What are Pogs? And who cares?

   Pogs, milkcaps, whatever they're called, my spellchecker doesn't understand them. Neither do I, for that matter. All I know is, today I spent this week's allowance and more on a set of 19 Pogs (and 10 Slammers, which is 9 Slammers too many).
   Time to enlighten those who aren't familiar with this recently revamped fad: Pogs and Slammers, as it is most commonly known, is a game similar in theory to marbles. A "Pog" is a thin, round, cardboard disk, about the size of a half-dollar. The "Slammer" is the same diameter as the Pogs, usually, but heavier. Pogs have designs on one side, Slammers sometimes on both sides. In the regular version of the game, all players bet a number of their Pogs, and these are stacked together, face-down. The players take turns throwing their Slammers at the pile, and whichever Pogs land face-up are won by that player. Like marbles, one can play for fun or for keeps.
   This may sound like a completely mindless and inane activity, and it is. Or, it would be, if it wasn't for the seemingly infinite supply of Pogs for sale, each one with a different design. Of course, there is an equally infinite supply of different Pog manufacturers, each with several different collections, and of course each one is a collectors' series. The name, "Pog," is the official name of the game, according to the World Pog Federation (yes, it really exists). The packages of official, licensed Pogs warn the buyer to "Beware of Imitations!". So far, my imitation Pogs haven't caused me any problems, but I'll be sure to report them to the WPF if they malfunction.
   On my Pog-buying excursion today, I went to Earthtones, which has a comic-book and Pog store in the back. Their selection of Pogs and Slammers was admirable. There were metal Slammers, heavy enough to seriously injure someone. In fact, there were a few with teeth, like miniature table saw blades. Almost all of them had bizarre pictures; mostly skulls and mushroom clouds and the like. Some had holograms, some had engraved designs, some had stickers. In keeping with current events, there was one with OJ Simpson's mug shot on each side, one side that said "Guilty?" and one with "Not Guilty?". The Pogs had similar designs, but some were different shapes (the shape sort of followed the picture). In addition to Earthtones, I also went to Toys-R-Us and Kaybee, both of which had assortments with slightly less apocalyptic undertones. The Spec's in South Miami used to sell them as well, and some of the ones they sold could be redeemed for T-shirts and other stuff. Sort of like Bazooka bubble gum wrappers.
   The toy industry certainly has stumbled onto a miraculous scheme here: Pogs and Slammers appear to have the widespread and rather mysterious appeal and collectibility of baseball cards, with the added advantage of being gamepieces. The game involves gambling, always an attraction. There is no limit to the variations on design. The physical characteristics of the pieces allow them to form a crucial balance: they are convenient and durable, yet not too durable-they need replacement often enough. Although the game itself is insipid, from the toymakers' side of things, Pogs and Slammers is a brilliant concept.

-Tom Sawyer, editor