RIP Toys R Us: The Giant Corporation That Weirdly Controlled My Childhood

RIP Toys R Us: The Giant Corporation That Weirdly Controlled My Childhood

From bikes to trains to video games, Toys R Us was there every step of the way. Watching.

Nostalgia wears glasses fitted with rose-tinted lenses thicker than three slices of Wonderbread. There's no other logical way to explain why I'm sad over the complete shutdown of Toys R Us in the United States and the UK.

"Oh, but Toys R Us is where I bought my NES games!" I cry, and it's true. It also means I'm essentially pining over the demise of a giant corporation that sold me those NES games because another giant corporation (i.e. Nintendo) threw big, consequence-laden frowns in the direction of retailers who stocked competitors like the Sega Master System.

There was still always that one kid who had the Master System instead of the NES, and they always tried desperately to convince you Alex Kidd is better than Super Mario Bros.

But whichever I look back on those transactions, I can't deny they ultimately shaped my life. Video games, especially the NES and the SNES (which I also bought at Toys R Us) gave me games that sparked my imagination, which in turn led to me writing more stories, which in turn led to me coming … here. Sheesh. Life can't simply be categorized into "Things that Are Good" and "Things that Are Bad," and I'm kind of angry about that.

It's not like I had much choice except to patronize Toys R Us when I wanted to add to my game collection as a kid. Canadian retail is a strange, slow animal, and it took a long time for us to receive easy access to electronic specialty stores like EB Games (shout-out to the three of you who might remember Compucentre). For much of the NES era, my choices were "Go to Toys R Us" or "Go to Hell." In fact, the Toys R Us I visited to acquire those formative NES games still stands. It might even continue to stand, since it's looking like Toys R Us Canada will be sold to MGA Entertainment, a Californian toy company.

I'd like that, since the Toys R Us of my childhood was also one of Canada's first. The opening was even attended by the one and only MISTUH T.

Whether my childhood Toys R Us survives the purge and I say "hooray," or whether my heart weeps for its closure, I'm still letting a corporation and the corporations that peddled their wares within that corporation flavor my childhood memories. Is that healthy? Probably not. If a veteran of the Second World War read my lamentation for Toys R Us, or anyone else's, they're probably going to think "Oh my God, I watched my friends die for this generation," and I'm not about to argue with them. I'm going to tap my fingers together, look down at my shoes, and whisper "Yes, you did. I have no excuse."

But I'm not ashamed of who I am, what I liked as a kid, and what I still like. A little sheepish, maybe, but not ashamed. Truth be told, I love looking back at the old-fashioned process of buying games and reminiscing how I acquired Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse by taking a number out of a vinyl pouch and handing it to a person caged within a glass booth at the front of the store. Nothing else said "I'm blowing four months worth of allowance" like Toys R Us' game-buying ceremony.

[Bangs fists on table] BRING BACK THE BROWN. BRING BACK THE BROWN.

Farewell, Toys R Us. Hey, you guys probably have some lingering debts, right? I've got a great idea for a Five Nights at Freddy's rip-off involving your unused Geoffrey the Giraffe costumes and your empty stores.

(Going back to the topic of Hell for a second: Our own Matt Kim's memories of Toys R Us are of a retail vortex that smelled like "vomit and rubbery plastic," where apparently "everything was sticky." I guess Geoffrey the Giraffe employed some sort of dark magic that enchanted most kids, but deprived an unfortunate few of the soothing illusion that drew the rest of us in. Where we saw Barbie and Cabbage Patch Dolls, the Selected Damned saw desecrated idols with blood streaming from their eyes in crimson torrents.)

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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