The latest hot toy is the video game "Call of Duty: Black Ops." Game players refight the Cold War, take out Fidel Castro and save the world from evil, or something.
I am told this game is so engrossing it creates "Black Ops widows" as wives lose their testosterone-crazed companions to endless hours in front of a screen, moving their thumbs around on a controller pad.
Those men are wimps.
The game supplies the scenes, the action, the enemies, the sounds and fury. The players make their character fight, but the heavy lifting is done by whoever designed the game and wrote the programming. The players fight through swamps or deserts or urban tangles and never get tired, their clothes mussed or their feet wet.
I have no desire to play such games because, when I was a kid, I had bigger fish to fry.
I had a Fanner-50 and a Mattel Shootin' Shell Winchester Carbine. I would have loved a Paladin gun set with the hidden Derringer, but they cost too much.
Even so, I waged combat against Indians, bad guys and other generic enemies for hours through the neighborhood. Probably got a few space aliens, too.
Nobody but my own warped little mind provided the enemies. In the course of saving the world I was exposed to actual water, real thorns, genuine sunshine and live physical exercise in fresh air.
The Fanner-50 was, of course, a cap pistol. Cowboy TV shows ("Bonanza," "Lone Ranger," "Have Gun, Will Travel") were all the rage, and every kid wanted to be a quick-draw expert.
The Mattel Shootin' Shell was very cool. Just like a real Winchester, you loaded bullets in the side and it ejected them out the top. This meant you had to stop and pick up the bullets, which was a pain. Gene Autry didn't pick up his brass, but he didn't have to buy new ammo on a 25-cent allowance, either.
But -- key point, here -- I had to supply the bad guys. No geek with a pocket protector drew them for me.
I'm not saying I was deprived. Far from it. The guys today are. They're spoon-fed the whole experience. Too many electronic "toys" have all the fun while you react.
Kids need to invent. It's good for them. In 2008 the Toy Hall of Fame inducted a wooden stick, and for all you people who think you are keeping your kids from being war-mongers by not giving them toy guns, there is a lesson here.
Even though my well-armed childhood did not make me a serial killer, my wife and I adopted the theory that toy guns encouraged violent children and so gave our two boys none.
They went out, found sticks, pointed them and went "ka-POW" or, after Star Wars came out, "ka-WHING!" Longer sticks were light sabers.
Not for nothing is an empty cardboard box in the Toy Hall of Fame. It was inducted in 2005, and one wonders what took them so long. My granddaughter Alice's mother says Alice will happily bypass a pile of colorful, age-appropriate toys to get at an empty box.
When she's a little older, Alice is getting a yo-yo (Hall of Fame 1999), plus all the strings she wants.
Electronic games come and go, but yo-yos have been around 80 years, need no batteries and take a lifetime to learn because they don't do anything for you but spin.
The rest is up to you. And if any bad guys come around, you can bop them.
Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or e-mail email@example.com. He also blogs at www.standard.net.