Sunday, 5 September 2010

Proper LEGO

It of course goes without saying that all of the pieces produced by the LEGO company are, by definition, "proper" LEGO. Except that I'm increasingly coming across pieces which don't feel like "proper" LEGO to me. It's a bit hard to explain, but basically I'm referring to huge pieces which in the old days would have been made up of a number of existing pieces, but which are now moulded in just one piece. This really hit me when I was building an Indiana Jones LEGO set, Fight on the Flying Wing, and was faced by the monstrosity below :

I mean, look at it. It's huge ! And is it really necessary ? This isn't a new phenomenon - I have 10- and 20-year old sets which contain unnecessarily big pieces - but I'm certainly noticing it more these days.

It feels uncomfortably like "dumbing down" to me, almost as if the intention is to get the build out of the way as fast as possible so that there's more time to play with the finished model. I can kind of see a logic in this, except that as a child, most of the pleasure for me was in actually building the model rather than playing with the finished article, to the extent that I'd generally deconstruct it after just a few minutes of play and then rebuild it into something different, or at least try to improve upon what I'd built earlier. Maybe I just wasn't a typical kid, or else kids today find actually building the model an inconvenient barrier to playing with it. It'd be a shame if that were true, but maybe it just is.

It could be reasonably argued that the sets with these big, ugly pieces are more targeted at a younger demographic, while the older and/or less impatient builder has a pretty good choice of sets containing more 'traditional' parts. That's certainly true, but I just hope that the temptation to pander to those who would rather play with the finished model rather than build it in the first place doesn't get any stronger.

Thanks to Peeron for the above image.


  1. I had the exact same thought when I opened up this set. I could almost forgive it if it worked really well, but the finished set will fall apart if you breathe on it, so playing with it becomes frustrating too.

  2. Branko Dijkstra6/9/10

    I think that in the time of the UFO subtheme it used to be a lot worse, and that was one of the reasons LEGO wasn't doing to well at the time. Since then they have cleaned up their act with things like the Creator line, and overall most of their sets have improved a lot.

    I agree that too many of the 'play' sets still exhibit this problem, but it's not as bad as it used to be.

  3. I don't know, playing surely was fun, but building was the main thing for me. And I never understood these huge pieces, I always felt "cheated", as if they didn't want me to have more proper Lego.

  4. Anonymous7/9/10

    That is something that has bugged me for a while too. I've made peace with it under the assumption that the bigger pieces cost less to make than multiple small pieces. So in the interest of keeping lego set costs down I grudgingly accept it. I still think of it as cheating.

  5. Anonymous7/9/10

    I, for one, hate these pieces. I have always loved Lego aircraft, yet I feel like the last two large planes have had many pieces that are unfit for lego and are more of a fisher price feel...yes fisher price...big bulky plastic pieces. The wings are not the only problem, I'm talking about the nose/cockpits and the tails. Lego did make up for it in the new commuter jet, where the wings are built and the pieces are less bulky. I recommend that plane, but not that huge city planes with the uni wing. Awful. I wish we could petition such pieces, not just for the want of other pieces and smaller ones, but so that builders could enjoy the build again.

    I also do agree that Lego has gotten better over the last few years. For a while it was atrocious.

  6. Large pieces are generally not fun and have less use than a series of smaller pieces. It's like proportionately reducing the possibilities the fewer pieces there are.

    I agree that most of the fun was in building, though playing was plenty fun too.

  7. The AFOL jargon for unnecessary large elements, that could be replaced with more smaller elements, is POOP - Piecies Out of Other Pieces - which says it all really :-)

    Technically, the big wings & the recent nose & tail cones aren't POOP, as you can't exactly replicate them from other bricks, but I think they count as honourary POOP.

  8. Honorary POOP indeed - what a cracking acronym !

  9. I know this is an old thread but I've just read a review of the 2010 passenger train at reevo, it was by a mother, she says: 'A nice train set, very small compared to how I thought it would be for that price, (child) likes playing with it, but It's always falling apart, not very well constructed or made, all the parts come apart, took me ages to assemble for him on Christmas day too.'