A little (jk) piece on Lego by the artist *Atoyrobott
Everyone at some point in their childhood has had fond memories of playing with a particular toy [growing up]. For some, it was a simple deck of cards, others possibly the old hand-me-down Barbie doll with self made a-symmetrical hair, and for me LEGO sets where the toy I remember loving most. And they became the number one requested toy for Christmas up until I was around thirteen years old and had become “too cool” for them. While I preferred playing with a toy stereo-typically associated with boys and not girls, I couldn’t really say at the time, but I knew it inspired a lot more imagination from me than playing with dolls or the infamous popular Barbie, like my peers had enjoyed.
There comes a point in a teenager’s life that it becomes unfavorable to continue playing with toys and action figures in which one then has to choose; toys or a social life? I refused to settle on just chasing boys during high school and ditching my LEGO sets entirely, so I compromised and kept them and a stash of other nostalgic toys in the family attic for a later time. I knew that day of reasoning would someday outweigh my need to fit in with peers my age. If I never even came back to LEGO again, I could at least resell them for a somewhat decent amount of money. It’s the only toy I know that usually has a high demand in the reselling of its pieces. Luckily, I did not sell my sets and instead, let my younger brother reap the benefits I had once enjoyed at his age. As fate would have it, I soon got hired as holiday work in Oregon’s one and only LEGO store and a spark was initiated. My love for LEGO came back and then some. As explained by other devote adult LEGO fans, it was considered a “dark age” of my LEGO years, in which no LEGO was present in any form during that time, then spontaneously, it was as if I had become instantly reunited with an old childhood friend where no time had pasted at all, except for my slightly older exterior.
Starting work at the LEGO store, I thought I knew everything I needed know about LEGO. I had in fact, had previous experience with it growing up, but I soon became aware that I was not the only adult still enjoying LEGO sets. It than became apparent this toy was unlike normal toys and it was full of rich history and an underground fan base that was unlike anything anyone could even imagine. I was surprised to say the least.
In general, it’s recognizable to the eye, even though you might not know more than its smiling face and name brand. If you yourself don’t know the extent of what this simple plastic toy does, chances are you know someone who does, and if you have kids, your chances have increased significantly. This toy, with its classic iconic shape, and distinct mini-figure mascot, is called LEGO, and taken directly from LEGO.com’s website, it’s a Danish term “Leg Godt” for “Play Well” and it is not what one thinks it is. In fact, it’s depth proves it nearly impossible to simply label it “just a toy.” Because when you get down to the core of it, it becomes something more. It becomes a hobby and way of life for all ages, young or old.
LEGO provides human contentedness because it’s not just a toy, it’s an entire culture.
Which allows any degree of involvement it’s owner decides to partake in. They become Alice and they alone can choose to go as far down that rabbit hole they desire. It’s an amazing promise for just a 2 x 4 LEGO brick to offer, but it’s a promise none the less.
By nature, this is a toy meant to be played with long after its initial use. For starters, according from an online article, “LEGO Brick Timeline: 50 Years of Building Frenzies and Curiosities” on Gizmdo.com, there are more than 915 million combinations possible for six 2 x 4 LEGO bricks of the same color (proving that it’s meant to be loved for generations to come. This can be achieved by means of sibling inheritance (pass-me-downs), garage sales or for some devoted fans, to be purchased online intentionally, for the main reason being to collect other pieces for an already pre-existing LEGO collection.
For a child’s mind, LEGO bricks are both a building platform and genius 3D puzzle. Its bold colors are both appealing and excitable and its playability is virtually never ending, depending on the child. All they need is imagination and creativity and a brick now becomes a piece of a bigger masterpiece and an extension of whatever they envision. With the ease of its pre-sorted, build-with-instruction kits, it’s an accomplishment they can achieve by themselves. Should the idea of following the instruction booklet disinterest them, creating something entirely of their own with the pieces provided usually follows.
Speaking from a non biased view, LEGO bricks are an incredible toy. Comparing it other top contenders in the toy market, it not only stands out with its uniqueness and originality but continues grow in a world that usually doesn’t take kind to old fashioned ways. This toy is old fashioned. The LEGO Group itself was started by Ole Kirk Kristiansen in 1932 making wooden toys. In 1949 the company was then handed down to his son, Godtfred Kirk Kristiansen, with the production of the first “automatic binding bricks.” In 1953 they became patented “LEGO Bricks.” (Katalog, p.9; 2008) The traditional LEGO set requires no electricity, no batteries and no high speed internet to play with. These days, what successful toy of past still remains to be popular amongst the kids of today without being heavily based upon the technology of our current high speed, always changing digital lifestyle? But technology is here to stay and for those who want it, LEGO does have an answer to that solution.
