Thursday, March 19, 2009
Bop it was endless hours of fun. Well, endless hours of preoccupation. Okay, maybe just endless hours sacrificed to almighty commander, Bop it.
In the 1990s, parents, teachers, and toy-makers must have sat down and had a meeting. "Kids just aren't obedient enough," the adults probably lamented. "They're always going outside to play and they refuse to sit still and obey our persistent two-word-followed-by-exclamation-point commands."
How could we solve this conundrum of noncompliance?
The notion that the original toy, featuring only three functions, could hold the attention span of an eight-year old is a somewhat baffling one. The toy was essentially the at-home version of the doctor's office knee-jerk reflex test. A small audio system embedded within an oblong piece of plastic would issue forceful, pleasantry-free commands instructing the player on which function to manipulate.
"Bop it!" the machine would urge. And we would comply, locating the bop-centric button and bopping accordingly.
"Twist it!" the contraption would prompt. And so we diligently twisted, maneuvering the crank.
"Pull it!" the device would insist. And so we pulled, slightly dislocating the handle on the opposite side.
That was it. I mean, that was it. The entire toy. Sure, it started slow and gradually built speed in its commands, but that was the whole shebang. If nothing else, Bop it taught the wrenching pains of stress and mounting pressure to perform onto young, unsuspecting children. Our hearts would beat quickly, our blood pressure would soar; to examine our physiological response you would think that we were experiencing extreme anxiety over a big boardroom presentation or an impending job promotion.
Like its similarly (though slightly more enthusiastically) titled 90s toy cousin, the Skip it!, the main objective that kept us sadistically coming back for more was the personal best scoring function. On an aside, it seems that at this time, Hasbro's marketing team was padded with semi-literate foreigners with a limited vocabulary and a penchant for profuse punctuation. Let us briefly envision a marketing meeting at Hasbro in the 1990s:
Marketing Director: Alright people, we've got two new toys to name.
Team Member: What do they do?"
MD: Well, one you have to bop and the other you have to skip.
TM: Great, we've got our first words. Could we possibly identify them by definitive, meaningful pronouns?
MD: No, no, I think we should go with "it". Gender neutral, flexible meaning. The feminists will go wild for it.
TM: Okay, so can we leave it at that? Bop it and Skip it?
MD: It seems to lack a certain pizazz...it needs some punctuation to punch it up a bit.
TM 1: Question Mark?
TM 2: Semi Colon?
TM 3: Ellipse?
MD: We're not quite there...
TM 4: Exclamation Mark? But only for the Skip it, let's not push our luck.
MD: Bingo! Team member 4, you've been promoted to head of the Hasbro toy naming department. Ingenious!
But again, I digress. Bop it may have been simple and exclamation-point-free, but it did have a certain charm. It was endlessly frustrating in an encouraging, self-improving way. Bop it (at least the early, non-sellout model) was refreshingly simple and required a great deal of concentration. This was Simon for the colorblind, whack-a-mole for the vegetarians. For every 10 points a player earned, Bop it would give you a congratulatory burst of audio and bragging rights to lightning-quick albeit unnecessary reflexes. The Bop it knew better than to let us become big-headed from our victories, though. For every mistake, the Bop it would cackle maniacally at your general ineptness. It was certainly humbling, if a little cruel.
Of course, as our generation evolved into miniature multi-taskers, so too did the Bop it evolve and betray its original design and develop into a more mature "extreme" version of itself.
Though not completely true to tradition, the Bop it Extreme had its high points. Just imagine, now you could also spin it! And flick it! How did they ever achieve this brilliant feat of engineering?
In a crazy twist of toy-naming fate, Hasbro's latest rendering of the Bop it toy (scheduled for a 2009 release) is a throwback to the Hasbro of the 90s and their distinct brand of earnestness and zeal that so defined their work. The new 2009 version of the Bop it will be called...
Wait for it...
Wait for it...
With an exclamation point.
Sorry Marketing Team Member 4.