I haven’t purchased a video game system newer than the Super Nintendo, so I’m not what you might call an avid gamer. Recently, on a trip to visit family in Texas, I ended up playing a good deal of Wii with my 8-year-old nephew. It took a little while to get used to the controls, but I think that I got a basic grasp of it by the last day that I was there. While I was l learning however, there was a lot of instruction from my nephew that included phrases like, “No! Do that thing again!” “What did you kill me for?!” and “Remember when we played this and you figured it out?”
The last one garnered the rather frustrated response of, “Keep in mind that I’ve never been to this town, I’ve never been in this house and I’ve never played this game before. So, no, I don’t remember.”
The game we were playing was Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. The violence is toned down since when you kill someone, they explode into coins and Legos just like in Mexico. I guess this makes it better, but I would inevitably start fights in the portal cantina with everyone around and quickly learned that Darth Vader’s choking action makes quick work of just about anyone. Man, did I ever love killing Jar Jar Binks…
Toned down violence is probably one of the reasons that his parents got it for him. The other reasons are that he loves both Star Wars and Legos. He’s got several Lego kits in his room, so, with his birthday approaching, Ms. Kitty and I were going to go and buy him a big case of Legos. We quickly discovered that our idea of Legos differs greatly from Lego’s idea of Legos.
When I was a kid, my mom would buy me Legos at yard sales because Legos were expensive and we weren’t rich. I had a big bucket of all different colors and sizes with those nearly flat ones, the standard blocks, the long red ones, some wheel and axles and a couple of those big green boards where you could stage things. What I didn’t have was a bunch of specialty pieces that made specific things. Unfortunately, these kits that build specific things are all you can buy at most stores.
This is bullsh!t.
Lego is killing kids’ imaginations while pretending to enrich them. Sure, they sell space kits and ninja kits and pirate kits and cannibal kits, but none of them work together. Looking over the pieces, they all have to fit a certain way or else they simply don’t build anything. I don’t really care that the characters that come with the kits are specialized with tiny mustaches and little painted on chain mail, but when you’ve got an alien ship that only goes together one way, what’s the point? Now you’ve just got a toy that makes one thing and falls apart in a strong breeze. Know what would happen if the helicopter I built for my yellow-faced bank robbers fell apart? I could use those same blocks to build a getaway car, or a safe house, or a tank or whatever my mind conceived because those pieces all worked together. I was the limit of what they could do, not someone who designed decals to match whatever movie tie-in was hot that month.
Legos 20 years ago. Endless, square possibilities.
Legos Today. You can build... Um... Harry Potter and a pegasus, but they're already put together, so you can't really "build" much.
I understand that Lego is in this to make money (at $9.99 for the most basic kit, they can’t be losing money) and toys that encourage the purchase of the same brand makes a lot of business sense. But wasn’t the point of Legos that you could build a variety of things with them? Isn’t that why they showcase professional builders? Isn’t using your imagination the 54cking point of Legos?
We couldn’t find a single package of Lego blocks that didn’t have a theme. Everything was Ninjago or Star Wars or Citizen Kane (not a great seller, by the way). Brand alliances and loyalty are awesome and all, but can’t they just sell regular f-ing Legos as well?! It seems like Lego is just another name for “toys that fall apart easier” rather than being a gateway drug to imagination and inquiry. I’ve heard a lot of architects and engineers talk about how they got interested in structures and building through Legos, but I doubt that they’d be quite so inspired if all they could build was a Millennium Falcon. Weeeeeee!!
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me that there are Lego video games since that is essentially all that is available from the company these days anyhow. You have one path to travel, little latitude to deviate from the prescribed options and it is all branded. Bring back the tub of generic pieces and allow the minds of tomorrow to stretch out and set their own limits rather than telling them exactly what to do. They have enough people to do that already.