Jon Allen, contributor
By the mid-90s, the world around us was in utter chaos: Magic Johnson was battling HIV, Tupac was battling Biggie, AOL was battling Prodigy, our parents were battling each other, and we were battling puberty. Even Michael Jordan had retired from basketball. The world was falling apart, and our heroes had gone to greener pastures. Only MC Hammer was left, assuring us that he and his parachute pants were still too legitimate to quit, but soon that ship would also sail.
Maybe we were avoiding the hard reality of the times. Maybe we were dabbling in escapism. Who knows? But for one brief school year, none of these problems mattered because we had glorious cardboard to play with; we had POGs.
There was no way to know at the time, but POGs would be the last hurrah for an era where games brought people from all socioeconomic classes to play together in the same room. POGs were a final salutation to the shared gaming experience; anybody could afford cardboard, so everyone was included. Even venerable arcades, with a nominal buy-in of one quarter, would soon go by the wayside, replaced by home gaming consoles costing hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars. Soon, only the rich could play, and if you weren’t rich, you weren’t included. Today, people who play board games are no better than LARPers; losers and weirdos.
We were the final stewards of the collective gaming experience. Warriors clad only in slap bracelets, NKOTB T-shirts, and neon friendship bracelets. Fueled by unfamiliar hormones, we fought over cardboard. But to us, POGs were so much more than that: POGs were life.
Now our children must have the latest iPhone, or their schoolmates will shame them for not conforming to societal standards. As parents, our responsibility is to prevent bullying by buying goods from American companies that outsource production to China where children still play with cardboard, or would if they didn’t have to work 14-hour days to make the goods that help our obese children conform to arbitrary adolescent standards.
And yet our children are unhappy. So for once, let us not cave. Let us take the steps to keep our children happy by buying them cardboard, glorious cardboard. Cardboard for Christmas. Cardboard for birthdays. Do this, not because it’s “cheaper” or we’re “dwelling on inconsequential aspects of our childhood to avoid having to deal with our mommy issues,” but because we want our children to be happy. Let’s bring back the happy. Let’s bring back POGs.