Before I get into the illuminating and tropical history of the game any child who came of age in the early ’90s remembers, I must first direct your attention to some recent discoveries.
A couple weeks ago, after sharing my first post here, a friend of mine alerted me to some youtube videos that parody the whole Zelda saga. I never would have seen these hilarious videos if not for the heads up, so thank you! To my list of things to do as a graduate student, I now proudly add scrolling youtube for hours using the keywords “Zelda,” Ocarina of Time,” “Link,” “AWESOME” and “I SWEAR I HAVE A LIFE.”
The YouTube channel http://www.smosh.com produces some of the funniest videos I found. One is a rap laying out the history of our Hyrulian hero Link in terms anyone who has suffered the egregious sin of being overlooked can understand.
“The Legend of Zelda? No! Legend of Link!” Our blonde-haired friend laments, “Oh you thought my name was Zelda? That’s a f**** girl’s name!”
There’s an ingenious use of the original sound effects from the game too. The rap also makes fun of the fact that Link’s wallet can only hold so many rupees. 500 rupees in fact. Link’s bank account is clearly maxed out at 999. Anyone who takes the game as seriously as me, feels pretty silly after watching this, that’s for sure.
There are other parodies as well. One points out the cringe-worthy fact that one of the bad guys in the game is named Dark Link. He’s supposed to be the “shadow” of Link. His evil double, essentially. The guys in this sketch do a pretty hilarious job turning that notion on its end, and make a larger point about the lack of diversity in video games in general.
There are countless other videos. Some are acoustic versions of songs in the game, others are interpretations of what life would be like for Link if he were suddenly thrust into present day. They are worth a watch if you feel like a good laugh, and you are wiling to embrace your inner nerd and/or dork.
That being said, on to my next artful artifact due for inspection. Behold:
Dear pogs, it’s me, 1994.
There’s something about the name. Four letters. Simple, rhymes with hogs, yet evocative of the exotic and unknown. Pogs originated in Hawaii in the 1920s or 1930s. It began as a game played with little round milk caps, which are a little larger than silver dollars. Players stack them up and then hit the stack with a Slammer, which is a heavier object made of metal. Whichever milk caps fall out of the pile, the player gets to keep. The game reached a revival in the early 1990s, when a teacher in Hawaii introduced the game to a class of elementary school children to help them with math. The game spread from there, and eventually reached a level of national popularity.
Naturally, fast food companies and other corporations tried to cash in, manufacturing the “pogs” and handing them out in Happy Meals around the world.
The only problem is THOSE pogs lacked the ever-elusive staple on them, the signifier to every elementary school child that the pogs were authentic.
Pogs were a part of the cultural milieu for young children and their parents in the early 1990s. During the O.J. Simpson trial, slammers were made with pictures of O.J. on them. This one can be yours today for $23.38 on https://www.etsy.com/listing/187996387/vintage-slammer-the-oj-simpson-pog-the
Today pogs run the gammet from maybe $20-$25 for a slammer or a few milk caps, to $75 for an entire collection on ebay.
When I was about eight years old, pogs reached their zenith in my life. They quickly receded, never to return again as a part of my consciousness. I remember wanting, no, desperately needing actually, some pogs so I could play with my friends at school. The problem was naturally my parents had no idea what pogs were. “Aren’t they just little cardboard squares? I could make some for you out of some boxes?” No! I cried. They have to be REAL! So we went to the GameZone store in town, and bought a pogtainer (yes, it was officially called a pogtainer) and filled it with milk caps. They had what looked like weird Looney Tunes figures on them. Some looked like a cross between Grover from Sesame Street and a purple devil. Anyways, I joyfully toted my pogtainer to school. It jostled in my backpack alongside my books and folders. But to my horror, at recess, when we all took out our pogs, one of my friends held a lovely, matte-finished circle in her hand. It was blue and gold. “This is a real pog, see?” She said, turning the circle over in her hand. It didn’t look like it was made of the same cardboard as mine. It wasn’t shiny like mine were. I saw the staple, and then I knew. Things had just been taken to a whole ‘nother level.
So we went back to GameZone and picked out “authentic” pogs with the staples on them. Some weeks later, I had church on Sunday. Naturally I went everywhere with my authentic pogs, encased in my baby blue pogtainer, so I took them to church. I placed them next to me, as if they were an extension of me. I took them with me to Sunday School, but at some point I was separated from my dear pogtainer. Likely, I had to get up for a group assignment. Either way, I returned to my seat, and my pogs were gone. No one came forward to admit they took them. I tell this story to illustrate that’s how popular pogs were in their day. So popular, children actually stole them from each other during Sunday School.
To this day the game of pogs has retreated back from whence it came. It’s rare to find anyone who still has their pogs, or even thinks of them ever.
Part of the thrill of the artifact is the history behind it, both personal and political. It’s hard to believe, but pogs were actually used for public service announcements! All I know is I got great joy out of those silly cardboard circles. But what was with the designs on them?