|"From bikes to trains to video games..."|
If you were wondering, yep, that's Urkel.
Toys 'R Us was also the place to go for video games, back in the days when adults didn't take them too seriously. Most retailers were reluctant to carry game software in the mid 1980s thanks to the industry crash of 1983, but I can't think of a time when they didn't have a major presence in Toys 'R Us. I recall visiting my aunt in Milwaukee back in 1986 and finding a wall of black tags with curiously pixelated artwork mixed in with old-school titles like Scooby-Doo's Maze Chase for the Intellivision. Those black tags were games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, a scrappy newcomer which would go on to dominate the game industry years later. I didn't know at the time that I was staring at history in the making, but significant moments like these tend to slip past you when you're a tightly-wound twelve year old.
|A rare glimpse of the Toys 'R Us |
game wall, circa 1991. Who was buying
all those copies of Budokan, anyway?
When you were done, you'd bring your ticket to the register and purchase the game of your choice. You'd then take the receipt to an imposing concrete partition near the store exit. This was the electronics stockroom, a veritable Fort Knox of gaming goodness. After you slipped your receipt under the glass window set in the wall, then and only then were you given your game.
A grown-up would probably find this arrangement needlessly complicated and time-consuming. However, to a child, it brought a sense of gravity to the game purchasing experience, something Nadia describes as a "solemn event." That game was going to be just as fun no matter where you bought it, but retrieving it from the grey brick fortress in the front of the Toys 'R Us made the purchase more significant. The fact that this was only necessary for games heightened that significance. You weren't buying some silly toy. You were buying a video game.
|Well, they tried.|
|The new R-Zone. Boo, hiss!|
(Special thanks to Nadia Oxford for inspiring me to write this, and to YouTube, Flickr's FourStarCashierNathan, and AtariAge for the images.)