I grew up playing with yo-yos. I learned the basics on a fixed axel, and it was pretty mind blowing for me when I found out about sleeping yo-yos, with the string looped around the axel to allow it to spin at the bottom. Around that time, the world started to open up.. Tom Kuhn started making precision yo-yos out of aircraft aluminum, with ball-bearing axels.. Duncan took things forward with the freehand embodiment which uses a counterweight that the player can release, rather than having the thing tied to the finger. And it just keeps going.. now there are a whole bunch of small batch yo-yo makers which have introduced side-cap bearings--bearings on the outside of the yo-yo which let the player basically hold the yo-yo in their hand while it's still spinning.. there are off-string yo-yos which aren't even attached at the end of the string.. and micro-diablos which are basically a yo-yo that can be played on a continuous loop of string. it's awesome, but dizzying. I've messed around with all of these variations, but they all suffer from a barrier to entry. They're not easy to get started on.
It comes back to freedom and structure.. when there are too many possibilities, it can become its own kind of constraint. Sometimes when you reduce things to their bare bones, new opportunities are created, often the basic things are the most fun to create with, and the simplest things can be the most versatile.
I remember how much fun I used to have on my old wooden yo-yo.. sure it was limited, but there was a purity to it that I liked. So it got me thinking about the basic elements of play, and how to create the best balance between simplicity and possibility. This is what Edward de Bono tried to do with his "L game", and its part of the beauty of the game go. While I respect for people who can play chess well, and the masters of the ball bearing axels, I also appreciate the elegence of simplicity. The picture above is a stripped down version of monkey knuckles, which I'd dubbed moknuckle. It's a ball on a string, nothing much more. If you wanted to classify it as a yo-yo, you could call it a dead end.. no spin. I intend to put together a couple of videos showing some of what can be done with such a simple contraption.. and I also plan to list both mk and moknuckle back on Etsy at some point. But in the meantime, check out the video below. Although the set has two beads on it, most of the play in the video is manipulating just one.