POGS Review: A game that dared to be different

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Do you remember POGS (aka the Milk Cap Game)? Those who enjoyed their childhood in the '90s must have a recollection of this classic game. One of its kind! The game that made us look like poker freaks! Teachers thought that POGS is gambling. I don't know how true that is, because I have never gambled before!

Do you have nostalgic memories of playing POGS with your buddies? I do.

Did You Know…?
Did you know that the POGS milk cap game may be coming back soon and this time on mobile? The game was most popular with children in the early and mid-90s. I remember with nostalgia about how I used to play the game with my estate friends. It's better than board and video games that what we used to believe. The affection and time I spent on this game are immeasurable. The game became very popular after World POG Federation bought its trademark in 1994.

The game was such a phenomenon in the 90s.In an episode of the Simpsons (1989 animated series), Milhouse (a character) traded Bart's soul for POGS plastic discs.

A Brief History of POGS
The actual gameplay behind POGS is anchored from the Game of Menko. The Game of Menko was a Japanese game in which the player aimed at flipping cards and their opponents' pieces. Japanese immigrants are believed to have taken the game to the Hawaii islands in the early 20th century. Some kids started using milk bottle caps in playing the Game of Menko. From this, the game started evolving.

The Hawaii POGs
POGs (Milk Cap Game) are believed to have originated from the Hawaii islands in the 1920s and 1930s. Nevertheless, in the 1990s, the game became popular when World POG federation and the Canada games company. They introduced it under the brand name POG.POG means Passion fruit Orange Guava. The game became a household name among many school-going children.

The game spread like bushfire. This was after an elementary teacher called Galbiso, who wanted to teach her students a more accessible game that did not involve physical activity. She also wanted them to grasp math skills easier. The teacher and her students started collecting the milk caps, and by 1993 the game had spread to the mainland. Haleakala Dairy, in Maui Canada, was surprised by people asking for extras. Barely did they know that the caps were used for a game. The game spread faster, starting in Canada and then crept into America.

Equipment used to play.
Milk caps and slammers are the leading equipment used to play the game. Milk caps were circular discs made from cardboard and decorated with colorful images on both sides. Slammer is the other and was made from rubber, plastic, or metal. They typically have the same diameter as the milk caps. Metallic slammers were also available, but most players did not want them used, due to the unfair advantage they gave to the opened. The one using metallic slammers would destroy the milk caps.

Playing the game?
The game had general rules which should be observed by players. Although laws existed, some players formulated their own to make the game more lively and exciting. Each player was given some milk caps and slammers. Before the game started, players had to decide whether the one who won the game kept the milk caps and forfeit those being defeated by the others or set other rules. The general rule was called "for keeps," which meant you keep what you have.

The game worked well on a smooth hard surface. First, players contributed an equal number of milk caps to build a stack with pieces that were to be used at the end of the game facing down. A player would then make a throw using his or her slammer down on to the stack which was previously built. The main aim was to cause the stack to scatter. Each player would then keep the milk caps that landed face up after giving it a throw. After the first player had thrown the milk caps, the stack id then restacked for the next player. When no caps remained in the stack, the player with the most caps was declared the winner.


Why we were madly in love with the POGS

POGS was my favorite game back in the '90s. We would play all weekend with my buddies; it is one of those addictive kinds of games. I recall several things we did with my friends. The many wins and losses made me feel special. Friendship and leisure of my childhood were well utilized.

Back in the days, I was this adventurous kid. I used to play for keeps, unlike my coward friends who played it for "not for keeps." However, most of the play were with my siblings. My favorite part remains metal slammers! They filled the Pogs, sometimes even flipping the whole stack at once. Sometimes I had to use the plastic slammers to clean up the individual pogs.

This craze was common back in the days that people had sets of Pogs and slammers. I even had an Angry Bird Pogs, and did I mention my Pray Pog?! J Later on, I started appreciating the non-circular POGS like the monster-shaped ones or those shaped like the blade of a saw.

