Friday, 16 December 2011

Toyology 2011: A Look Back

6 boxes. 6 months. 42 toys. 42 reviews, ranging from the barely-sane to the outright crazy.

For a number of years I ran the weekly quiz at the University of Birmingham Guild of Students. Our quizzes were never exactly what you'd call 'normal'. They were more about trying to get people to have fun than testing people's knowledge. You only have to look at the Loser's Round & it's tenuous links, the Design A Care Bear/My Little Pony/Guild President rounds, or the end of term specials where, despite protesting otherwise, bribes were commonplace and people ended up on scores in the millions...both positive and negative.

With the End Of Terms especially, you either got into the spirit of them, or you left in protest after Round 1.

The same goes with my toyology reviews over the past 6 months. It's been rare that I've done a 'normal' review. Whenever possible, I've done slightly off the wall reviews, which I hope readers have found interesting and drawn more attention to the products for toy vendors that might have been achieved with a 'normal' review (I could be wrong, of course - I may had inadvertently turned people away from all the toys & upset all toy manufacturers across the country). From the start I've aimed to make the reviews interesting even if you had no interest in the product. I have no idea whether I've achieved this, but if nothing else they've kept me entertained.

I've spoken to a lot of people who think being a toyologist must be the Greatest Thing in the World! Yes, you can't complain too much about being sent a large box of toys every month. But people seem to forget two things:

1) It's a lot of hard work. I've been sent 6-8 items to review every month. This means finding time to play with, think of a genius/bizarre review format, photograph/video, and write about 2(ish) toys every week. Mix in Real Life activities and you can very easily run out of time (going on holiday throws the schedule right off!). Sure, I could just run off a couple of lines about each toy, but I have Pride to consider: if I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it properly.

2) You don't get to choose what you're sent. I certainly haven't loved every toy (cough picnic table cough). I haven't hated every toy, either. It's been a mix of good, bad, surprising and disappointing.

I have enjoyed writing every single review. Yes, even the picnic table was fun to write, even if the construction of the table itself was a complete nightmare. (I can't help but worry that TP going into administration had something to do with that review...)

Toy-wise, the product that has received by far the most use by my boys has been the Power Rangers Megazord. I'll be ever grateful for Toys R Us sending this as it's meant that I've since been forced to buy the motorcycles, the tiger, the beetle, the original Megazords, the... Yes, thanks to Toys R Us starting us off we now own quite a big chunk of Power Rangers merchandise from the past 18 years.

Coming close behind is the LeapPad. I do have issues with the length of time (or lack of) that the batteries last and the games seem a little too quick to complete, but my eldest (and his friends) love it to bits.

Personally, and perhaps insanely, my personal favourite have been the Melissa & Doug crayons. Every child should own a pack of crayons and these are incredibly good quality.

As for reviews, my favourite is... Actually I can't pick a favourite. Toyology has given me an excuse to play around with video-editing software. I love the Flashcards. I love the Chuck-inspired Playmobil reviews. And the Harry Potter wands allowed the creation of the first new Captain Chair video in....a number of years!

Thanks to Toys R Us for thinking that the man who wrote a random review of Cheap Plastic Swords was worthy of reviewing 'proper' products. Thanks to the toyology team for dealing with often strange requests such as 'you know the music from the new advert...?' And thanks to the other toyologists I've met along the way.

This is Damian Johnson, toyologist 2011, signing off.

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