The World is not Enough: Thank, God for Hasbro, Sphero, and Nerf

Every now and then I like to cover lighter topics that shed some hope for the human condition.  Occasionally I have written about my observations regarding the new cosplay phenomena and some of the very unique toys being made for kids from really great companies like Hasbro, Nerf and Sphero.  I have no problem admitting that when my wife drags me to the store for whatever reason—usually because she wants my company–that the place I always like to go first is the toy section to see what’s new there.  I have always enjoyed the inventiveness that comes with play and I think the world would be far better off if kids played more and for a longer period of time instead of rushing into puberty too quickly.  They should develop their minds longer than they do and after several discussions with my daughters who are now in their mid twenties I do have some hope that some of the inventiveness that is coming out in the toy markets and cosplay endeavors are the millennial’s generational self correction.

Any analysis into my love of Star Wars as a grown man would conclude that I find the people in those stories more interesting than real people.  The mythology of Star Wars as a whole has in it people I enjoy more than actual interactions.  Now some people might say that my view is unhealthy—that I shouldn’t set my bar for human interaction so high.  I would argue that society doesn’t set its bar for achievement high enough.  As a young person I always measured myself against the unrealistic expectations of the silver screen—not off the terrestrial limits of the real people in my life who I always felt were striving to be, “only human.”  They didn’t think big enough for me—the world they were offering was not enough.  And to a large degree millennials have grown up in broken homes with divorced insecure parents.  Their educations have been a joke and generally the world around them has been a tremendous let-down.  I mean who wants to grow up to be like John McCain? Anybody?  Or Maxine Waters?  How about a news anchor on any network?  Anybody want to be Chris Wallace?  If you have half a brain dear reader, you get my point.  So for their own survival millennials are doing to a larger degree what I always did, they turn to mythology where heroes and villains are larger than life and they base their standards for living off them instead of real people-because they innately recognize that they must do something to overcome the low expectations given to them by the lost generations which came before.

So that is the who and why all these fantastic toys and cosplay devices have emerged and specific to my interest is the Star Wars items from Nerf, Hasbro, and Sphero.   With Force Friday II coming up on September 1st 2017 where all the new Star Wars toys hit the shelves at Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us inventories that have been out there for a while since last year’s Rogue One movie is now at a very reduced price so my wife and I have been buying up things we’ve long been watching.  Specifically for me is the Hasbro At-ACT which came out last year for Rogue One but was over $300.  Hard for me to justify spending that kind of money on a toy, but lately it was marked down to $150 so we picked it up.  Another big thing we were able to pick up was the Sphero BB-8 robot which is driven off your smart phone.  In fact that’s what the AT-ACT and BB-8 have in common—both can move around on their own controlled off programming inputted into your iPhone which I think is just phenomenal.   The BB-8 robot from Sphero I think is a remarkable device and after finding it at Wal-Mart for half of its original $150 price tag I thought was a bargain.

For us, even though I enjoy the creativity on display in these new age toys if we didn’t have our grandkids over so much I wouldn’t have much of a desire to get them.  But, the kids are over a lot and I enjoy them immensely so when they are at my house we have all these very epic and expensive things to play with.  I remember how it was as a parent where luxuries were hard to come by and having all these expensive things to play with for the kids was difficult.  But as a grandparent we can afford to give the kids access to those kinds of things so we do, and I enjoy playing with the kids as they build up their brains with positive things I know will last a lifetime.  When kids play they don’t play to be a worthless bureaucrat or an average loser—they play to be a hero that saves the entire galaxy, that is the fantasy and it sets up in their minds the objective to reach for that high bar—even if it’s unrealistic.  It’s better to aim high than to not aim at all.  I also remember what it was like being a kid and I was a unique one.   I built models in the basement of our house very late into my teens and I had a large Star Wars toy collection that I played with until past the 8th grade.  I had a younger brother who had friends come over on Friday nights and we’d have massive Star Wars battles and honestly I found that a lot more fun than what was going on in real life.  I didn’t have any desire to drink, do drugs, use cuss words or play with girls.  The world I had in the basement of our house was far more interesting.  One of those younger kids who came over had a sister my age who was trying to fix me up with one of the prettiest girls in the 8th grade. She wanted me to go to the big homecoming dance with her after the football game.  This girl liked me a lot and had let me know that if I went to the dance with her that she’d let me do anything I wanted to her.  She was two years older than me and could drive.  Guess what I picked?  I chose playing Star Wars with the younger kids rather than messing around with that girl.  I never went to a single school dance until I was in my senior year and that was only to get a picture for my mom to put on her wall.   Many of my parents’ friends thought I was a weird kid so she wanted something to show that I wasn’t so strange.  In reality the toys were more interesting and I still love them to this day.   I can understand fully what cool toys and the freedom from guilt in playing with them can do for children.  I would say that now as an adult I am extremely well-adjusted and a very good problem solver.  I attribute a lot of that to developing my brain with a lot of play as a kid without the hassle of social pressure—like girls in the 8th grade and dances after football games.  Now as an adult with financial means, I do spoil my grandchildren for specifically those reasons—so they can feel the boundless joy of being a kid and discovering so many new things for the first time before life starts clamping down.  When life does clamp down, I want them to intellectually be ready.

And that’s why these toys are so much better than the toys from my youth, because Hasbro and Sphero aren’t just making them for kids.  They are making them for the many adults who now get past their 20s and aren’t interested in what the world has to offer.  As I think about this interesting aspect of our culture I can’t help but think of the James Bond movie The World is not Enough by the musical group Garbage.  That song captures this issue very well, the world is not enough because it doesn’t offer a big enough tapestry to project our hopes and dreams against—so many people find a relief from those limits by fulfilling their imaginations with these very sophisticated toys and these very creative companies understand and are rushing to fill that market need with some really spectacular offerings.  I always loved that song.  Needless to say I am impressed and continue to look forward to the next great thing to come from Hasbro and Sphero. That AT-ACT and the BB-8 droid are just fabulous and will bring a lot of joy to my house.  And I continue to look forward to what they come up with this year for Force Friday. I waited for some of these items for a few years so that the price would come down, but given the great utilization on display, maybe I won’t wait so long next time.

Rich Hoffman

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