Quarterly is a subscription service that will send you a box every 3-months brimming with goodies – a blend of original, exclusive and consumer items – curated by your favorite celebrity or pop culture icon. Wil Wheaton is a blogger, writer and actor best known for playing the most maligned character* in the Star Trek universe, TNG‘s Wesley Crusher. Together, they have partnered to create a four-installment subscription series, each $100 box (plus $8 shipping) reflecting a decade of Wil’s life. As explained by the King of Geeks himself, “starting with my childhood and working towards present day, each box will represent a decade of memories, moments, and the objects that defined them.” It’s a really cool idea from a really cool guy, but will it get you really cool stuff?
This is the second box from the child actor-turned-Star Trek punching bag-turned-geek icon. The first box focused on the 70’s, when Wil was just starting to become a fully-functioning human being. This box focuses on the 80’s, when Wil was just starting the serious work of building his geek cred, one roll of the 20-sided die at a time. Despite Skeletor’s purple-flocked panther being a no show, this box could easily be a time capsule of my youth. Any child of the 80’s will have warm fuzzies for at least one of the items in this box, which features an emphasis on games of both the tabletop and console persuasion.
Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Starter Set
I was one of the many children of the 80’s indoctrinated to believe that this game – the most widely-known, best-selling role-playing game ever made – was the gateway drug to devil worship. Of course, when I played D&D for the first time in my late twenties, I learned it was actually the gateway drug to an absolutely delicious 9 layer dip, as our adventurers cared as much about the refreshments as the campaign. Looking back, I can’t believe my parents got swept up in the moral panic falsely linking this imagination-encouraging activity to Satanism and suicide, especially when this was the most convincing piece of anti-D&D religious propaganda. Watch it and tell me this doesn’t look like the best game of D&D ever, even though the DM is a bit of a dick.
This Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set comes with everything you need to
start playing retcon your childhood, including a 64-page adventure book, a 32-page rulebook for level 1-5 character creation and spells, five pre-made character sheets and a set of six dice. According to Wil, this edition comes the closest to capturing the joy and elegance of “The Red Box,” the 1983 revision of the Dungeon & Dragons basic set that was packaged in a distinctive vermillion-hued box.
Value: $19.99 (based on list price at Wizards of the Coast)
Return to the Cave of Time
Forget D&D, if my parents had anything to be concerned about it should have been my crippling addiction to Choose Your Own Adventure books; these were my crack cake with a heroin filling and meth frosting. Who needs “fresh air” or “friends” when you can be a ninja cyborg or a space vampire or even a shark who devours the alternate universe versions of itself. I read every one of these books I could get my hands on, including the one that created the genre; the very first Choose Your Own Adventure book, Edward Packard’s The Cave of Time, was published in 1979. His follow up, Return to the Cave of Time, was published in 2012. This is a copy of that book. But not just any copy – it’s signed by the master of multiple endings himself, Edward Packard.
Value: $5.99 (based on list price at Amazon, and not accounting for the autograph which is freakin’ priceless!)
Each box contained a randomly selected, vintage NES cartridge. I have no love for sports games, particularly football (well into adulthood, I believed that fluorescent first down line you see when watching televised football was actually being applied to the field between plays. Well into adulthood), but I was still excited to see this included in the box. Having buried two Xbox 360’s (heat) and one PlayStation 3 (dust), I long for the days when a game cartridge could be raised from the dead simply by blowing into it. Of course, blowing into an NES or SNES cartridge has been categorically proven to have no positive benefit, in fact it corrodes the copper pins. It was actually the act of removing/reinserting the cartridge that reseated the contacts and got the game going. But I’m glad we all bought into this erroneous group think. Giving John Elway’s Quarterback a beej bonded a generation.
Value: $2-$5 (based on random search results from Ebay)
Retro Duo Twin NES and SNES Console
What would an NES game be without an NES-compatible game system to play it on? Still pretty cool to be honest, but I’m glad Wil went the extra mile and included this retro-friendly console. I am cursing myself that child-me didn’t set aside a few choice titles for adult-me to enjoy. Actually playing with the toys your parents bought you to play with? You were a selfish little shit, child-me.
The Retro Duo Twin works with most NES and SNES games, including Japanese imports, with two game cartridge slots on the top and a switch on the front to change between 8-bit and 16-bit modes. It includes a power adapter, AV cables for RCA and S-video, and two controllers. You can also use your original Nintendo SNES controllers, but if you want to use a joystiq or the zapper you’ll need to go old school. Otherwise, this gets the job done.
Value: $44.99 (based on list price at Amazon)
Sock Panda Socks
These socks were created exclusively for Quarterly by Sock Panda. Sock Panda is a sock-scription service that sends you different colorful and creative socks made from 85% Peruvian cotton for a nominal monthly fee. At first glance, I thought these socks were sorta boring. Sorta whiny. Sorta arrogant.
And yet, there was a spark…
That’s right. These socks are a heartwarming homage to a certain acting ensign’s best-remembered space sweater. Even his detractors can’t deny that Wesley Crusher rocked a jumper like nobody’s business. Now you can proudly strut your stuff knowing Wil has chosen the most iconic jumper of them all to adorn your feet.
List Price: $12 (based on 1 pair/month subscription from Sock Panda)
Radio Free Burrito Poster
This is the second installment in Wil’s poster series for his Radio Free Burrito podcast. This on-again, off-again passion project is currently on-again, hence the inclusion of a different decade-inspired poster in each box. In keeping with the 80’s theme, this box’s poster forgoes the art deco styling of the 70’s box in favor of retina-searing neon. There’s something about this artwork that’s giving me a strong 3-2-1 Contact vibe. That’s a good thing, even though the theme song will now be looping in my brain indefinitely.
Value: $5 (based purely on personal conjecture)
This second box from Quarterly curator Wil Wheaton was a huge success; it really followed through on its decade-inspired theme, including a nostalgia-inducing mix of items both retro and vintage. If I had to play devil’s advocate, my only possible complaint would be that at $92.97, the total value of the items falls a little short of the $100 asking price. Then again, that doesn’t account for the taxes, shipping and straight up pain in the ass you’d have hunting down these items yourself. It also doesn’t account for the exclusive touches, like Edward Packard’s autograph, Sock Panda’s customization and Wil Wheaton’s Radio Free Burrito poster. In the end, you have to ask yourself “Do I want a bunch of items handpicked by Wil Wheaton, along with a personal letter from him explaining their importance in steering and shaping the man he is today?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is “Yes.”
*Seriously, how many times can one guy tank the Academy entrance exam?
A totally bitchin' box
When it comes to Quarterly's subscription service, the value is less about the monetary total of the items you receive and more about connecting with the celebrities and cultural influencers you find interesting. That being said, I'm happy to report that #WIL02 makes good on both counts. I can't wait to see what flashbacks from the 90's #WIL03 has in store for us.