February 4th 2016 at 12:30PM
UPDATED February 5th 2016 at 12:14PM
Billy Langsworthy takes a look at why toy and game inventors don’t get the same limelight as movie directors, pop stars and other creators of mass entertainment.
I saw The Hateful 8 the other night, and as ‘The 8th Film by Quentin Tarantino’ appeared on screen, it got me thinking about how we credit creators in our industry.
Toys and games, along with video games, seem to be the a medium that isn’t too fussy about putting its creators front and centre.
On the toy side of things, I can understand it. The main audience for most toys is young kids and I can’t imagine many little ones sat through Inside Out waiting to see the ‘directed by’ credit. It also explains why most kids films don’t bother sticking a ‘directed by’ credit in its opening sequence, typical example below:
I had a chat with our columnist Richard Heayes on this and he made the point that toys are also closely alligned to consumer goods and in the same way that you don’t look at most things on your desk and ask ‘who designed that?’, that same is true of most people with toys.
On the game front, things are slightly different.
A game like Jenga is just as much embedded in the cultural lexicon as a movie like Pulp Fiction or an album like Abbey Road or even one hit wonders. Everyone knows who directed Pulp Fiction and who recorded Abbey Road and even who Chesney Hawkes is, but I’m not sure many outside of our industry knows the name Leslie Scott, or Charles Darrow, or Rena Nathanson.
There are sensible reasons for this of course. At the likes of the biggest firms, there’s often such a process of collaboration and teamwork on titles that any form of official credit just wouldn’t work. There’s also the issue of a firm’s designer being poached if they were splashed all over a hit game and, perhaps the major reason, there’s no real reason for firms to list designers when most toys and games are sold under the popularity of major brand names.
The truth is that putting a game’s creator on the box won’t do much to shift sales, especially if they’re an unknown name to the public.
However, the situation does change when you get to Eurogames and deeper strategy games.
Pandemic, Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride all list their creator’s on the box, and sometimes even the title’s artist, and it makes sense. The games are closer aligned to literature in detail and the audience for these sorts of games are passionate fans who, and I’m generalising here, are more invested in these titles than casual gamers are for something like Hungry Hungry Hippos.
As the listings on BoardGameGeek can testify, Knowing a bit about the behind the scenes of these games are all part of parcel of the process in the same way that a Tarantino fan might engage with the extras on a Reservoir Dogs Blu-ray.
But should the same ethos apply to more casual titles, a space brimming with indie talent.
Look at Schmovie, a great game made by the Brooklyn-based duo of Sara Farber and Bryan Wilson. While their company name, Galactic Sneeze, makes an appearance in the top right hand corner of the box, you have to travel to the murky depths of the ‘choking hazard’ panel to find a credit for them. The same is true of Stephen Wilson’s first foray into the game space with the wonderfully titled Go F**k Your-Self.
There are exceptions. Office favourite In a Bind carries ‘by Bez’ on the cover of its box, along with a self portrait of the man himself.
In our experience, toy and game inventors have just as much personality as the Quentin Tarantino’s of this world, but with noticably less ego. And that’s perhaps another key reason. While the worlds of music, film and TV are brimming with talent well versed in blowing their own trumpets, the toy and game inventor community seems to be a far more humble beast.
And while these mediums rely on star power to bring in the crowds, in our business, it’s gameplay and play value, rather than ‘starring Brad Pitt’, that draws the crowds.
Still, as champions of this community, we can’t help but hold a candle for the day when a title comes out with ‘The 8th Game By Bez’ on the box.
Lego Iowa – Tracking the Iowa caucus results, brick by brick
As of 8:49 p.m. CT
After a year of campaigning, it’s finally time for the first votes to be cast in the 2016 primary season. And that means it’s finally time for the first results to be recorded … in Lego bricks.
Both Democrats and Republicans are making their preferences known in the Iowa caucuses on Monday night, and we’ll be tracking the outcome here on two #LegoIowa maps. Stay with our live coverage as the results come in.
Note: Bricks are added to the map only after 50% of the precincts in a county report results.
