Ever since humanity dropped the clubs and hunks of half-eaten mammoth meat, it has had a disposition to create. To invent, to make, and occasionally to steal from someone named Nikola Tesla. Even the less inventive or capable specimens have ever so foolishly endeavoured to assemble the Garfelsnarp Krunkledas (or whatever) they bought from Ikea.
Yet, most creation requires a bit of effort and/or power tools. A few decades ago, that wasn’t a problem. Just take your dad’s incredibly unsafe drill and go screw a squirrel to a tree, or try to make a sword to put your friend’s eye out. With most monstrous, spinning deathblades out of the reach of the children of today, they just can’t get the same finger-melting, “how could I have foreseen the folly of lighting a Stretch Armstrong doll on fire?” experience of yesteryear. So, how are today’s pampered, protected children to get their creative jollies?
The answer, if the title didn’t give it away, is with LEGO. Yes, that insanely popular, entirely disassemblable brick-based toy line, known to parents as “The thing Timmy wants that costs $130 for seemingly no reason.”
LEGO’s cube-shaped story began in the 1890s with Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter, and his wooden toys. The LEGO we know didn’t begin its life until 1949, as “Automatic Binding Bricks.” In 1954, Christiansen’s son saw their potential, and began the development that would, in 1958, create our modern LEGO bricks. In fact, bricks from that year are still compatible with all newer sets!
So, how do LEGOs compare to said amusements of yesteryear? The truth, though I’m sure a few nostalgic folk would disagree with me, is favourably. Disregarding the safety advantage of LEGOs (unless you happen to step on a loose one barefoot, which is like stepping on an evil, plasticy nail), they’re more constructive, too. How many kids have built their first perilous skyscraper out of the remains of two backhoes and Hogwarts and decided they want to be an architect when they grow up? Granted, I’m sure a good few’s dreams are due to be crushed somewhere around 15 years of age, along with their dreams of a golden Ferrari and a pet velociraptor, but that doesn’t outweigh those who will make it. Just think; one day you could be looking up at a gargantuan, overblown monument to utter ridiculousness in Dubai and say, with equal parts trepidation and pride, “my kid made that.”
Compare that to the kids of yesteryear. Yeah, a few probably didn’t get the hint on the first horrible mangling at the hands of some innocently named science kit (I’m looking at you, Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, and yes, that is a real thing. Google it. Or Yahoo or Bing it if you’re not sure where the power button is and if the lights on your “internet box” are supposed to be flashing) and decided that they wanted to be in constant peril when they grew up, just like grandpa, but most probably laid off and decided to pursue something safer, like tinkering with hollow metal blocks that harbour constant fiery explosions. So, score one for LEGO.
Well, more like score one million. Do you know how many LEGO bricks have been sold? According to Wikipedia, the flawless informational website that has never been wrong ever, the number is something like, oh, 400 billion. Holy carp. That’s more than… than… well, I’m too lazy to come up with a proper comparison, so let’s just say that’s a lot of things.
More than just a lot of things, LEGO has drawn the attention of pretty much the whole world. Its possibilities as an educational, creative tool are recognized by institutions such as NASA. Think about that. NASA. You don’t see the people who regularly extend the boundaries of human perception and knowledge being taken in by just anything. That, if anything needs to, proves how awesome LEGO is.
I could tell you about LEGO Mindstorms, a series of programmable robot brains that can be attached to any kind of chassis you want, and use basic programming to carry out an infinite range of functions. I could tell you about the fierce competitions based upon Mindstorms, similar to the one I went to. But, thankfully for my spare time (and laziness), I don’t have to. You probably get the idea already. LEGO is a great tool, more than just a toy, for the possibilities it provides. An easy way to from your ideas into reality, and an easy way to have fun while doing it. It, like Minecraft, is something more. Something that’s the phenomenon it deserves to be. Something that might even justify that price tag.