Check out how teens react to the POGS of the '90s! :)

The World POG Federation
The craze on the game was growing fast. A businessman, Alan Rypinski, negotiated with Haleakala Dairy, trademark holder of POGs, and bought 14% worth of the company. He then founded the World POG Federation in 1994 based in Cost Mesa, California. He owned it and even started encouraging the players even to set up tournaments.

Who said fake equipment for games couldn’t be made?

The federation made sure that all POGS playing equipment that was sold was original. They also started their tournaments and even branded them. They even branded their products with pop related images to attract more consumers. This paid and boom there was increased uptake of their gaming equipment.

POGS popularity
POGS game became very popular among the children. Nostalgic memories still linger my mind of how I used to love the game. I used to spend more time playing the game with my friends than my family. The number of deliveries of POGS playing equipment that was made daily grew day by day. Leaders even embraced the craze of the game. In 1994 alone, the number of POGS sold worldwide exceeded 350 million. Bill Clinton got a POG with his face on it. POGS with more altruistic aims were made and mainly tried to engage the players in various issues. Drug prevention, politics, fire safety, and charitable organizations are featured frequently.

POGS started being sold in most toy stores, comic bookshops, and even in some supermarkets. They made a kill! Fast food joints were also not left behind with Mc Donald's, Del Taco, Taco Bell, Burger King, among other notable food chain stalls, gave branded pogs to their customers.

Several companies also turned to POGS for ad space. Disneyland, which was loved by children, Knotts Berry Farm, Nintendo, and Kool-Aid, are some of the companies. Almost everyone had pogs in the 90s or had played the game.

TV shows also embraced POGS. The Tick, an animated series, was the first TV show to use POGS to reach a greater audience. The D.A.R.E program that was American based also bought in the idea of using POGS. The main aim was to try and combat drug addiction amongst children and the youth. When Pope John Paul II visited New Jersey in 1995, the Roman church surprisingly ordered 50000 POGS. The POGS were to be branded with Pope's face and give to the parish kids.

The game was well advertised and was doing very well in terms of popularity and profits, only a conservative introvert will say s/he has not interacted with POGS. Especially if you were born and raised in the '90s!

Military uses
The Military in the USA used the POGS as an exchange system. The Army Air Force Exchange Service of the United States Department of Defense used the POGS as their exchange system. This is the oldest form of exchange. Milk cap like coinage was distributed as the change in the department store in contingency areas. The main reason for adopting the milk caps as currency was the limited capacity and air shipping involved lots of costs. The department to date uses the milk caps in contingency areas and are redeemable worldwide.

Controversies around POGS
Like most child-targeted games, POGS had its fair share of controversies. The game was becoming addictive and time-wasting to many children. Parents all over the placed POGS was played used to complain. My mother complained almost every day since I could not sleep without having a taste of the game. The performance of many schools going children generally fell. They started performing poorly as most of the time was set to play.

Not a single day would end without a scuffle or fights emanating from the game—this angered school administrators. Schools in the United States, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Iceland, France, and Germany, among other countries, banned the game. The popular fad was also banned on the grounds promoting gambling. Many children were obsessed with the game and wanted to keep many caps as possible.

By the 2000s, the game had been killed in almost all schools. The POG craze had been dealt with successfully.

Gambling or Not?
Gambling is deemed illegal in most states in the USA and also on the grounds of an educational setting. Many people linked the game with gambling. POGS was an excellent game until some people started placing bets on who was to win or engage in other forms of gambling. Many tournaments were sponsored, and the rewards were mostly money. It's not clear whether POGS can be classified as a gambling game. The general rule of the game is for keeps encouraged gambling. Many children would be involved in fights as the winner would keep the POGS.

Final Word
POGS milk caps game will live to be my favorite game. The game reminds me of my childhood memories. To those who know the game and maybe enjoyed it, the tales are joyful. POGS ranks high among the games i wouldn't mind playing to my old age!

What was your POGS-experience?
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Ultra Geeze
Aug 11, 2020
I remember these thing's real well.They even had the pog spinners with the gadget. Anyone remember the machine to cut your own pogs?
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