The Hall Has Lost Its Way


Well, the Hall of Fame’s class of 2013 has been revealed, and I can’t pretend to be thrilled about it. No, I’m not talking about the Baseball Hall of Fame; it’s November, and baseball is dead to me. I’m talking of course about the National Toy Hall of Fame, which, for the woefully ignorant among you, is based in the Strong Museum of Play (that’s its name) in Rochester, New York. Faced with a solid pool of nominees, the voters once again displayed a truly breathtaking lack of boldness, imagination, and critical thinking, electing only two mediocre candidates — Chess and Rubber Duck — and thus ushering the Hall further down the road to complete irrelevancy.

Where do I start? One might expect such an institution as the Toy Hall of Fame, at a bare minimum, to establish a half-decent definition of “toy” and “fame.” But that, evidently, would be asking too much. The Hall’s eagerness to placate its various constituencies has driven it ever further toward gimmickry and away from sober judgment. How else to explain the ridiculous induction of pseudo-toys Stick (2008) and Blanket (2011), at the expense of an equally pedigreed and far more legitimate candidate like Bubbles (which missed the cut, again, this year)? How else to explain the choice of G.I. Joe (2004) and Star Wars Action Figures (2012) — blatant pandering to the crucial bloc of Gen-X males — while equally innovative and lasting toys like My Little Pony continue to be shut out year after year? And don’t get me started on their ham-fisted handling of the Skateboard/Scooter situation.

Worse yet, with the public clamoring for a clear stance on performance enhancement, the Hall has done nothing but waffle. After eight years of completely ignoring electronic nominees, they finally caved and let in two token “juicers” within the span of three years — Atari 2600 and Game Boy — and then went back to hiding their heads in the sand, hoping the awkward problem would just go away. Well, it hasn’t, and now we’re in a position where one of the most valuable and game-changing toys of its era, Pac-Man, is resigned to accepting a handful of charity votes every year while watching his rightful spot be occupied by things that hardly even qualify as toys. The Hall’s criteria are notoriously opaque, and that’s not likely to change. But if you’re going to apply a litmus test, for God’s sake just get it out in the open and be consistent. Don’t keep a decent guy like Pac-Man in limbo for the rest of his life.

Look, this year’s class was great — if you’re a grownup (Chess) or an infant (Rubber Duck). There’s little risk in reaching out to those demographics, after all. If the Hall ever wants to get back what it was supposed to be doing all along — namely, celebrating playthings that forever expanded the imaginations of children — then it can give me a call. For now, I’m washing my hands of the whole thing.

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Sociology Degreer
Sociology Degreer

Welcome to the age where the Hall of Fame no longer even bothers with the pretense of honorableness. Instead, we are in the age of petty hostility, personal vendettas, and transparent convolution. Anti-intellectualism is now a virtue! These arbitrary and trifling standards for the Hall are nothing but a thinly veiled farce. I mean, come on! Chess??