When I got new Transformers toys as a kid (and, perhaps, as an adult…maybe) I tended to throw away the packed-in weapons that the toys came with right away. Back in the ’80s, losing weapons was often a consequence of design; it was a problem that G.I. Joe toys had or M.A.S.K. toys had or He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (but not Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, their toys were perfect…not really, I’m sure they had the same problem)––the tiny blasters or swords fit nowhere except for in the hands of the characters. This was less of a problem for the other toys mentioned (since they could just permanently hold their weapons at the ready), but the point of The Transformers was that, at indeterminate intervals, you shouldn’t be able to see the characters’ hands because they were busy being some sort of vehicle (or electronic device or firearm or planet) and, in that case, there would be no place for the weapon to go. So, they got lost.
However, abandoning the weapons of Transformers toys was a choice on my part, not on behalf of any political agenda I held at the age of 5 and 6, but because I wasn’t buying the toys to recreate action scenes. When I spent time with my friends, the talk around playing with toys often came down to the simple binary of who would be the bad guys and who would be the good guys (the Decepticons and the Autobots, respectively, in this case) so that we could either ad-lib or reenact a decisive battle that would result in either global tyranny or peace on earth. I wasn’t particularly interested in these scenarios, possibly because I’m an only child and would often play with my toys alone, and big action set pieces weren’t fun nor particularly interesting.
What I connected to as a child in The Transformers television show––and what I love about watching it again as an adult––is how much time is spent with the Autobots and Decepticons in their respective headquarters, hanging out. It showed a camaraderie rather than the more traditional battlefield brotherhood in both positive and negative ways. With the Decepticons, theirs is a display of dysfunction, an incredibly unhealthy family environment whereas the Autobots show the inverse. A lot of the scenes I acted out were the Autobots hanging out together or, perhaps, a disaffected Decepticon shows up at the door, trying to join the ranks of the enemy. Sometimes I led spartan, one-on-one chases in vehicle mode, or had one faction spying on the other, revealing characters’ true natures when they thought they were alone. It was about interaction rather than poorly aimed red and blue lasers because the former is what The Transformers meant to me.
Playing through PlatinumGames’ 2015 release, Transformers: Devastation, the game does a lot to be reverent to the original show. It nails the look and it nabs as many original voice actors as possible, hitching a heavy nostalgia to the game. For many, that’s enough, but playing the game––as really fun and good as it is––it just feels like I won the coin toss and got to play the good guys rather than actually be the good guys.
With that in mind, I don’t know what kind of The Transformers game I want, but every iteration has left me wanting in some respects. Perhaps because all of the focus is given to the gunplay, which makes sense––these are video games after all. But I wonder what kind of game we would be left with if we intentionally lost the blasters every now and then and focused on what made people want the toys––the characters and their interactions with others. But I am not a game designer, and many of you (after reading this) are probably thankful for that. I just hope the next game comes packed-in with more than just weapons.