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I Love the Lego, Yet I Cannot Fully Embrace the Lego
It’s Lego time, baby. Let’s talk about Lego.
Last month I put together a Lego set for the first time in well over a decade. As seen in the photo above, it’s Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet, modeled after its appearance in the recent Avengers movies. Wow!! Look at that thing and it’s poseable finger gripping action!
I had a ton of fun with this build (build is what cool Lego people call it, I think). While it’s not one of Lego’s bigger, splashier sets, it more that satisfied my itch to build one larger thing out of many smaller things. All together, the build (see how cool that sounds?) took me around 3 or 4 hours, though online it says it should be more like 1-2 hours. I’m not sure, I’m just measuring off of how many podcasts I got through.
If you’re like me, and you haven’t put together a Lego set in a long time, I’ll inform you that not much has changed in regard to the format. In the box are a few different bags of multicolored pieces that you can rip open and spill onto your table. A booklet included in the box will walk you through every step, showing exactly which Lego pieces to find and how to put them together. Just like an IKEA furniture assembly manual, it’s all pictorial with no written words. Unlike an IKEA furniture assembly manual, there’s no danger of dropping a large piece of plywood on your foot.
I have to say (it’s mandatory) that I am very impressed by whoever is putting together these Lego guidebooks. Clearly, these Lego people have been at this for a long time now, and they seem to know what they’re doing. I was a little worried I might struggle to follow along at first; There were a few areas where I wasn’t totally sure which piece I was meant to be looking for, or exactly what angle I was being shown, but these issues faded away as I got used to things. In fact, the times when an instruction was slightly unclear were actually still enjoyable. It felt like a little puzzle for me to solve! I love little puzzles.
One thing that did throw me off a little was just how… custom the pieces in a Lego set are these days. Back in my day, Lego bricks were bricks, and that was pretty much it. Sure, you had flat bricks, and long bricks, and maybe some little headlights or torches, but the more complex sets of the modern day seem to require more specialized pieces.
It makes sense that they’d have to incorporate more special pieces like these translucent Infinity Stones here. Lego sets used to just be fire trucks and haunted houses and what not. Now, Lego sets are based on esteemed corporate media franchises with much more specific needs. Generic bricks might work fine for a flowerpot or a schoolyard, but Hogwarts Castle™ and the Apartment From Friends™ are another story. You can’t just throw any old bricks into those locations, they need to look just like they look in the thing that they’re from!
I’m wondering if there was ever a backlash to these weirder, nontraditional Lego pieces. Are there purists out there who only like the earlier sets? Probably not, I dunno. I mean these things are primarily made for children. Ha!
There is something that I find very relaxing about putting together a Lego set. It’s the same feeling I experienced a couple years ago when I put together Nintendo’s weird and unpopular Labo kits for the Switch. The Labo experience is pretty similar to Lego, only with cardboard pieces instead of plastic ones. Labo also comes with a digital, interactive guidebook that you can slow down, speed up, or move around on your Switch screen as you’re building. I honestly think that the Labo guide software is incredible, and I would love it if Lego (or IKEA for that matter) would license it for their own use.
Regardless of the branding, I find it immensely satisfying to put something together with my own hands, to build something that I can touch and feel and see in front of me. There’s a tangible sense of progress that’s delightful. At every point, I can see more of the creation coming together. It’s a similar feeling you’d get from many other hobbies and creative arts (I ASSUME) - building furniture, crafting something out of wood, or writing something (like a newsletter post). You watch it begin as nothing, then slowly it becomes… something. That’s exhilarating. The difference with Lego is that it’s made in such a way that you can’t screw it up. All the steps are laid out for you, and the final product is guaranteed to look amazing. You get all of the satisfaction of creating something without any of the hassle of having to actually create something. Sure, you could just buy a bunch of random Lego sets and use your own imagination to build whatever you want, but that sounds a lot harder, so I’m not going to do it.
Okay, but for real though, I genuinely do think that Lego is a genius approach to this genre of hobby. Sure, it may not provide the exact same sense of satisfaction as creating an original work does, but it gets you to a similar place and eliminates most of the stress points along the way. I love putting on music or a podcast, zoning out and just following the steps until the product is complete.
So am I going to become a Lego fanatic now that I’ve rediscovered the hobby? No, and here is why:
1. It’s expensive. Very expensive.
I’ve been coveting this Lego Mario NES and CRT TV set for a while now, but it costs $270. For that money, I could buy an actual NES with Mario and a CRT TV. It’s a hard thing to justify when I already have enough luxury hobbies as it is.
2. It takes up space. Very takes up space.
This is the core issue for me. I would absolutely love to splurge a few times a year and buy up some ridiculous Millennium Falcon™ or Apartment from Seinfeld™ set… But then what? As I said before, I loved building my Nintendo Labo, absolutely loved it. But do you know where those Labo creations are now? They are in a literal garbage bag in my closet. I can’t bring myself to throw them away, but I also have no use for them and nowhere to put them. So in the garbage closet they remain.
Now, Lego sets look much prettier than Labo and it would be great to display them… But where? The Infinity Gauntlet is pretty undemanding in terms of space requirements, so it’s not hard to find a home for it on a shelf. But an entire starship, or an Atari 2600 console with a built-in 70s living room? Where on Earth do I keep those? It seems like Lego enthusiasts need an entire room just to display their creations.
Maybe some people who have a variety of Lego sets in their collections just… tear them apart when they’re finished? Break them back into a million pieces so they can look forward to building them again someday in the future, like a jigsaw puzzle? Something about that feels wrong. These things look too good to be broken down again once finished. I want to enjoy my creation, not destroy it!
So, for all [two of] those reasons, I don’t think there’s going to be much premium Lego building in my future. Maybe a few years from now when society collapses, if I survive, I’ll move into the larger house of a family eaten by zombies and designate a special room just for the Lego sets I’ve managed to loot from long abandoned shopping malls.
Anyway, check out the finished product below. It’s cool. You can even make it do the Thanos snap thing. Life is truly wondrous.
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