Board games and the Periodic Table seem like unlikely partners in learning, but as writer and mom Karyn Tripp has shown, the two can have more in common than you might think. Tripp, the creator of homeschooling education site Teach Beside Me, paired Battleship with the table of chemical elements. Using the basic format of the classic game, she has turned it into a fun teaching tool that anyone can play.Teach Beside Me features simple instructions for making your own Periodic Table Battleship. To start, print out four copies of the table, laminate them, and secure them to folders with jumbo-sized paper clips. Position two of the Periodic Tables standing upright and lay the others down, with each row labeled alphabetically. Grab some erasable markers and you’re ready to play.The game follows the basic rules of conventional Battleship. Establish your “battleships” by circling rows of two, three, four, or five elements on the lower table. Afterwards, begin calling out coordinates—mark any misses with an “X” and hits with a circle. To learn more about Tripp’s game, check out the post on her website.
Men’s fashion is proving that it’s a force to be reckoned with.The men’s fall 2016 season kicked off this week in London with a nod to the Star Wars phenomenon.Runway looks at Nasir Mazhar were strikingly similar to the Empire’s favorite villain and father, Darth Vader.
Of course no Dark Side would be complete without the commander’s foot soldiers. Mazhar also featured black and white accessories fit for a Storm Trooper’s armor.
Belstaff and Craig Green seemed to channel Luke Skywalker and Rey with a uniform of simple structures and a pale tonal color palette.
Visions of Chewbacca surfaced as models walked Lou Dalton’s and Coach’s runways in textured brown sweatsuits and oversized fur coats.
Two-toned jackets and cross-body bags at Belstaff and Coach mimicked Finn’s look after he abandoned the First Order.
Even show-goers looked the part in home-made, droid inspired Lego masks.
At New York Sports Clubs’ Chelsea branch one recent Tuesday, employees were rushing to remove toy lightsabers from their plastic packaging. Amira Lamb, an exercise instructor, took her place in a brightly lit mirrored studio and explained that instead of her usual cardio-kickboxing class she would be leading a “Star Wars” workout, which she’d designed at the behest of Disney and Lucasfilm. Lamb, who is petite and has dark eyes, had her crinkly hair pulled back with two clips. She has a devoted following and is beloved by her mostly female students for her distinctive playlists and her efficient full-body approach.
Many regulars seemed confused about the new workout, which was called Awaken Your Inner Force. One young woman said that she wasn’t really a “Star Wars” fan.
“It’s still cardio,” Lamb explained. (She had designed a movie-themed workout before, in 2012, for Disney’s animated film “Brave.”)
Lamb made sure the twenty or so exercisers had the right equipment: one yoga mat; two Frisbee-shaped “gliding disks,” for sliding along the floor (these, she said, were “a nod to the ice planet”); one toy lightsaber. A latecomer with a tattoo on his calf ran in. “I need a sword!” he cried.
An electronic dance remix of the “Star Wars” theme started. Imitating Lamb, the class began with wide-legged plié squats, lightsabers held aloft. When they pulled the lightsabers down in front of their faces, the toys unexpectedly lit up and emitted tinkly battle sounds. “Oh!” Lamb said. Smiles spread around the room, in recognition of the universal truth that it’s really fun to wave around a long stick.
The names of the rapid cardio sets, each lasting about sixty or ninety seconds, were written on the mirror in blue and red marker. They included Lightsaber Leaps, Skywalker Press, Jedi Jacks, Padawan Pushups, and “Help Me, Obi-Wan!” A few were variations of Lamb’s usual exercises. (The Chewbacca Chop, in a non-“Star Wars” context, is the Wood Chop.)
“I’m still kind of new to this whole ‘Star Wars’ thing,” Lamb admitted. “I watched all the movies within, like, a week.” She had not yet seen the new film when she designed the workout, but “ran to the theatre” as soon as it came out, she said. “I changed some of the names of the exercises after I saw it.”
Lisa Hufcut, the director of P.R. for the company that owns N.Y.S.C., said that the partnership is ideal, because Disney “is looking for a way to incorporate their brand into the fitness demographic.” She added, “We’re seeing people come in who may not be regular exercisers, but who love ‘Star Wars.’ ”
In the studio, Lamb led the group into Lunge Like Luke. The exercisers assumed the lunge position, lightsabers held high, then brought their back knees forward while lowering their sabers, and reassumed the lunge, lightsabers lifted, as fast as they could. Between exercises, the class did plié squats, guided by breathing. “I think of the Force like Chi,” Lamb told them.
