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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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:24AM (#42375093)

    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.

  • by Jetra ( 2622687 ) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:31AM (#42375143)
    The irony is that Minecraft is lego, but they just released a Minecraft lego set.
  • Never had LEGO (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ExRex ( 47177 ) <elliot@aj[ ] ['our' in gap]> on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:53AM (#42375291) Homepage
    My construction toy was an Erector Set, now long gone. These days Erector Sets in the US are rebranded Meccano sets.
    Anyway, the thing about the Erector Set was that it not only exercised your imagination, as does LEGO, but it also exercised your manual dexterity, which LEGO does not. When you have to use little nuts and bolts to put things together you get good at manipulating small parts, which is excellent for improving hand-eye coordination, improving delicacy of touch and learning patience.
    If you make things too easy for kids how are they to learn?
  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @12:11PM (#42375391) Journal

    Yeah I remember space theme lego back when the space shuttle was still new. []
    Plenty of themes back then: []

  • by JasoninKS ( 1783390 ) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @12:23PM (#42375455)
    But can you even find "plain" kits any more? Seems like everything Lego I see is tied to a franchise of some sort. Even their "Friends" line is just buildings to put together.
  • by NixieBunny ( 859050 ) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @12:31PM (#42375493) Homepage
    We have at least a hundred LEGO sets from various of the "unimaginative" series from Harry Potter to Star Wars to the underwater things. They get built once according to the book, then they gradually get taken apart and mixed in with the giant bins of random LEGO parts. All these strangely shaped and colored parts mix together quite well, and my children have had no trouble whatsoever in creating weird fan-fic style mashup vehicles and action sets.
  • by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @02:58PM (#42376317)

    I personally consider mega bloks to be a ripoff. The quality difference is astonishing. I'm not saying that Lego is always perfect -- I've had some sets in the 90s where some blocks were markedly loosely-fitting compared to same shape/size blocks from other batches. I haven't seen any of that recently, though, and my daughter has several of the most complex Hogwarts sets. I've also recently got a nice large Technics motorized excavator for myself, and it's quite a step up from the smaller pneumatics one I had as a kid. The design is pretty damn good.

  • by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Monday December 24, 2012 @03:31AM (#42379939) Homepage Journal

    LEGO is expensive now, ...

    Ok, I have to say this is simply flat out wrong. As a serious collector of Lego for over 30 years, I can authoritatively say that the price of Lego sets has held almost constant at ~ .10 per brick. Some of the newer licensed sets break that rule and go over that figure, but Lego has also introduced the Creator lines and similar sets with lots of basic bricks where the price falls well below the .10 a brick average.

    But don't believe me. Go check out the prices on Brickset [], a site that has a massive comprehensive catalog of old Lego sets and instructions. I looked up a few random set MSRPs from the early 80s to make sure I was remembering the prices right, and it looks like I was dead on. Holding steady at ~.10 per brick over 30 years is an amazing feat, doubly so if you adjust for inflation.

    So, no Lego isn't expensive now. Its higher quality and less expensive than ever before. And Unlike 99% of the toys I had as a kid, it still works just fine.

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous