+1 to Joy is a way that I can share things that I really enjoy, a way of counting blessings in my life. In this one I will explain the love for one of my biggest obsessions: Amiibo.
The Toys to Life craze was a bizarre turn in video game history. It exploded for a few years, and then died a slow and painful death as prices continued to plunge due to the over abundance of figures at retail. Activision was the first to get on board with Skylanders, Disney followed, and then even Lego threw their hat into this substantially money filled ring, but eventually parents tired of buying the newest figures or NFC reader.
There was a lot about Toys to Life that was predatory, but there was also a simple joy in the act of handling a physical toy and combining that with a video game that is not hard to see the appeal of. It is no wonder kids took to it so gleefully, and that it had the tremendous impact it did.
Amiibo however, still stands among the Toys to Life rubble, by leveraging the power of Nintendo and by doing something different than their competitors.
First off, Amiibo don’t have a set game they are tied to, instead they provide a bunch of small bonuses for many of Nintendo’s first party titles. These are rarely game changing, but they are nice addition, especially since you already own them and have used them in many games.
More importantly, other than a few questionably posed figures and stands during the original figures launch (I’m looking at you pee stand Link) the figures are fantastic, bringing a great deal of quality for their relatively inexpensive price. In this regards you get both an attractive looking figure, as well as minor bits of DLC as a bonus, and you really can’t go wrong there.
It may be hard to imagine for newer gamers that walk into a store and see walls of merchandise aimed at their hobby, but when I was growing up these things were rare, especially with any quality. I used to import Final Fantasy figures, and the Mario stuff you could get was nowhere near the quality of something like GI Joe. There were a few exceptions here and there—I still own some Earthworm Jim figures—but for the most part these just weren’t widely available in the US.
One of the reasons Amiibo was so successful is that you had so many characters people loved, and many of them for the first time ever in toy form, at a reasonable price. Fire Emblem statues might run you hundreds of dollars, but if you could get your hands on their Amiibo counterparts, these only cost you $13. Alongside characters like Shovel Knight, Cloud, Bayonetta, Mega Man, Pac Man, and even Shulk, these slightly standardized figures became the most financially feasible (and sometimes only) way to collect your favorite characters.
I fell in love with Amiibo personally because I love Smash, and they vowed to release every character within the game. It doesn’t hurt that I have a great fondness for Nintendo as they are home to some of my favorite gaming brands in the world. Especially when the craze first kicked off these things were hard to find, and some figures immediately became rare.
Being an amiibro in the early days was difficult as you sought to hunt them all down, but it was also very exciting. Every time you visited a new store there was that one chance that you would stumble upon the one you needed, and there was a rush of euphoria present in that which is hard to describe.
There are times I question why I purchase these hunks of plastic, after all I’m a 36 year old man, and it is typically frowned upon that I collect all of these toy like things to stack on my shelves. It isn’t just Amiibo either, I have a great affinity for some reason in collecting worthless hunks of plastic adorned with characters from my favorite games, and displaying them proudly.
I’ve thought a lot about the subject honestly, far more than is likely prudent, and in moments of guilt (or perhaps sanity), I look at the myriad of collectibles and tally up the money I’ve spent and feel irresponsible. I’ve even sold off whole collections of collectibles in an attempt to “grow up”. There are items still missing today from my collection that I haven’t been able to retrieve, whether it is because of rarity or financial means, and it pains me in a way I know is silly, but nevertheless feel.
I think some of it has to do with the way that the medium I most love in gaming is something that is ethereal in a way. Especially the way games are done today, I own a large portion of them digitally due to the sheer convenience, but even those I own physically are less than what they once were. Instead of a hefty instruction booklet and a robust game case, we get thin pieces of plastic and a cover, and that is it. In this way the act of buying games has become something that is harder to touch, display and see in a meaningful way.
Amiibo and other such collectibles then become for me an extension of my passion for video games, crystallized into little hunks of plastic, and given a physicality to them. It is one thing to see Mario bounding through a digital landscape, but another to pick up a figure that has a real weight and see the little plumber there waving at me, there next to him Cloud from Final Fantasy VII hefting his massive sword over his shoulder.
I still struggle with a small sense of shame when I look at my shelves full of these silly collectibles, drilled into me by a lifetime of assertions that this is not the typical behavior of an adult male. Much greater than that shame though is the brief feeling of joy when I look at Wind Waker Link and fondly remember a wonderful gaming memory, or when I look at figures bought for me by friends and family for Christmas, or just seeing a room filled with happiness and color, in a world that often has bleak realities for us.
These feelings when I look at these figures, as well as the small thrill of opening an Amiibo for the first time, of adding another to my shelf, they are very small joys, but they are still joy. And I’ll take every small bit of that I can get, thank you very much.
How about you? Do you have an awesome gaming collectible collection, or are you an amiibro yourself? Sound off in the comments below.
If you are curious about my favorite Amiibo, wonder no longer. You can find my definitive current list here.
And as usual, have a wonderful day!