Friday, December 3, 2010

Lego My World

I played with Legos everyday until I was about 26. I wish. But really, I played with my Legos until I bought my Super NES when I was 12. Video games may have displaced my passion for Legos, but not the Legos themselves. At this moment I know exactly where my Legos are. If someone came over and wanted to play Legos, I could have them scattered all over the floor in less than 3 minutes.

My Legos are stored securely in my attic and my Super NES, well, I'm not entirely sure where that thing ended up (though it's probably filled with a dirt-dobber nest in my Papa's barn). I know where my Legos are, how about you?

I saved my Legos because I figure they'll come in handy someday. I used to think I'd pass 'em on to my own children someday, but that idea just won't work. It won't work because my kids -should I ever have kids- won't want my Legos. My Legos are old school and way too boring. My Legos were top of the line back when I built: I had clear windshield bricks, angled wing bricks, and even a couple of horses that came with my "Castles" series set. As cool as these pieces were to me, they're nothing compared to the intricate Lego bricks sold today.

Lego develops new bricks to help them make cooler theme sets. When I started building, Lego made 2 theme sets: City and Space. The universe was simpler then and the Legos reflected that simplicity. Back then, kids either built things that could escape Earth's gravity or couldn't -end of story.

The population of the Lego universe was also a lot less ethnically and genderly diverse than it is today. All of my Lego-men were men. I know this because the female Lego-men, which came later on, all had red pursed lips. So, despite being anatomically identical, I knew all my Lego-men were men because they had smiles on their faces, not pursed red lips. Lego seems to have made Lego-man and woman according the Genesis creation account, wherein Adam is made first then Eve. Man and woman, He created them all yellow. Oh yeah, and all my Lego-men were yellow, which as 4 year old I equated with whiteness, but now I suppose all my Lego-men are Asian.

Lego's themes really push innovation. A Lego theme is a whole new world. The last theme set I bought was "Pirates." All my Lego-pirates were still yellow, but some of them had beards, and others had eye-patches! This was a when the floodgates opened and Lego started creating individuals (or at least individual heads) to inhabit their theme worlds. Now-a-days there's Lego-Harry Potters, Lego-Batmans, and even Lego-Atlantis Manta Warriors. So you see, all my mis-matched bricks and Lego-Asians don't stand a chance against these new-school Lego celebrities and personalities.

And that's what really pisses me off. Back in the day I had to use my imagination. When I built a multicolored rectangle with a windshield, slanted wings, and a horse in the back, I had to pretend it was an inter-galactic X-wing Star-fighter piloted by Luke Skywalker-- the horse serving as R2-D2. Hell, now-a-days Luke Skywalker is member of the Lego-Galactic Empire, and so is the rest of the Star Wars Universe.

Lego is colonizing the cultural world and rotting our children's imaginations one contrived brick at a time. Kids don't have to imagine anything anymore. They just play video games or bully each other on Facebook. Of course I can't bitch too much, after all, the Super NES forced my own Lego building career into early retirement.

Newer technologies usually make older technologies obsolete, like the computer did to the typewriter, or like the car did to the horse drawn carriage. Legos, unfortunately, are an older game technology. But Lego is still in business, and it remains in business for two reasons:

1) It has made a Lego-world out of everything from Harry Potter to Atlantis. By expanding its base in this way, Legos appeal to a larger market segment. Lego colonizes to survive.

2) Legos have also made the digital-turn by making Lego video games like "Lego-Batman" and "Lego Harry Potter." I've never played these games, but it seems like they'd be nothing more than Legofications of regular games. Most today's kids probably first encounter Legos on their Wii systems than on their playroom floors. By extension, these same kids probably just figure "Lego," the word, refers to a blocky yellow aesthetic style used in video games.

Sure, I'm pissed off that today's Legos are so unimaginative and virtual. But at least they're still being made in brick form. I like the bricks. I like to feel the texture of the world I'm creating and then imaginatively move beyond it. I also like to stroll down the Lego isle and see what's new in the ever expanding, all consuming Lego universe. In Japan, I frequented the Lego Store at Saitama-Shintoshin. Walking through there sends my mind reeling and my heart lamenting that Lubbock doesn't have a Lego Store. But Lubbock did have Lego exhibit at the Arts Festival last year. (see pictures)

So while Legos are gradually taking over the past, present, and future of our world, it's nice to know they're still being played with. Though I dislike the virtual-turn Lego continually makes into the gaming world, I can understand their motivations. But then again, I dislike most things virtual. I like having more real-world friends than Facebook friends, and I like being paid in cash than the digital numbers of this direct deposit age. Hopefully my kids will too.
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Photos taken by me at the 2010 Lubbock Arts Festival.