The music transitioned into a remix of “Starships,” by Nicki Minaj. The group dropped the lightsabers on the floor and jump-squatted over them to perform Lightsaber Leaps. For the Skywalker Press, the participants assumed a downward-dog position, moved into a plank, brought the left leg forward, returned to a downward dog, and then repeated the sequence with the right leg.
Lightsabers clattered against each other, and one knocked over a water bottle. Even the regulars had trouble keeping up with Lamb. The playlist was punctuated by sound bites from the “Star Wars” movies, such as R2D2 beeping and Leia calling out, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!” The class divided into two groups and faced off, in an approximation of the dark and light sides of the Force. Lamb said, “At some point, switching to the dark side is allowed!”
By Saber Push/Combat Burpees, many in the class were breathing heavily. The exercise involved jumping with both arms in the air, rolling along the floor, then standing and jumping again. To motivate the huffing stragglers, Lamb said, “If you feel like you’re dying, just think about the breath. The breath is the Force.”
The class ended with a cool down move called Yoda Flow, which Lamb said was inspired by Tai Chi. Afterward, a regular named Katherine Huala pronounced the new workout much harder than the usual cardio kickboxing. She is a “Star Wars” fan, but doesn’t love the more recent prequels. “Too much C.G.I.,” she said. ♦
From original characters to pieces modeled after existing properties, LEGO mini figures have entertained both kids and adult collectors for nearly four decades. And while opportunities to add to your collection are plentiful (new editions are constantly added through the LEGO Ideas Project), a company on Etsy (not affiliated with LEGO) has also made collecting the toys a little more personal. By using a 3D printing service, funky3Dfaces allows customers to customize the popular toys with photos of human faces.
Funky3DFaces explains the process on its website: Customers upload two photos based on a set of guidelines; the photos are converted into 3D models using facial recognition software; and then the company ships the heads to be applied by the buyer at home. Because of the limitations of the technology, there are only 10 hairstyles to choose from, but the options range from short afros to the “Marilyn,” after Marilyn Monroe’s signature waves.
The service is not limited to LEGO minifigures. Funky3DFaces also offers wedding cake topper specials, greeting cards, and refrigerator magnets. Check out examples of the products below, as well as a promotional video from the company’s Facebook page.
Getting up in the mornings can sometimes feel like a daunting task—sometimes preparing yourself breakfast, even just a simple bowl of cereal, even more so. Wouldn’t all be better off if we could just build a machine out of Lego to do it all for us instead? Probably. I look forward to our Lego vending machine future.
You might recognize the familiarity of the Cheerios machine—it’s from Youtuber AstonishingStudios, who recently had us lusting for a similar bit of Lego tech that dispensed McDonalds Chicken Nuggets. The Cheerios machine, which you can see in action below, works in a similar way, powered by Lego’s “Mindstorm” electronics pieces.
The machine doesn’t just dispense you a nice bowl of milk and cereal—in around 30 seconds, which isn’t half bad—it uses the Mindstorm pieces to also sort currency, as the machine will only accept 2 Euro coins, and nothing else. On top of that, the build itself is very nice, from the Cheerios color scheme to the cutesy little cereal display, and even a little slot that stores your spoons.
Naturally you’ll have to take bits of it apart at some point to restock the milk and cereal, and the actual act of building one of your own will probably take ages to, but it’d be nice to have some automated cereal-based-bliss on those mornings when you’re too knackered to do things yourself.
Help local wildlife through the lean winter months with this cool cake made just for them. Sculpt snow as shown, then decorate it with veggies, berries, corn, and seeds. Stop by often to look for tracks. You can use a wildlife guidebook to see who might be munching on the goodies.
Toymashup.com and RGC, Inc. Indemnification: By submitting materials to toymashup.com participants waive any and all claims of liability and holds harmless RGC, Inc and its affiliates, agencies, officers, agents, employees and members of their immediate families and any others acting on their behalf from any damages, injuries or other losses. Toymashup.com and RGC, Inc. will do its best to screen all submissions but is not responsible for the content—including copyrights, trademarks nor any matter of creative ownership—of any submissions. Please give credit to the originator of your submission(s) by including a link and/or the creator’s name.