writes "Matt Richtel and Jesse McKinley write in the NY Times that for generations of American children, Legos were the ultimate do-it-yourself plaything. Little plastic bricks, with scant instructions, just add imagination. But today's construction sets are often tied to billion-dollar franchises like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and invite users to follow detailed directions, not construct their own creations from whole brick. It's less open-ended, some parents and researchers say, and more like paint-by-numbers. 'When I was a kid, you got a big box of bricks and that was it,' says Tracy Bagatelle-Black. 'What stinks about Lego sets now is that they're not imaginative at all.' Lego loyalists are quick to defend the company. Josh Wedin, the managing editor of the Brothers Brick, a Lego blog, called complaints that they are less creative 'simply ridiculous,' adding that Legos always included some instructions, though he says he misses the alternative designs that used to be on the back of the box. But Clifford Nass, a sociology professor at Stanford University who studies how people relate to the physical world versus the virtual world, says some essential qualities were lost when Lego became more like other toys. 'The genius of Lego was, you had to do the work.' Learning about frustration, Nass says, 'is a hugely important thing.'"
(And watch soon for a review of The Unofficial Lego Builder's Guide
, a book intended to help Lego users escape the tyranny of block-by-number instructions.)