Lego is brilliant. My childhood was basically dominated by it.
I remember that proud moment when you completed a set, having carefully laid out every piece and followed every instruction, all in the pursuit of Lego perfection. The ninja castle below was the biggest set I ever had. It was amazing. It had booby traps, hidden rooms, and came with ninjas and samurai warriors. When you’re eight, thats fucking awesome.
The thing that was even better, however, was when this perfect finished set lost its novelty. Down it went, mercilessly smashed, the pieces dispersed and deposited into one of the numerous chests of assorted Lego bits I shared with my brother. And those boxes were the foundations of more amazingly insane mutant hybrid Lego creations than I could ever hope to remember. The thing was, now we could build a castle about four times the size. And of course it had booby traps, hidden rooms, ninjas etc… but now it had dragons, tanks, and spaceships TOO.
The great thing about Lego is basically that all the pieces can fit together. That’s obvious in a way but it means that once you have this standardised system of combining different things, the possibilities for creativity are huge. The other thing about Lego is its transience. None of the joins are permanent. This means you can experiment as much as you like, and you are not punished for mistakes. Just try stuff. It is a brilliant system that facilitates the building of completely new things in original and imaginative ways.
This makes me wonder why no-one has really attempted to do this for adults.
The closest thing I have seen to something like Lego for adults is the phenomenon of “Ikea Hacking”. Building an Ikea kit is remarkably similar to a Lego one, in fact, it was the proud completion of my “INGO” table the other day that prompted me to think about all this. The crucial difference between Ikea and Lego, however, is that when an Ikea set its finished, it’s meant to stop there.
The Ikea Hacking community shares ideas on how Ikea sets can instead be a starting point; how they can be deconstructed and combined to make new things. Its great. And the thing that made it possible was a simple change in perspective – a promotion of creativity, sharing and the playful subversion of a popular cultural icon.
There is a dearth of creativity and playfulness amongst adults. We need to change from being passive consumers to taking a more active role in changing/making the things we use. Because, like the Lego, when you smash something up and make it into something new, it can be a hell of a lot more exciting.