The Amazing Furby Mania

by Joe Lavin, 1998

As many of you know, the hot new toy this Christmas is Furby, a 
lovable, talking, stuffed animal that looks sort of like a cross between an 
ewok and something your cat might cough up. Okay, maybe that's a bit 
cruel, but make no mistake about it. This is an ugly toy, but despite its 
ugliness, Furby is hot, hot, hot. Move over Elmo, for Furby has arrived. 

Furby strives to be a talking pet with batteries. It's an interactive 
toy that can respond in many ways whenever someone tickles or 
pets it. Furby speaks in a special dialect of gibberish that is 
known as Furbish. Supposedly, Furby can learn English from a 
child. In reality, though, it is merely programmed to appear to be 
learning (much like me in grad school). It turns out that Furby 
only knows about 100 English words, so sadly any attempt to 
teach it dirty words will only be in vain -- a major design flaw if 
you ask me. 

But despite this key drawback, Furby is still a remarkable toy. 
Thanks to Furby's constant chattering, imaginary friends are no 
longer necessary for the modern toddler. "Furby! It 
communicates with your child, so you don't have to!"

Most parents obviously know all about Furby, though I doubt 
many of them are reading this. Instead, they're probably camped 
outside Walmart waiting for the store to open at 5 am and put 
on sale its one Furby doll of the day. Lately, hordes of parents 
have been lining up outside stores in the middle of the night, and 
in at least two cities the police have been called upon to quell 
unruly crowds. Last week, outside a toy store in O'Fallon, 
Illinois, one woman even claimed she was bitten by another 
woman while fighting for a spot in line. Ah, Christmas! It's such 
an uplifting time of year, isn't it?

The parents, of course, have no choice. Children, after all, have 
decided that this is the  one toy they must have -- or perhaps 
adults who work for Hasbro decided this and managed to 
program the children accordingly. At any rate, Hasbro is going 
with the time-honored "If you don't buy this, your kids will hate 
you, grow up bitter and estranged, and eventually turn to drugs 
when they become teenagers" marketing ploy, and it's working. 
At this point, Hasbro doesn't even have to run advertisements. 
Just about every newspaper in the country has an article this 
week about Furby, in which some parent says something like, 
"Well, sure I stayed outside Toys 'R Us all night and lost my 
both my feet from frostbite, but my little Matilda said she wanted 
a Furby, and darn it! I just sure as heck couldn't disappoint her. 
Any other parent would do the same." 

It's like this every year. As I hear about parents scrambling after 
the hot toy of the year, I always wonder whether this is just 
some giant practical joke that children play on parents. 
Seriously, the kids can't really like Furby this much, can they? I 
half expect to turn on the news next week and hear:

"Tonight, a Dateline NBC investigation. Furby: lovable doll or 
sinister child plot?"

"Well, actually, I don't even like the stupid doll, but you know it 
gets my parents out of the house. This weekend, they had to 
drive to six states to find Furby. When they got home, they were 
so tired they completely forgot to make me do my chores. 
Wow! I can't believe they fell for this."

But kids really do like Furby, and they also like the games they 
can play with Furby, though none of these games is particularly 
challenging. For example, a child can play hide and seek with 
Furby. To do this, the child simply hides Furby and then has 
three minutes to discover where he or she hid Furby. Gee, it's 
always good to see that Furby is helping to develop children's 
cognitive skills. Personally, I think this game might be better 
suited to the Alzheimer's crowd. 

Furby! Not just for your kids, but fun for Grandpa too: "Dang, 
where'd Furby go? I just had him a minute ago, and then I hid 
him, and . . . hey here are my car keys. Wait, do I still drive?"

Furby performs many other tricks. For example, it can do a little 
dance and provide evidence to the police when it witnesses two 
competing sets of parents kill each other in Toys 'R Us because 
it's the last Furby on the shelf. "Me see blue shirt guy shoot gun." 
It will say during the dance. If a police officer then rubs its 
tummy twice, Furby can even pick the killer out of a police 
lineup. Wow! It's an amazing toy. 

And there are so many other tricks too. Rub its back twice, and 
Furby will kick the crap out of the nearest Tickle Me Elmo doll. 
And in some models, Furby can even memorize a parent's credit 
card number and use it to order other Hasbro products. 

Actually, I'm joking about all this. There's no need to worry. 
After all, I doubt they'll try the credit card trick until at least next 
year. Yes, as the folks at Hasbro like to say, Furby will indeed 
amaze you.

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