I recently picked up something from eBay that I had as a kid. Travel Yahtzee. Perhaps not a thing that screams ‘kids toy’, but it was fun to play with back in the day nonetheless. And this was back in the day when every kid had a pack of cards on them at all times and knew how to play Poker and other card games. Before the advent of smartphones or even Game Boys. I also recently picked up this Pocket Poker game too, which was another typical toy of the 80s. So the Travel Yahtzee game fitted perfectly into the genre of games that we had! Nowadays of course, by the wonders of technology, if you want to play real life casino games from the comfort of your own home you can go to an official site to do it online. Apart from the fun that it provides, you can practice skills in lots of areas including poker or blackjack games, for example. Setting up a strategy, anticipating and speculating about the opponent’s game, and also bluffing and patience, are some qualities needed in this kind of game just like in everyday life, and especially sometimes at work. But for me as a kid it was all just friendly fun. I did understand the rules of most card games, but to be totally honest I don’t think I ever learnt the rules of Yahtzee. I just played with the dice holder. That was a game in itself.

My basic understanding of the game of Yahtzee is that it involves rolling lots of dice. Obviously that’s tricky to do in the back of the car, so for this travel version of Yahtzee they made an ingenious little device that that holds five dice without losing them. The dice are slightly too big to fall out of the holes, but they are loose enough to allow you to hold it upside down, let gravity make the dice protrude slightly from their holes, and then rub your hand along the surface to rotate the dice randomly. You can then click the back of each dice section and this pops the dice into rigid formation, thereby locking in the number for each dice. It was a great little mechanism which worked extremely well for rolling dice while in the back of a car. But even when we weren’t using it for a dice game as a family I would just play with it and spin the dice and pop the plastic over and over again. There was something quite therapeutic about it. The sound of it. The feel of the plastic popping and clicking. The turning it over to see the numbers. Looking back at it now I realise that I was using it as a kind of early fidget device. 

Many people specifically think of fidget spinners when they hear anyone talking about fidget devices, but there are lots of different fidget devices such as clicky pens or little devices that you can turn and click or press etc. I’ve got slightly frustrating associations with fidget spinners. Ever since I read Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute when I was about 12 years old I loved the idea of small, metal, mechanical devices. I was also given a very cool metal, round calendar device, where you could spin the top dial and calculate what day of the week any date between then and about 2050 would be. It just had a nice weight to it and was a cool little gizmo to play around and fiddle with. It was just something that I enjoyed holding and playing with.

Fast forward about 25 years and I had been thinking that I would love to have some little cool metal device to fiddle with. Something a bit more sophisticated. I was thinking maybe a Swiss Army Knife or a keyring or something like that, as I didn’t really know what was available. But instead I discovered the subculture of EDC (everyday carry) and one item that people loved called ‘fidget spinners’. And I’m not talking about the plastic kids ones (I’ll come to them in a minute). I’m talking about metal ones for adults. Finely tuned by precision machining. Cool designs. And expensive too, often costing near or over $100. These things were perfect. They looked like they would totally scratch my ‘cool little metal item’ itch. I started researching them and finding all the cool ones available. I settled on this cool one below.

If I was buying another one I would possibly get one of the very cool ones from Vorso. They seem to be specialising in spinning tops now because the market for fidget spinners has been drying up. I’ve got one of their spinning tops and it’s great.

But, after I got my cool metal fidget spinner, something happened… and it was super-fast, like within about a month of me stumbling into the genre. Cheap, nasty, plastic fidget spinners came out on the market, and these things spread like a virus. They became totally ubiquitous. Kids had them absolutely everywhere, and parents started to get annoyed with them, and now the term ‘fidget spinner’ has become synonymous with parent anger across the world. Such a shame, because I believe their original use was to help children with autism or other such challenges, and then adult machinists and every day carry enthusiasts started making cool and classy ones. It’s just a pity in a way that now when people hear the word ‘fidget spinner’ it just makes people make unpleasant noises or raise their eyebrows. Some of the cool, metal, machined fidget spinners are truly works of art and are a joy to use. For the first month of having mine it would have been a cool thing to get out whilst travelling on a train or something and some people might have been intrigued as to what the cool little device was, but now due to the over saturation of the cheap plastic fidget spinner it is instead met with distaste. Such as shame. And I don’t think as many of the cool, machined metal ones are getting made now as a result. I do still like the one I have though and I can also now fidget with my Travel Yahtzee too, so I’m pleased with the new addition to my fidgeting arsenal!