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Has Lego Sold Out? 425

Hugh Pickens 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.)
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Has Lego Sold Out?

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  • by alphatel ( 1450715 ) * on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:28AM (#42375125)

    The first step is to completely ignore the manual, and this is what they're teaching children. This is a skill I wasn't able to master until I was in college, but today's kids will have it done by high school.

    Today's kids are doing creative block-building online, and paint by numbers in Legos. What a strange, twisted world.

  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:47AM (#42375247) Journal

    But today's construction sets ...invite users to follow detailed directions, not construct their own creations from whole brick...

    Absolutely sensible approach. Today's child is growing up in today's environment, and will become a designer tomorrow. Today, if you create a design for which some idiot possesses a design patent, the latter will sue you for billions of dollars. If you have a brick with rounded corners, is glossy or black in colour, even God cannot save you from litigious thugs.The child needs to learn this lesson very early, and learn to 'behave' and 'obey' and 'conform' rather than be creative.

    So Lego has researched and come up with designs which are not encumbered by prior art or patents; and given detailed instructions for kids to follow. 10 years from now, a design company would have about a 100 lawyers for every 5 designers. These lawyers would tell the designers exactly what to design, what not to design, and how not to be too successful and gain the wrath of patent holding Big Businesses.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @01:00PM (#42375651) Homepage Journal

    Read the directions? Huh? You're kidding, right?

    I'm a guy. I never need directions, behind the wheel, or playing with Legos. It would be unmanly to start now!

  • by cvtan ( 752695 ) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @01:10PM (#42375701)
    While my daughter was growing up, I had a random choice of what to step on if I went walking barefoot around the apartment in the middle of the night. I could step on a Lego, which is quite painful, or step on one of her goldfish that had jumped out of the tank. If you can see in the dark, pick the Lego. They won't die if you squash them and you don't have to explain to a little girl how you killed her pet fish. She is 40 years old now and still reminds me of this. You would think people would move on... Personally, I think the fish was depressed.
  • by wrencherd ( 865833 ) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @09:04PM (#42378513)

    I didn't get an allowance until I was a teenager and even then it was only 25 cents a week. Mowing a lawn in those days was worth $1..

    You were lucky! We didn't have lawns when I was young.

    We lived in a small shoe-box by the side of the road. Every night before bed our dad would thrash us and kill us and then dance about on our graves singing "Hallelujah!"

    You try telling the geeks of today that, and they won't believe you . . .

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly