knew that trading cards, of all things, needed an upgrade?
got the “cardz” in the mail about two weeks ago. Solomon Singer
from SeriousUSA, the company that produces them, promised
me three sets of the things: one based on The Lord of the
Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, one on Buffy the
Vampire Slayer—the ones that seemed most exciting to me—and—the
ones that seemed to be most exciting to Solomon—Medabots.
At first glance, they seemed not much different than any other
trading card you might encounter—they are small and rectangular,
bearing different images of favorite characters from TV shows
and movies—except for two things. One, each card has a little
hole in the center (and I have to say, I wasn’t fond of seeing
a 1.5 cm hole punched into Buffy’s left shoulder); and two,
when you flip them over, there are no facts, no stats, no
funny quotes or info, nor any of the things that up until
now have been the hallmarks of trading cards.
That’s because these cardz are the trading cards of the future.
Pop ’em in the CD or DVD drive on your computer and, voilà,
information overload. You’ve got facts, stats, bios, trailers,
animated clips, trivia games, screensavers, you name it. The
Lord of the Rings CD cardz even lead “players” through
a kind of Middle-earth quasi-adventure based on the film.
SeriousUSA markets the cards as the “latest in portable and
affordable hi-tech, entertainment products,” which will “mark
the introduction of digital collectibles without the headaches
of additional software and hardware installation.” In other
words, they’re flashy little collectibles that are bound to
rope in consumers with their bells and whistles and promises
that these gadgets are the latest in high-tech entertainment
The Buffy and Medabots card sets come in hard,
plastic carrying cases nearly identical to those in which
DVDs are packaged (for some reason, the Lord of the Rings
cards are packed in little, clear plastic sleeves). On the
back of each card is a little CD insert—the digital equivalent
of a 45-rpm record—that fits somewhat securely into your CD
Place one in the player (I used the Buffy CDs first),
and shortly, intro film, music and graphics welcome you to
a character page where you can click on icons that bring you
to the usual trading-card stuff—Buffy’s bio, memorable quotes
from the show, etc.—plus the videos, extra photos, and so
on. I clicked, I watched, I read, I played the trivia game,
I won the freebie screensaver. Then I moved on to the next
card in the set. And the next. And the next. And when I was
done, I thought, “Is that all?”
Which, when I thought about it, was somewhat troubling. I
don’t think I’ve ever looked at a plain, old baseball card
or a movie trading card and felt disappointment that there
wasn’t more to it than the flimsy cardboard, sparse text and
maybe some stale gum. Why was it that I wanted more—more graphics,
more information, more charm, more digital punch—than these
little diskettes produced?
I tossed the cards aside in a pile of other stuff near my
computer and didn’t think about them again for a couple of
weeks. Then I broke them out again, last week, after doing
a little more research into SeriousUSA and this new fad the
company is trying to create. The promo materials indicate
that the sense of what I felt when I played the CD cards on
my computer is exactly the feeling the company wants to promote.
They promise to give consumers an opportunity to “immerse
themselves with information” on whatever show or movie or
character the cards may be themed after. They promise a product
with cutting-edge multimedia, behind-the-scenes footage, more
information than was obtainable before. And now that I’ve
gotten a little taste of what set one of the Buffy,
Medabots and Lord of the Rings cardz have to
offer, I’m bound to buy set two, so I can satisfy my craving
for more, more, more. Right?
Uh-uh. The reality is, most of the stuff Serious’ CD cardz
offer is already out there in some easily accessible form:
You can get your trailers, behind-the-scenes footage on the
movie or TV show DVDs available everywhere. You can find tons
of video clips, photos, quotes, bios and the like pretty much
anywhere on the Web. And character stats? Well, you can still
get plenty of those—guess where—on run-of-the-mill trading
cards that are still on the market, despite the dawn of their
newfangled, high-tech kin.
And did I mention that the new CD cardz aren’t anywhere near
as cheap and tradable as the old cardboard standbys? At $20
per set of four, CD cardz aren’t as impulse-buy-friendly as
the supermarket-checkout $3 pack of 10 or 11 trading cards.
And chances are those high-tech, CD-ROM trading cards are
going to end up in the same place mine did: stashed away in
a pile, novel and interesting, but not terribly fulfilling.