One of my favourite Lego related blogs recently has been “I’m starting to think Lego is evil” by Daniel Sinker. It touches on a few things that I don’t really want to admit about Lego because… well, because I love Lego.
Firstly, the trend towards licenced IP such as Star Wars and Harry Potter. These sets annoy me because the cost of the licence grossly inflates the cost of the set. As a result, we don’t have any (unless they came free with something). For the most part, they are over priced and limited. The one exception is the absolutely amazing Death Star set – I LOVE IT but don’t see me spending the best part of three hundred flaming quid on it.
Secondly, the pervasive ships-n-guns themes. Even the dinosaur themed sets due out this coming year are full of trucks and guns. Why? Why? I just don’t get it.
The blog contained one statement which has hung around my consciousness ever since I first read it – about how boys play with Lego, but girls “used to” play with Lego. Is this true? Do girls “move on” from Lego onto something else? What, and why? And why don’t boys? Is it about the ships and guns? When I’m sticking up for Lego’s unisex appeal, I often mention the last few sets we bought – the Log Cabin for instance, the Winter Village sets, or the Medieval Market Village. There’s one thing that unites these sets though. They aren’t cheap. They are clearly for the “AFOL” – Adult Fan of Lego. There is no way anyone is buying these from their pocket money. And as long as the sets are too expensive for pocket money, you can’t count them. What are the small sets you can get for pocket money sums? Ninjago, Police bikes, an Alien Conquest ship. I’d want to argue they’re not boy, as such… but I’d fail a little. Where are the cheap unisex sets?
On the positive side though, it includes this image of retro Lego advertising which I love so very much:
In my opinion, Lego’s real evil isn’t anything to do with movie licencing or guns. It’s not about marketing to girls. It’s not about how their minifigures have helped to do away with imagination. It’s about how you (/I/we) have to buy the whole damn lot of the stuff.
Look at this lovely Duplo zoo set we have:
What’s missing? Oh, this set:
And this one:
Look at this one about to be released this coming year:
Oh, and this one:
And this for that matter:
See, if you want all the animals, you have to spend A LOT of money. There is no set with everything. Yes, there’s an expensive £50 set. But there is also a £30 set with some unique items. And a £20 set with another unique item. And then a £10 set with yet another. Completionists or collectors be damned.
Or be broke.
I suspect the vast majority of the Lego-buying population are not collectors, they just want stuff to keep their kids entertained. I think you also have to look at the way a lot of kids get their Lego – as presents. Having £10, £20, £30 sets with different stuff in them means lots of people in the family can buy differently-priced presents for the child without fear of duplicating the content. This is happening in our family this year. My Mum bought the £14.99 fire engine for my cousin and I bought the £9.99 one to go with it. We know they’re going to have play value both separately and together.
I agree with you on the unisex thing. Looking at my childhood Lego, there are a lot more little unisex pocket money sets than I see available now. Mailman on motorcycle, ice cream cart, telephone booth etc. For me, the biggest issue is that City doesn’t tend to contain ‘normal’ buildings in the same way that Town used to, with the exception of City Corner. This is why I love the Modular Buildings so much.
Someone who built a MOC bank recently posted pictures of it, with the caption ‘finally all those Lego robbers have somewhere to steal from!’ and that’s part of the problem – we have all these fire and police sets, but no buildings to catch fire or for criminals to be stealing from. I’d love to see some nice two-storey shops and houses in The City theme.