Finding the Fun Factor in Action Figure Collecting
One thing I was pretty surprised by when I entered the video game industry was that “fun factor” is honest-to-God industry jargon thrown around in straight-faced meeting and discussions. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Modern video games have a lot of masters to serve and most revolve around monetizing the increasingly popular free-to-play model.
Though there are hours to devoted to creating strategies around acquisition, onboarding and retention, the hallmark of a truly great and engaging game is the “fun factor”. How much fun is it to play the game? Does that sense of enjoyment you get from the game prompt you to continue playing to come back and play again and again?
Though I am certain there is different jargon for it in the toy industry, playability comes to mind, it seems to me they must struggle with many of the same questions as game makers. A figure line can tie into a huge event movie, cartoon or brand, come with cool accessories and vehicles and it can still fall flat.
I was obsessed with toys, action figures, as a kid. They caught a lot of the run-off creative energy that wasn’t spent drawing or writing. Figures presented you a sandbox, a framework, to build a world inside. The mythology of an elite and specialized anti-terrorist force or a band of mutated vigilantes or a group of the world’s mightiest mortals were powerful building blocks to build upon and create your own universes and mythologies.
I got back into toys collecting a couple of years ago after my mom became a second-hand seller, a junk dealer. Some of the thrill was finding relics of my childhood I thought lost forever but some of it came down to the same things I considered when picking toys as a child, the fun factor.
As a fan of old comic strips, I have always had a soft spot for Dick Tracy. I picked up some of these figures based on that alone but they really lacked the fun factor. With few points of articulation, large out of proportion hands and heads to carry likeness from the 1990 film, they look totally grotesque but not in that delightful Garbage Pail Kids way. They feel very much like promotional checkbox that was crossed off promoting the Warren Beatty film. Maybe the Two-Way Wristwatch or even figures based on Chester Gould’s drawing of Tracy and his rouges’ gallery would be quirky, desirable and, well, fun. As it stands I will likely let the figures go back to my mom’s shelves.
As far as fun factor, the 1977 Godzilla Shogun Warrior has it in spades. The collector thrill kicked in, for sure, to find one complete in what was more or less a junk pile. That said, this toy has it all as far as fun factor: a flicking tongue of fire and a fist that shoots off like missile. It stands three feet tall and has a face that only a child that sits up too late to watch monster movies could love.
Godzilla is the focal point of our library, drawing the attention of child and adult visitors alike. We recently had some old friends over and their 4-year old daughter fixated on Godzilla immediately, though she would persist in calling him “Bigfoot.”
What wasn’t for this child to love? Godzilla was only slightly shorter than her and rolled easy on the wheels on the underside of his paws. For most of the weekend, we’d periodically hear cries of “BIGFOOT!” followed by laughter. Child or collector, who doesn’t want to find fun factor like that in a toy?