These two handheld electronic games belonged to a dear friend of my wife and mine, who passed away a few years ago. When I first glanced at these, my mind immediately transported back in time to a place where my brother and I used to love visiting… Toys R Us. Back in the day, Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii systems didn’t exist. There were no handheld video games because technology wasn’t there yet. We only had these Mattel electronic gems.
My brother and I did a pretty good job hounding our mother about getting that game and we finally wore her down to the point she agreed to buy it for us. Kids at school had one, so, of course, we wanted to have one as well.
As soon as my mom parked the car in the Toys R Us lot, my brother and I bolted out and sprinted to the store entrance. We could hear her yelling behind us to watch out for cars. Of course, we weren’t… eye on the prize, not on cars. Once we got into the store, there always comes a moment of frenzied confusion trying to locate the target. Toys R Us was this huge warehouse of toys back in the 70’s and 80’s, but today, these stores are a shell of their former self. Imagine two kids, boiling over with excitement, hopped up on sugar, and trying to locate a hand held game in an area the size of a Costco.
After a couple wrong turns down the G.I. Joe and Light Bright aisles, we finally found them on a display table and it was a sight to behold. The grins on both our faces was as wide as a can of Lincoln Logs. We grabbed the game and headed straight to the checkout line. We stood there giddy in anticipation of the fun that would commence once we got home. We were so restless that anyone looking on would swear we had to go to the bathroom. The drive back to the house was only 15 minutes, but it felt like 15 hours.
We just about busted down the front door of the house and raced to get a 9V battery. Then, the moment of truth... switching the unit on. Not much to see, but to my brother and me, it was the best thing to come along since Pong. We spend hours upon hours playing that simple game, until we could no longer move our thumbs. Even then we figured out a way to use our fingers, so we could continue playing. Ever hear of Nintendo Thumb? Well we had Mattel Thumb.
Now as I gaze upon these classic games, I think about simpler times and the beginnings of electronic games dominating kids’ lives. We’ve substituted riding our BMX bikes and skateboards for playing video games pretending to ride BMX bikes and skateboards. As much as I fondly remember these electronic beauties from Mattel, my fondest memories come from the experiences playing in fields, racing on a BMX dirt track my friends and I created, and coming down a skateboard ramp doing my first 180.