A Note on New Legos

I thought a small rant about Legos would be perfectly in order for a blog about the state of fine art today.  Legos are not necessarily a very refined art, but Legos are a hell of a lot of fun to play with when not in the studio.

Construction Legos

I was watching Nickelodeon today when a commercial for the new(ish) construction Lego sets came on.  I’ve seen this commercial a few times before but today the commercial struck me as odd so I paid a little closer attention.  Why would Lego make construction Legos?  The toy is a construction-based toy.  They’re just advertising in a literal fashion, what the toy is for.  This seems redundant and really can’t be selling well.  Let’s say you are a kid with tons of legos sitting around – are you going to purposefully NOT finish a few sets in order to create a construction theme scene?  Construction sets seem to communicate a message of “please, only half-play with me”.   Now, I am mostly criticizing the idea of creating construction zones in your playset.  The trucks themselves (cranes, bulldozers, steam-rollers, etc.) are all just fine to have around.  Countless hours can be lost running your little protagonists after your villainous antagonists through construction sites, so in this respect, these toys are just fine.  But we really don’t need half-built buildings.  We have many other sets we can just leave unfinished instead, and with better parts.  So, Lego, lets rid ourselves of the buildings and just sell the trucks.

“Modular Design Sets”

Legos, until the early 2000’s were lots of fun to build.  Buy a set, dump the pieces into a huge box (usually provided), and then spend hours sifting loudly through hundreds of little plastic pieces as your little construction grows from chaos into form.  It was always a pleasure to see how the Lego designers would come up with new ways in which to use old parts and how they would solve construction problems.  Less is more.  Unfortunately, through the 90’s, Lego began introducing many pieces which were form fitted for specific purposes.  How they are able to afford so many specialized pieces is beyond me.  Due to the special purposes, many of these pieces are functional for nothing else, ultimately limiting your creativity with them.  Also, over the last ten years, Lego has shifted to this Modular Design idea.  The MD idea is that you build a model in smaller parts and then assemble all the smaller parts into a larger set at the end.  Not only does MD kill creativity, but it also makes the models much less stable, less thought out, less enjoyable to build, and less fun to play with.  I note specifically the Y-Wing for the Star Wars sets – the Ultimate Collector’s version.  In this model, you build the cockpit, fuselage, and engines all separately and then snap it all together.  It was only minimally interesting to build,  but the final model was very unstable.  I had it on display for a couple months in my old apartment and every day, someone would knock the table and the whole thing would collapse.  Over time, the side engine pods weighed down so much that they noticeably sagged and could easily become detached.  A $150 building toy/model should not fall apart constantly and generally look like shit on display.  The same could be said of the Tantive IV.  The UC Tantive’s engines were barely connected.  It was just ridiculous.  Whoever designed that should be fired out right.  Finally, the Star Destroyer UC was hollow.  It’s plates were connected by magnets!  This is a damned Lego set people, I paid for LEGOS not for magnets connecting a lego false front.  Of course, I wouldn’t expect the thing to be solid plastic, that’s also nutty, but seriously… this was the best design?

New Town Models

In positive news, Lego has been putting out these new town-based sets for the past few years.  These include the Green Grocer, Market Square, and Cafe Corner as well as a few other new ones and similarly themed sets.  These sets are all really well designed except for the lower floors of some of them which are only half-built.  By half-built, the floor is a split-level which would normally go below the street level, but since Lego hasn’t come out with their sewer sets yet, the floor only appears as if it goes below the street from the windows but is actually cut-off at the street level like any other model.  While it doesn’t matter too much, you are making toys folks, not purely models.  Or at least come up with some sort of noticeable differentiation.  The modular design of these models works generally well, but again there’s something “missing” from building the sets.  I think it’s the fun value.  Still – awesome sets and I hope to see many more.

Numbered Bags

What the hell?  New Lego sets come with bags with numbers on them.  The numbers indicate the order by which the Legos inside are to be built.  I don’t remember being 8-12 years old, but I seem to recall that I never had a problem with this before.  In fact, I’ve seen new kids actually use the numbered bags and do everything by the book because they don’t know any different and choose to follow the directions instead of the chaotic method.  Again, something is lost here.  It seems geared toward quick construction as opposed to working out problems, finding the correct pieces, shape differentials, and time management.  Knock it off Lego!  Let them make a huge mess!



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