TXGunGeek isn’t an old man (well, he’s older than me and I’m just ribbing him), but he does lament where his old LEGO has gone.
I deal with this on a daily basis at my house. I grew up on LEGO as one of the coolest toys ever, and I still think they are. So of course as soon as my kids were old enough to not view them as little cubic candy pieces, there was LEGO in the house. Heck, Oldest just used the money he’s saved up to buy himself a Brickmaster subscription.
I do understand where TXGunGeek is coming from. My first LEGO kit was just a giant box. You opened the lid and there were lots of little compartments that just held bricks. Nothing fancy, but just oodles of bricks and endless imagination. No mini-figs in sight. But man, once Town and Castle especially Space came around, dude, that was so cool! Now it just wasn’t basic bricks, but you had other pieces in shapes like cones or wings, so now you could build airplanes or rockets. The mini-figs were cool too because now you had “to scale” people that you could put in your creations.
When I got a new LEGO kit, sure I built the model that the kit was designed around. But then I built more. Many times the box had pictures of other things you could build with the set, and it was always a challenge to build those things because you maybe got only one shot of the thing and so you had to figure out for yourself what bricks you needed and what you had to do to fill out the rest of the model. Then of course there was just happy free-form creation. One of my cousins was a bigger LEGO nut than me (I swear he lived for LEGO; I recall him writing a paper for school on LEGO), and his free-form creations were awesome. I remember visiting him one time and he had just made this double-decker 6 foot long space ship. It was incredible. Then, one of our younger cousins proceeded to throw it down the stairs… yes, we were livid.
So recalling my memories, I look at how LEGO is now and I have to wonder a bit. I often think there is too much emphasis put on the models, on merchandising. I mean, there’s Star Wars, Spongebob Squarepants, Indiana Jones, they did a thing with the NBA, there was that stupid Galidor thing that wasn’t even LEGO, Harry Potter, Batman, Thomas The Tank Train, Bob the Builder…. and there’s been many more things they’ve done. But is that so bad? If this allows LEGO to stay in business, if this helps to get some kids interested in LEGO that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise be, is that so bad? Plus I’ve seen a lot of the pieces that come in these model sets, and there’s some really cool pieces. Not to mention one of the larger consumers of LEGO, especially Star Wars, are adults.
Let’s not forget LEGO’s own creations. They still have City, there’s always something Space (now it’s Mars Mission), they’ve got Pirates, Vikings, Castle, and we can’t forget Bionicle. Bionicle is a huge hit at my house. I’m not so hip to the latest Bionicle because it’s certainly more about milking a franchise now, whereas the original Bionicle was truly an extension of the Technic series (gears and levers and “doing stuff”). Then there’s Mindstorms. What a great thing that is.
The thing is, certainly some LEGO kits remain as-is. Some people like the model aspect of it all, and really this is no different from any other model making, be it Revell models or basla wood planes or whatever your choice of medium. But without question, the kids still take things apart. They still use their imagination to create their own things. They still play. They still have to be challenged to think, or even just learning how to follow the directions and pay attention to detail… these are all good and positive things for kids.
Yes LEGO isn’t the same as it was when we were kids, but in all the ways that matters it still is.