Mountain Family: Lessons learned from Bakugan
Eagle County CO, Colorado
That’s how my friend David summarized “Bakugan” ” the latest craze to be sweeping our sons’ elementary school. Bakugan is the most recent attempt by Japanese toymakers to hoover up all the allowance money in the world by convincing boys that they need ALL of these things: the “starter set,” the collector cards, the “gate” cards that actually appear to be made of metal. Our sons will need Bakugan battle arenas, fantasy figures, carrying cases, miscellaneous other accouterments and, of course, unswerving allegiance to the TV show.
I’ve been through this before. One son was on the whole Pokemon-Yu-Gi-Oh! bender, which lasted a good five years and probably accounted for $500 or more in purchases. The oldest boy devoted his entire income and savings to the acquisition of Harry Potter cards over the course of several years. Now teenagers more interested in the curious things girls do and say than what Hagrid or Pikachu are up to, the “investments” now sit in boxes or on shelves, gathering dust. Occasionally, the two older boys get them out and weep over the expenditures.
Bakugan, for the uninitiated, is some sort of game involving spring-loaded magnetized figures which, when rolled across the aforementioned metal cards, pop open to reveal a little robot inside. Children are meant, of course, to “collect them all,” and who knows how many we’re talking about here. Andy tried to have me “play” Bakugan with him ” a card game of sorts that involves pitting various cards of differing “powers” against one another. But even though I downloaded a PDF of the rules and printed it out in an attempt to learn, I couldn’t make heads nor tails out of it all ” which was exactly the experience I had with Yu-Gi-Oh! when my son Max tried to explain it to me. I would focus as intently as possible on his words, but after about 20 seconds he may as well have been speaking Gallic. It’s pretty much the same deal with Bakugan, the attributes and arcana of which were understood and assimilated by my 7-year-old with savant-like speed.
The plus side is that the popping-open part of Bakugan is pretty cool. Give me one of those things for my desk and I’d fiddle around with it all day long. This is definitely the “digital” equivalent to the musty analog of the marble, but at 6 bucks a piece and looking to be fairly fragile, it’s clear any marble could kick the toughest Bakugan’s butt any day of the week ” and still leave enough change for a Happy Meal.
It’s tempting to see only the blatant commercialism behind Bakugan. Indeed, I’ve always found it annoying how these companies prey on the naivete of children who are led to believe certain cards are “rare”; that they need to collect every piece, part and card to have the best, most legitimate experience; and the implied myth that certain items will be worth a fortune, some day, on e-Bay.
On the other hand, the world is comprised of a vast array of material goods and everyday choices that must be weighed. Perhaps Bakugan ” as marbles and baseball cards did for generations before ” helps kids create a micro-economy of their own that will one day help them parse the real thing; to deal and trade. Might not assembling a winning Bakugan team based on various powers and attributes some day aid in spouse or car or job selection some day? So long as my son realizes that his future wife won’t have an obvious “G-power” stamped on the back of her neck, or that a car purchase won’t involve a pitched battle involving dragons and/or robots, well, maybe he is learning something about decision-making from these spendy little pieces of plastic.
But probably I’m reading too much into it. I will say this, though: If you have chosen to allow Bakugan into your home and have such items on the Christmas list, get them quickly! My wife was nearly in a Bakugan-worthy brawl herself at a Denver Target the other day trying to get a package of these things as they were being put on the shelves.
Somehow, I don’t think marbles ever reached that level of popularity.
Alex Miller is the editor of the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at 970-668-4618, or email@example.com.