Lego versus imagination

I recently read an article written by someone who used to play with Lego when he was a kid. It sounded like he was roughly my age, if perhaps a tad younger. As such, he and I had very similar experiences with our Lego sets. We started out with general sets of bricks and used our imaginations to make things out of them. In my case, it wasn't until a few years later when Lego started making specific sets. My first one was a police car. It was simple, took me about five minutes to make, and I had a little police car to play with. From there I expanded my horizons by getting a bunch more sets.

Where the author and I differ sharply is in our attitudes toward the highly specialized sets that Lego makes today. Not only does each one have parts made specifically for that set; they are often tied in to movies. You can now get Lego sets from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and several others. The author laments how specialized the sets have become, claiming that they rob kids of being able to use their imaginations to build things that they dream up.

I see things differently. Yes, the sets have changed considerably since I was a kid. What he fails to understand is that if such sets had existed back then, we would have been all over them. And just like today's Lego players, we too would take them apart and mix the parts together to create our own sets. I remember taking parts from several of my sets to create a space ship similar to the Vipers of the original Battlestar Galactica. It used mane specialized parts, but I made them work as a new whole.

Today I see my son doing exactly the same thing. He is just about knee-deep in Lego and thoroughly enjoys taking parts from this set and that set and making something entirely different. That's the same thing I used to do forty years ago. Only the parts have changed. Imaginations are as vivid as ever.

I wish I could remember who that writer was, because I would love to tell him all of this. Kids still have wonderful imaginations. Their tools for expression may have changed a lot from when I was a kid, but their imaginations have not. Lego is doing what it needs to do to stay relevant and to stay in kids' lives. So long as they do, kids will use them to dream up stuff that we never would have with our basic building sets. I wouldn't want things any other way.