Major Matt Mason: Mattel’s Man in Space, 1966 – 1970

The Matt Mason line was developed by Mattel to compete against Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, which debuted in 1964 along with the the descriptor “action figure”—the social reality of the day dictated that boys would not and should not play with “dolls.” While the “Joes” were 12″ tall, Matt Mason and his “space buddies” were reduced to 6″, a brilliant decision by Mattel…

Photon Instructional Video, 1986

In 1984, an entertainment center was opened in the Dallas suburb of Garland that aimed to bring the futuristic imagery and technological thrills of space opera warfare into the real world: it was called Photon, a laser tag game in which two teams fought one another in a bloodless, computer-controlled simulation set in a multi-level arena filled with dry ice and lit by strobe lights…

The Transformers (Generation One), 1984 – 1990

Christmas, 1984. It was a hell of a time to be a kid. We’d reveled in seven years of Star Wars and Star Wars toys, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (also Hasbro) and Mattel’s Masters of the Universe franchises launched in 1982, using Lucas’s simplistic moral universe as a backdrop, and then Hasbro struck again with these diecast shape-shifting robots yanked from Japanese company Takara…

George Plimpton Advertisements for Intellivision, 1980 – 1983

The intersection of literary gadfly George Plimpton (1927-2003) with the Mattel Intellivision video game console (introduced in 1980) seems a very strange fit on the surface. Plimpton acted as Intellivision’s pitchman throughout the early 1980s in a series of print and television advertisements, his stentorian tones touting Intellivision’s superiority to industry juggernaut Atari…

Spaceport Employee Training Video, 1981

Spaceport was an East Coast mall arcade chain active in the early 1980s, competing with Time Out and Aladdin’s Castle. The interior was designed to resemble the inside of a spacecraft, with “escape hatches” protruding from the ceiling, cylindrical “E.V.A boosters” lining the walls, and various future-forward portals and struts…

‘Bureaucracy’ Board Game, 1981

In Avalon Hill’s Bureaucracy, players attempt to “simulate the bureaucratic behavior which constitutes so much of what we call government” and “[rise] up through the masses” to become Director, which amounts to marching around a Monopoly-style game board seeking promotion…

‘Star Wars: Escape from Death Star Game’, 1977

During the holiday season of 1977, kids were desperate for Star Wars toys. Unfortunately, Kenner couldn’t ramp up toy production fast enough (leading to a groundbreaking marketing maneuver: the Early Bird Certificate Package), so there were very few Star Wars-related items available for parents to put under the Christmas tree…

‘Disaster/Désastre’ Board Game, 1979

Disaster, created by American board game titan Parker Brothers for the Canadian market, transposes nearly every cinematic disaster scenario of the 1970s—the Decade of the Disaster Movie—onto the game board. Disaster films usually consisted of a huge ensemble cast, uniting current Hollywood stars with has-beens and stars of yesteryear, and they “explored” a common theme: the implacable destructiveness of nature and the inability of human structures to protect against it…