The LEGO Group has had their foot in the door of video games since the birth of the Playstation system back in 1994, with the release of LEGO Racers in 1999; the first official LEGO produced video game. Following multi-platform games like LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game, LEGO Batman: The Video Game and LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures have since been released and have a world of digital play to tap into. For kids interested in internet play and a way to connect to fellow LEGO fans, LEGO has also now released “LEGO Universe” with a unique collaboration incorporating help from devote LEGO fans like John Langrish, “Both LEGO and NetDevil brought us [AFOL’S] onto the project right from its inception, showing us how much they value our input.” It’s the first LEGO online massive muli-player game following in the ways of other popular online games like “World of Warcraft.”
If that does not solidify enough connection with LEGO followers, for the up and coming engineers, designers or architects, one can also download a free design software, “LEGO Digital Designer” and take part in what is called by LEGO, “Design By Me.” By allowing anyone to digitally rummage through LEGO’s entire current brick stock by creating, uploading and purchasing their own custom LEGO set, LEGO extends a welcoming invitation in becoming more involved in a greater length.
The one more learns about LEGO, the deeper they are exposed to its culture and more connected they become. Just like in a standard LEGO building set, this “knowledge” becomes a “building brick” and with each new brick, the puzzle becomes more complete and an amazing world build. LEGOland is another fascinating way to see both history on the toy and an inside look on more of what can be accomplished with LEGO using alternative methods. A visit to Carlsbad, California where LEGOland opened in 2000, shows a world of multiple large and small scale models. In LEGO lingo, “models” are another way to show a builder’s skill by creating custom structures entirely built out of LEGO brick, which can be either bought through unofficial LEGO vendors, or simply kept for personal use. In this case, they are the prime attraction at LEGOland to which there are even official LEGOland builders in charge of building all of the parks models. They go by the esteemed title, “Master Model Builder” and it’s one of the most highly sought out positions the park has to offer.
Separate from LEGOland the amusement park, The LEGO Group has its own employed “Master Model Builders” who specialize in the building of travelling large scale models (roughly 8 feet in height) from across the United States and Europe. For people living in close proximity to a retail LEGO Store, this is the best hands on way to experience the true meaning of human connection by seeing just how much excitement LEGO brings for kids and their families. This is a free event where anyone can build one large scaled 2 x 4 brick to be added to the creation of the selected travelling model. Linking Logs should be jealous. What other toy has an entire theme park devoted to offering only official LEGO products, games and resources- not to mention rides?
As one can hopefully see by now LEGO itself can loan itself to many different outlets. It’s almost a sort of chameleon type toy with its genius morphing ability, yet aside from a retail toy stance, there is yet more unveiling. One might argue that it’s still just for kids but adults and teens within the LEGO community would gladly argue differently. Let me introduce the LEGO community, and the heart of LEGO’s impressive underground following, known as the AFOL’s. Traditionally speaking, AFOL stands for, “Adult Fan of LEGO” but newer versions, to accommodate a broader audience, include, “Any Fan of LEGO”, TFOL “Teen Fan of LEGO”, “Adult LEGO Hobbyist” and ALE “Adult LEGO Enthusiast.” These fans all connect in various ways. Either by chatting online, actively participating in LUGS (LEGO User Groups) or by attending unofficial LEGO based conventions, with the top ones being, “BrickCon” held annually in Seattle Washington and “BrickWorld” in Chicago, which reaches somewhere close to around 800 attendees.
See the closest Brick Convention in the Oregon area brickscascade Portland, OR
You choose your level of involvement with this amazing little plastic brick. Just remember it’s not just a toy, it’s a finely tuned culture, a hidden gem and plastic diamond in the rough. Should anyone take the time to explore the many positive uses LEGO can offer even the beginner novice, one should agree that it is more than what one thinks. LEGO can mean anything to many different people. As one casual adult follower, Matt Bliss points out, “I think LEGO[s] were one of those toys that did a great job of showing possibility but inviting you to break the rules and not color inside the lines.” For many it’s that that makes LEGO so appealing and rich in value. It provides a hobby, a creative outlet and a niche in a unique group of similar minded people to talk, connect and interact in a way that’s leaves them with a feel-good happiness. For some, LEGO can even create experiences similar to how Oliver Sacks describes music in his essay, “When Music Heals Body and Soul” by saying, “We find ourselves calmed by it, excited by it, comforted by it, mystified by it and often haunted by it. It can lift us out of depression or move us to tears.” (Sacks, p. 221; ST). Whether it be just a fun, casual way to spend time together with your kids, friends, or peers or lending a more devoted approach by becoming an official AFOL within your cities own LUG, it’s a toy unlike any other. I doubt any other toy has as much on its resume as this. To review, it has an official, highly developed underground fan base, a mass of fully stocked retail LEGO stores, two theme parks-the other one having been recently opened in Florida, specially held LEGO conventions and a load of multiple uses. That being said, LEGO is here to stay indefinitely and it’s growing at an impressive rate. Most importantly, it’s not just a toy anymore, it is indeed a vast and exciting culture and world, which offers its friendship to anyone wanting to explore.