Worthless Guide to Pogs


A certain time in recent American history: Tommy jukes down a dim elementary school hallway wearing in a green Starter Jacket, the sullen bass intro of Ice Ice Baby burbling from a boombox on his shoulder. He passes a boy in a faded Voltron T-Shirt. The boy mutters under his breath and probes compulsively at the rubber basketball pump on the tongue of his scuffed white shoe.

Tommy smiles and continues down the hall, planting his tongue in his cheek and snapping the boombox's power off. He turns and enters the peaceful white commons area, where a group of snickering children kneel together in the center of the room. And the vast echoing place is filled with a sound...this amazing, wonderful sound. The gentle sound of cardboard softly clicking. The dawning of a new age.

Part I: What is Pog? (What Pog is)

danzaPog: Silver dollar-sized pieces of circular cardboard with plain cardboard on one side and a “bodacious” or “sweet” picture on the other side. I don't know where pogs came from, and frankly I don't care. You shouldn't either. Because if I were to attempt to explain the history of pogs here, it would be unlikely that any reader would be able to maintain a state of wakeful awareness, no matter how many poorly photoshopped pictures of Tony Danza were to accompany said history.

Here's my theory though: Some Taiwanese Toy Company just had a bunch of junk cardboard lying around their factories and so they decided to print ugly pictures on with poisonous chemical ink it and sell it to dumb Taiwanese children as a toy. And it worked. Not only did the dumb Taiwanese children love pogs, but soon the dumb (and substantially wealthier) American children were also on board. Someone ought to recognize these people for outstanding achievement in business. Because for a toy that didn't do anything and cost almost nothing to manufacture, pogs sure were popular. They were also overpriced. But to be fair, the only way they wouldn't have been overpriced is if they were been free. And even then, it's a stretch.

Part II: Learning to Play

1. Buy Some Cool Pogs


This will be the most difficult part of your assignment, being that there is actually no such thing as a cool pog. The very first pogs followed standard Generic Asian Toy Design Theory. All your favorites were available: The Misshapen Cartoon Goat Pog, the Infringement Upon Any Number of Copyrights Pog, and even that old Asian staple, The Overtly Racist Pog.

But then, for some unknown reason, pog manufacturers suddenly stopped printing these styles of pogs and inexplicably began to simply print billions of pogs which featured 8-Balls in various situations. What was the meaning of this? Were 8-Ball pogs really so popular? Perhaps this was some gutsy attempt to corner some perceived 8-Ball fetishist market. We may never know, but so many 8-Ball pogs were printed in such a short period of time that pog designers began running out of ideas. Towards the end of pogs' lifecycle, it is my opinion that the higher-ups began pumping dangerous amounts of high-grade LSD mist in through the heating vents of the Pog art department in order to help them come up with fresh 8-Ball pog ideas like some of the horrifying ones I saw. I would provide some examples but I looked and I couldn't find any. Apparently there aren't many people posting images of pogs to the internet these days.

2. Buy a Slammer

slammerBesides the pogs themselves, the only other thing you need to play pogs is a slammer. Well, that and an utter lack of self-worth, a trait which I assume you've got covered since you are currently reading an article about pogs. But if you must know, a slammer is simply a heavier pog. That's it.

In the "good old days" (the horrible neon 90s) you could either use the hollow plastic slammer which came with most pog sets, or you could buy a "better" one. This pretty much essential, if only because the slammers which were included with a regular set of pogs weighed approximately one microgram and tended to flutter away like a sheet of tissue paper if somebody opened a nearby window, stood up, or blinked their eyes too quickly.

Needless to say, if you want to buy any slammers (or pogs in general for that matter) these days you'll have to do it online. But try this for a laugh: go into a comic book or trading card store and ask to see their selection of slammers. The clerk will stare at you like you just took a dump on his floor; he won't know what to think. And even if, for some insane reason, the store did carry slammers, you would not be impressed by what you found. As far as I can remember, 90s slammers were usually just ragged sections of cut pipe with a hologram pictures of a unicorn on them, and I don't imagine that pog slammer technology has made any real leaps forward in recent years either. But I guess I've been known to be wrong. From time to time.

3. Drop The Slammer On The Pogs

Slammer 2Well here's where it all comes together. The game (as I learned it) goes like this: You and your opponent combine pogs from your collections (50-50) into a pile. You stack the pogs picture side up, blank side down. Then, whoever's turn it is gets to drop their slammer on them. The stack should fall, and if any of the pogs flip over and land white side up, the person who dropped the slammer keeps those pogs.

These rules officially made Pogs the lamest and most pointless game I had (and have) ever played. It’s the equivalent of saying: “Hey Joey! Lets play a game: We’ll each put 15 quarters into this bucket, and I'll go up to the top of these steps. Then, I’m going to throw the whole bucket of quarters down the stairs. Whichever ones land heads up, I get to keep!”

 I honestly don't know what you would even do next. Back when I was playing, we never even got past a single turn of "real" pogs because nobody ever wanted to play "for keeps". And who can blame them? I know I sure as hell wouldn't want to risk losing my Donatello Rides a Jetski pog to some pudgy kid wearing Zubaz.

4. Instantly Become Bored & Use Any Found Object As A Slammer

kids I suppose now would be as good a time as any to reveal that: I do not know the official rules of pogs. I don't think I ever knew. I don't think I knew anyone who knew. Maybe there aren't any real rules to the game of pogs! Pogs probably don't even exist! OK, obviously that's a little far out. But it wasn't uncommon, as in the title of this section, for children to try and apply their own rules to the formless chaos that was Pog.

Some kid would bring a random objects to a match and say: “Hey here’s a new slammer I bought at the store, it’s new, it’s the best kind!” And someone would say, “That’s not a slammer, that’s just an old rotten tennis shoe you fished out of the gutter!” and the kid would scream, “Shut up! Shut up!” and spastically hurl the shoe at the pile of Pogs, spilling them out across the floor like the crimson blood of so many brave veterans was spilled on foreign shores to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

Wait, What?

Hmm? Oh, I apologize. I admit none of that probably made any sense to you, but you have to understand that I come from a time and a place wh- Well nevermind. Just try to imagine the search for the rules of pogs as the search for meaning in our lives. What is the meaning of life? Nobody really knows; just as none of us kids knew the rules of pogs. So what did we do? Some of us saw meaninglessness and created our own fun. Some children simply chewed on the pogs. Some of us read the instructions, but there was always some uncertainly there. Which manual contains the true rules to pogs? What if we chose the wrong pog instruction book? We might have been playing the wrong version of pogs all along...

I Don't Even Know What That Meant.

pearlYeah, I guess I don't either. And I'm sure if I did a search right now I could find the "official" rules of pogs. I could find out what we were doing wrong; learn about the game we should have been playing. But honestly, I don't want to know. I would rather remember the pogs "scene" as it existed in the 90s: A jumbled collection of vague ideas, hastily-constructed foreign crap, and legions of gape-mouthed children in neon pink shirts pawing greedily through buckets of cardboard chits in the dank aisles of comic book stores all across the country.

Oh what time it was.

"Pog it up boys; Pog it up..."