Goodbye to Toys ‘R’ Us

Another industry staple now gone.

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 03/20/2018 18:30 Comment on this     ShareThis

As a longtime gamer, the last few years have been quite surreal. I’ve watched the industry grow in many ways, but I’ve also seen a lot of things I love about this hobby slowly disappear. Once an industry staple, Nintendo Power is long gone and gaming magazines in general are barely hanging in there. Now, the recent announcement of Toys ‘R’ Us’ closure has been equally upsetting. The chain not only represented a major part of my life as a gamer, but it may also signal the beginning of the end for one particular era.

Since childhood, my local Toys ‘R’ Us has been a major source of gaming joy. I bought countless games and gaming-related merchandise from the chain throughout the years, mostly at the location in Blasdell, NY. Younger gamers might find it hard to believe, but in the days before Electronics Boutique and GameStop sprang into existence, Toys ‘R’ Us was pretty much the place to go for games. Back then, after selecting the game you were going to bring home, you picked up a reserve card, paid for the game at the register and then handed it to an employee who would go locate the actual game itself in an enclosed section. As a kid, that area of the store almost seemed like some kind of forbidden fortress; it had an air of mystery to it that made the experience seem all the more special.

Over the years, I created a lot of good gaming memories at Toys ‘R’ Us. When I made my communion at eight-years-old, I bought a Sega Genesis there with the money I got from friends and relatives, and it was the first time (but not the last) that I felt like I was cheating on Nintendo. When I was 14, I met an NHL player there, and helped him pick out Game Boy Advance games for team road trips. When I was 16, I got to play the Nintendo GameCube there for the very first time, just a few short weeks before launch. The day the system came out, an employee talked me into buying Super Monkey Ball, which went on to become one of my favorite games on GameCube. At 32, just a few months back, I took my daughter there to go pick out some Pokémon toys after we saw Pokémon The Movie: I Choose You in theaters.

I could probably name dozens of other games and consoles I picked up there over the years, but perhaps my fondest memory of Toys ‘R’ Us was the morning I picked up my Nintendo Wii. A month before release, I waited two hours on a particularly cold and blustery morning for the store to open in order to secure a preorder. I kicked myself for forgetting my Nintendo DS, while jealously watching another line-waiter play Mario Kart DS. On launch day, the temperature was surprisingly mild compared to that October morning, but my ordeal a month prior still felt very much worth it as I strolled into Toys ‘R’ Us past a line of people wrapped around the building. As a faithful fan of the under-performing GameCube, I was stunned to see the turnout. It was the first time I realized just how big this Wii thing was going to be.

This past weekend, I took what may have been my final trip to that Toys ‘R’ Us, the same one I had been going to since I was at least six-years-old, if not younger. I took some pictures of some of the various video game displays and pondered some purchases. Though the site probably won’t close for a few more weeks, it’s likely that my last game purchase from the store was my new copy of Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash; the title may not have been overly well received by most reviewers, but I was happy to finally add that adorable Amiibo to my collection.

It’s always weird to say goodbye to a major part of your childhood. Matt at the excellent Dinosaur Dracula blog recently said that just walking through Toys ‘R’ Us could be a respite from life’s real complications; I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps this is just another nail in the coffin for physical game releases as more and more titles become digital only. Maybe 10 years from now, we’ll be exchanging stories like these about GameStop. Hopefully not, but it’s hard not to look at just how much has changed for the industry, of late. Either way, I’ll miss Toys ‘R’ Us and all the fond childhood (and adulthood) memories it gave me. I might be an adult now, with a kid of my own, but I’ll always be a Toys ‘R’ Us kid. And I still don’t wanna grow up.

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