Updated: Aug 30
"There's no excuse for bad grades now." These words were uttered by my dad in 1991, when my mom bought me a Trapper Keeper for my fourth year of the hell known as public school. I had passed third grade by the skin of my teeth, and I didn't want to continue sitting at a desk! My Trapper Keeper was my faithful companion as I slogged through the day. Brace yourself for the shocking revelation that I wasn't the most popular kid in school. The era of the nerd had yet to be realized. I was harassed by other students, and I'm proud to say I hold an undefeated record for schoolyard brawls. I once even slammed the vice principal into a wall when he tried to break up a fight! (After this incident, my folks pulled me from the school system for the rest of the year. I then had a private tutor and tons of time to shop at Kay-Bee Toys.)
All this might explain quite a bit, but let's turn our ADD back to the Trapper Keeper: Having one of these babies under my arm made me that much closer to being in the status quo, and it probably saved at least one other kid from a mouthful of dirt. My Trapper Keeper was adorned with an image of dominoes floating in space, and despite repeated attempts, I couldn't find a picture of the notebook anywhere online. I'm fine with that; it's not the first time my best efforts have fallen radically short.
The Trapper Keeper was introduced by Mead in 1978, and revolutionized the way students organized papers which would ultimately accomplish nothing. When I was a kid, I thought the company name was pronounced "me-ad." What an idiot. In August of 2019, Big G Creative released the Trapper Keeper Game, just in time for the dreaded Back to School. Kelly Zive from Big G's public relations asked if I would like a sample for review on Retro Injection. I jumped at the chance, never turning down a freebie in my life. Thanks for thinking of me, Kelly! (This is our ninety-fifth article, and "Kelly Zive" sounds a lot like "ninety-five." Cosmic.)
I was intrigued by the Trapper Keeper Game being packaged inside a miniature Trapper Keeper! Available at Target, the Trapper Keeper Game can be enjoyed by two to five students. Take your choice of three styles, reminiscent of iconic designs. Being inspired by our impending move to Arizona, I requested the tropical Trapper.
The synopsis of the game in the press release was tantalizingly vague, and I wondered how a game based on school could possibly be fun. (I am in fact still wondering that, as I await my shipment. Several days will lapse between now and the rest of the writeup.)
My Trapper Keeper Game arrived two days early in an envelope which made Retro Injection seem like a legit operation.
Big G Creative product maven Shannon Swindle enclosed a handwritten note: An old-school touch, perfect for old school supplies. (I'll be here all week.)
Now that the Trapper Keeper Game is in my grasp, let's get some more non-stock imagery in this crib.
I'm really impressed with the level of detail on the Trapper Keeper Game. It's a great period piece. (My favorite period was lunch.) First up, the mini Trapper Keeper is awesome on its own! Once you get a feel of that shiny plastic and Velcro closure, you'll be whisked back to your days of homeroom crushes and needing rides. This folder is a home run of nostalgia, and really sets the mood for the entire gaming experience. Even the pockets of the mini Trapper Keeper folders have that unmistakable contour you probably forgot about.
The instruction booklet hearkens back to the day of the ghetto paper bag book covers you always ended up making: Big G Creative gets extra credit for the "torn" paper, revealing an astronomy textbook underneath, and my wife loved the nod to the scratch and sniff sticker! Scoring is done on a Scantron-style sheet, which is a stroke (scribble?) of genius. (Filling in those bubbles absolutely perfectly was a '90s OCD staple of mine.) This game is all about paper, and the materials are high quality, featuring butter-smooth lamination and a sturdy card stock.
The doodles on the cards' margins have slight differences, when it would have been easier to copy and paste. I looked specifically for that authenticity, and was pleasantly surprised. Just like paranoia, if you're right once, it's all worthwhile.
Here's the CliffsNotes of the gameplay: Cram your mini Trapper Keeper folders with messages from friends, detention notices, field trip slips, parental signature forms, quizzes and homework, all with assigned point values. These papers, combined with the doodles, increase your social standing. Whichever student racks up the highest score becomes the Coolest Kid in School. The Teacher's Pet acts as a hall monitor by marking players' turns.
In a face-off of homeschool versus public education, my wife Adrienne and I sat down for a heated round of the Trapper Keeper Game. To keep things as authentic as possible, I played while consuming that school cafeteria staple of a sub and chocolate milk.
Once you get past the appropriate learning curve, you can breeze through a game in about ten minutes for two players. The Trapper Keeper Game is faster than a single class, and more fun than any I've ever attended. I totally schooled Adrienne, proving once and for all the effectiveness of Big Government!
The attention to detail and creativity in the Trapper Keeper Game is inspiring, and I love Big G Creative's execution of an unlikely theme. Adrienne also enjoyed playing, and she's not even a "game person." The Trapper Keeper Game is a keeper.
And lest anyone think I've lost that fighting instinct in my declining years, I could still beat up a fourth grader.
This article is dedicated to the memory of E. Bryant Crutchfield, inventor of the Trapper Keeper, who passed away at the age of 85 on August 21, 2022.