Junch takes a trip down memory lane to his youthful days with LEGO. And returns to discover how it has all changed today. Basically, he just wants to tell a story about his wonderfully charmed past, and hopes you’d be interested enough to read on.
Back when I was a kid, I could build LEGO castles, fishing villages, flying spacecrafts, moon bases, police stations, the perfect suburban houses and all other things that caught my fancy. I was Lego Da Vinci. Michaellegolo. Lego Dali. I was a true wizard. But so was every other kid who played with these little plastic bricks.
And there were so many different themes. There was Space, Pirates, Medieval, Underwater, Egypt, Miners, Aliens, Police. That was really cool, one minute I could be reliving the plot of Mummy (one of my favourite movies of all time) and the next minute, it was fighting dragons in the dank pits of a castle or traversing the Mariana Trench looking for sunken treasure.
LEGO was my earliest form of storytelling. I hadn’t yet discovered the beauty of putting words down on paper, instead, I gave my minifigs personalities, back-stories, and had them go on epic adventures that traversed the rises and folds of my bed, or the tall grass of my carpet, exploring magnificent structures. There were skeletons, bad guys, evil villains to fight, traps to avoid, and not every minifig came back alive. It was just such fun.
But eventually I grew out of all that. I also discovered video games, so LEGO was no longer the final frontier. Which was ironic considering how much more sandboxy LEGO was.
In any case, it was more than nine years ago when I had given up on the little plastic bricks.
And then in about October of last year, it came back. For most adults who get back into LEGO, the reason was usually that they wanted to feel a slice of their childhood again, tap into that good ol’ nostalgia. For me, it was just …
GOD DAMN BATMAN.
Just a few months earlier, I’d picked up graphic novels in a serious way. And one of them was obviously Batman.
I ended up following the writer for Batman now, Scott Snyder, on Twitter and he tweeted that he went into a store and picked up a LEGO Batman keychain. Suddenly, something exploded in my brain.
And by god, I scoured the face of this Earth high and low for the Arkenstone of LEGO. Well not really. I just went to a few shops in Malaysia and Singapore. I couldn’t find it, so on to eBay I went and purchased a limited edition Batman in Dark Knight armor (How friggin’ nerdy does that sound?) (and I found out later where a LEGO Batman keychain was being sold in Singapore).
My hunger for LEGO Batman was sated. I thought that was the end of it.
But then I saw they had Wolverine and Deadpool. And I kinda’ like them because of Uncanny X-Force. And what about Captain America, Thor and Iron Man? They were pretty cool – I’d just read the entire run of Invincible Iron Man. So I picked them up too. Ooh, and there was Hawkeye in his new solo series, so I should probably pick him up too.
Soon enough, I amassed nearly all the Avengers, and the holy trinity of the Justice League. I’m eyeing the 2013 Arkham Asylum set, and am desperately hankering after The Bat and The Tumbler. Oh, and why not the Millennium Falcon and Death Star too while I’m at it?
You see, now that I’ve come back to LEGO, I have this deep-seated regret for having dumped all my old sets in the first place. There was a lot of it, I had an X-Wing Fighter, a Podracer, and a whole bunch of other really fancy stuff. I think I donated it to a young cousin, so now I’ve got to build my collection up from scratch again. That’s no matter, I have the money to do it now.
I am so deeply sucked in, but in a different way to from my youth. Whereas before, younger me was infatuated with imagination incarnate in these little plastic pieces, now I am more in awe at the detailing that goes into designing these sets, and definitely the near infinite scope of licenses they can tap into: LEGO Harry Potter, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, LEGO Lord of the Rings, LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Superheroes.
Clearly LEGO is on to something good here, tapping into a lot of people’s favourite other shit and tying them to little bits of plastic. Their video games adapted by Traveller’s Tales are amazing, but just holding an actual LEGO Chewbacca in your hand, or renacting the battle at Helm’s Deep in miniature is just nothing short of mind-blowing.
My only concern with all these licensed stuff is that I’m worried kids will be using their imaginations less and less to build their own things, instead relying on what’s already out there. Kids won’t be saying “Can I get that non-descript LEGO set so I can repurpose the parts for my mega rocket that I have been working on for eight months”, and instead say “Ooh ooh, it’s a mini Frodo, can I get that LEGO Lord of the Rings set, daddy? My imagination is lacking, I must rely on other media to tell me what I would enjoy.”
But maybe I’m worrying too much. Maybe kids are making their own stuff all the same. In any case, LEGO is a lot more expensive than it once was. But it is also a heck load better made than before too. The joy of assembling hasn’t diminished either – there’s just a real tangible satisfaction of pressing parts in place together, and just marvelling at how the designers could think of putting together a Death Star out of little grey bits.
In conclusion, LEGO is still wonderful. I don’t think it can ever stop being wonderful. And I know for a fact that when I have kids, they are going to play with LEGO – not Barbie or GI Joe, just LEGO. My dream is to have a whole room of LEGO. I knew an old man once who did just that, up in the French Alps. He opened the door to this room, and it had a LEGO train set that ran through villages and town squares and all these little joyful plastic people just going about their joyful plastic lives. It was magnificent to the kid that’s still in me.