I had to laugh when I read these two quotes in a New York Times about Lego story this morning (Turning to Hollywood Tie-Ins, Lego Thinks Beyond the Brick):
What Lego loses is what makes it so special…When you have a less structured, less themed set, kids have the ability to start from scratch. (Dr. Jonathan Sinowitz)
I would like to see more open-ended play like when we were kids (Gerrick Johnson, toy analyst at BMO Capital Markets)
The story is about Lego’s evolving relationship with pre-fab Hollywood stories, like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, in their contemporary kits.
Lego is clearly paying dearly for the right to build around these recognizable brands, but I would say cost is the only issue. If other kids are like mine, the brand relationship wears thin very quickly.
After the one or two multi-hour sessions in which we work together to build a mammoth clone crawler or a Jedi speeder, the gist of the theme park message dissolves.
Within a day, my son has torn the bricks apart and has started anew – on some other construction only remotely related to the kit’s original design.
I view the kit as a starting point, a catalyst, so to speak. It’s only this paranoid parent’s wont to recoup value from the hefty toy investment that forces my son to even initially follow the directions and build the model that’s on the box.
(At least I’m not as bad as most parents who then place that plastic monstrosity on the mantle to collect dust and never be played with again.)
So, yes, as the Times points out, these Hollywood-borne Lego kits are really expensive. But, at least in my house, they’re no different from a loose collection of bricks – unless the parent forces them to be.
These kits, to my mind, inspire the same things in kids as Lego always has: their inherent exploratory nature, their wonderful ability to tear their work apart and start all over again with nary a hint of regret.
If anything, the Lego kits more point out how adults have lost that ability, and have become obsessively goals-oriented to the point of robbing kids of their toys just to recognize value. The parents are much more concerned with the Star Wars and Indiana Jones themes than the kids are.
So, despite what the doctor and the analyst said the the Times, these new Lego kits are unstructured. The problem is that parents force their kids to resist that urge when they themselves respond so heavily to the branding.