of teeny tiny bitsy pieces and it lives in a house or a tree with other teeny tiny things and it’s from a TV show

 

Some of them live in a pet shop in Paris or some shit. I dunno. Are they dogs or cats or beavers? I just don’t know. I just know that they come in a box with one squillion tiny bits and pieces that will be lost and sucked up by your vacuum cleaner within the month.

Toy companies STOP MAKING TEENY TINY THINGS THAT END UP INSIDE THE VACUUM CLEANER YOU ARE WASTING EVERYONE’S TIME!

6. The digital gaming device that 'reinvents' the entire digital gaming device genre

 

I don’t understand these things and I do not aspire to understand them. As soon as the marketing material comes through for these waste-of-space-in-my-living-room pieces of digital-gaming-excrement my brain just shuts down.

The last one that was foisted upon me like it was the re-invention of the hula hoop was Disney Infinity.

I couldn’t attend the ‘presentation’ so I had to hear about it over the phone from a 12 year old toy rep. She was nearly hyperventilating as she told me about it and I could barely keep my eyes open. Sensing my total disinterest, she sent one through by courier to seduce me with its magical gaming-like-you’ve-never-seen-before properties.

It had figurines and consoles and Mr Incredible was running through Shrek’s castle and my GOD it was dull. My kids played with it for about an hour then lost interest.

7. The faux learning device

 

Ever since Baby Einstein CDs were touted as the way to make your baby smarter, I have hated this 'make your baby smarter' horseshit. But I have always included them in the list, because I figured at least they were trying to offer something educational.

Last year it was a watch that rewarded kids for getting off their fat arses and doing some exercise. It was so depressing. It detected their movement and then said things like: “Good job you just earned five diamonds.” And then it sent them a pic of five diamonds that went ‘brrring!’ just for getting off their fat arses and moving around.

Really? Is this where we’re at?

8. The dumb toddler thing that makes annoying noises and sings alphabet songs


I call this section: It don’t mean a thing if it don’t talk and sing.

Sometimes it’s a train, last year it was a chair with a lift-up seat that looked suspiciously like a commode. As one of my colleagues shrewdly pointed out, it would only be a matter of time before you lifted the lid and found a crap in there.

It sang, it made up games, it affirmed you effusively for choosing the triangle. It was like The Singing Bush in The Three Amigos: it just would not. SHUT. UP. In my defence, I suggested that parents take the batteries out and just use it as a little chair. Because how much do toddlers love little chairs?

9. The  remote control ... whatever


Helicopters, cars, 4WD vehicles, boats, flying fairies. They climb up walls, they respond to the touch of your palm, they chew up batteries, they end up gathering dust under a bed because the batteries ran out and no one wanted to buy any more.

Batteries, batteries, batteries.

I predict that in the future, human children will have devolved in such a way that they will no longer be able to make those very complex 'vroom vrooom' 't-t-t-t-t' vehicle noises they can now make because the toys will be doing it for them.

Sad.

10. Some kind of Elmo toy that will do the parenting for you

 

Big Hugs Elmo started out as a big soft toy with long arms that cuddled you. Then the following year, Elmo started handing out affirmations: “You give the best cuddles.”

Then the year after THAT Elmo started putting your kid to sleep for you by shutting down and saying: “It’s time to go to bed now.”

Perhaps next year, Elmo will be running an ethics class.

11. Some kind of doll that shits its pants

 

Disclaimer: I have an deep-seated hankering for one of these because my mum would never let me have one as a kid. To be fair, I can see her point now.

They are revolting. But still I want one. I don’t know WHY!

This year it was Big Snacks Sara (or something) and you made her snacks. She ate them. She shat them out. Welcome to motherhood, girls. Are we having fun yet?

12. A nerf gun that REINVENTS THE ENTIRE NERF GUN GENRE

 

I don’t know where they are going to go next with these because every year the cartridge that holds the bullets gets bigger or the bullets come out faster. Nuclear capability perhaps? It’s a slippery slope.

13. Small rubbery pieces of crap with eyes that are breathlessly described as ‘collectables’

 

 Remember Trashies? Then they made these weird Shopkins things plus a crappy little supermaket shop with a stiffly turning conveyor belt that tipped all the Shopkins things over when it moved and would probably make your four year old cry.

These are just more teeny tiny bits of crap that end up all over your floor at home. FUCK YOU TOY COMPANIES! FUCK YOU!

14. Something overpriced and elaborate from a Star Wars movie

 

But with no female characters obvs.  Because extensive research has shown that girls are weak and need to be chucked in the creek.

Am I right toy companies?

15. A pillow that does something a pillow probably shouldn’t do like glow or turn into a monster

 

Don’t get me wrong, I like Pillow Pets, but I’m just not sure about the psychological effects of your pillow morphing into a monster while you sleep. What will they think of NEXT?

Oh wait, I know, an app.