A modern twist on the spinning top

Daniel Lim

The traditional game of spinning top or gasing as it is known in Brunei, is not a part of this country’s culture and tradition alone, but is found across the world, with different varieties of the game in each region.

As the most iconic traditional spinning top, the classic wooden cone wrapped in string is probably the image that many conjure up when thinking about it. This begs the question, how does one innovate on such a tried and true traditional game that has been forged for decades and generations?

One such attempt made in innovating on the classic game comes in the form of a spinning top toy called Beyblade, and it has captured the hearts and imagination of both the young and old not just overseas but also across the nation here in Brunei.

So what are Beyblades? They are a series of themed spinning tops first released in the middle of 1999 by Takara Tomy in Japan, and Hasbro internationally. It was heavily advertised in its ability to be customisable, in addition to be used to compete against others.

With these spinning tops being sold on store shelves as the popularity surged, along with various accompanying media such as cartoons being shown to promote the said Beyblades, it felt as if the franchise was unstoppable.

A collection of Beyblades. PHOTOS: DANIEL LIM
Some of the Beyblades and equipment on display at a tournament
ABOVE & BELOW: Contenders show off various Beyblade designs and combinations; and contenders compete during a Beyblade tournament. PHOTOS: DANIEL LIM

This did not remain the case however as, like all crazes, there was the slow winding down of the hype and for sometime Beyblade had been in a slump.

That did not stop the company from continuously trying to innovate, with the release of Beyblade Burst around 2015 being a turning point, but it wasn’t until the release of Beyblade Burst Turbo or what it is commonly called as Beyblade Burst Cho Z, that the craze returned.

As mentioned previously, reiterating on a tried and true game that has been played over generations can be difficult, which is why the release of Beyblade Burst was intriguing as it introduced systems in place that provide additional layers of strategy to just spinning the tops.

These deep layers of strategy have since led to the formation of communities surrounding Beyblade for competition in particular as well as for the sharing of knowledge of the various tips and tricks of competing in a modern take on the traditional game of gasing.

One such community that has been continuously conducting tournament, which gathered hundreds of Beyblade players from across the nation and beyond, is WestCoastBey 80:16, who spoke to the Bulletin during one of their recent tournaments.

Mohd Yussaini bin Haji Said, organiser and member of the community, explained that in addition to conducting tournaments to provide platforms and opportunities to play against each other in a competitive setting, it also helps to promote the playing of modern gasing or spinning top as a sport.

“Tournaments such as this bring together the best players from across the nation, and if we could, we would scout for some of the best players in these tournaments who have the potential to compete in international tournaments representing Brunei,” he shared.

Compared to traditional gasing, Beyblade is more refined as not only are there strategies involved in choosing the right parts to change the dynamics of the top which affects the behaviour of the Beyblade, be it in a balance, attack, defence, or stamina type; battles between Beyblades are held in specially made arenas that keep the matches confined and exciting.

“With regard to the parts, most of the Beyblades that we see in competitions and tournaments can be split up to three core parts, which are the layer on the top, disc in the middle, and driver on the bottom,” he explained.

These customisations coupled with small teeth that attach the three parts together form one Beyblade, and in a competitive setting, other than stopping your opponent’s Beyblade from spinning (spin finish) or by knocking them out of the arena into designated pockets (over finish), the small teeth that are engaged on the top also serve as pseudo life points, as each hit can disengage the teeth from their place, with multiple disengages leading to a spectacular splitting of the Beyblade into the three said parts, or what they call “burst finish”.

“In addition to various media such as through Anime, or YouTube, we all share the knowledge on the best competitive use of each parts with each other showcasing it in tournaments such as this,” said Mohd Yussaini.

These communities do not extend to just WestCoastBey 80:16 but also others that have sprung up in the nation such as Beyblade Community Brunei (BCB), as well as gamemaster.bn; who all share the same passion for Beyblade.

In recalling how WestCoastBey 80:16 started, Mohd Yussaini noted that his son first took interest and, in supporting his son, the Beyblade community was formed, which has since not only expanded as a gathering of like-minded people but has also provided a great environment for his son to grow in.

With a strong emphasis on competing, Beyblade has also garnered fans who are collectors, which tells a different story for the same toy.

One such collector is Lim Kok Chien, who has more than 50 Beyblades, as he described his small collection as personally catering to his taste.

“Unlike people who are into competing in tournaments, collectors such as myself don’t really care about gaining an edge as we don’t really enter any competition, but rather, we just care about the looks of the parts and how it gels with other parts,” he shared.

He also noted that collecting also has some monetary value behind it as some older as well as limited variants of Beyblade parts can fetch more than 10 times their original price, though he stressed that only original parts can fetch those amounts.

He noted that there has been and still is a huge misconception on Beyblade, about the pricing and quality of the parts. In particular, bootleg or fake parts can be a low barrier of entry for children with a tight budget, but it poses a serious threat to not only the quality of the game, but also driving a larger misconception that original parts are a premium version of the same product.

“This misconception of value can and has caused bootleg products to depreciate even more, which leads to the original products over-inflating in its price to the point where it is no longer an easy barrier of entry, and as such, people will purchase the cheaper alternative, ie the bootleg products, thus helping to further continue the cycle,” he explained.

As such, in his collection, many of the Beyblades are original as well as different and rare in colour variants. Furthermore, few selected Beyblades also had various gimmicks introduced, and it provided a slight competitive edge when it was released, serving as not a reminder of the past, but as a form of appreciation for the care being placed in design of both its form and function.

“At the end of the day, collecting Beyblade parts is just another hobby of mine, admiring and pairing the best looking combination of parts to appreciate them is very similar to appreciating fine art,” he added.