A Research Project on Hybrid Experiences

Getting back to LEGO, Pt. 5

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Getting back to Legos 11This post continues the series of auto-ethnographic posts concentrating on my venture back to LEGO at an adult age.

Having sorted through my bricks, I washed the ones that had smudges on them and proceeded to make a needs-list. As anticipated, Googling around a bit brought up a couple of sites that had scanned instruction manuals and brick lists for classic sets, allowing me to check which parts I would need for King’s Castle. All in all, to build the castle I would have to order roughly half of the original 670+ bricks from LEGO’s online store. Now, it is important to note that the site doesn’t offer all the pieces ever manufactured. More than 20 000 different LEGO parts have been released over the years (I couldn’t find an exact number) (including the color variations) and they have never been in production all at once. A few years ago, LEGO cut down the number of pieces in production down from around 12 000 to 6800 (as a cost cutting measure and to focus the building on fewer key parts, thus adding modularity). Of these 6800, the site sells only around 1000.

Getting back to Legos 9Still, many of the parts that are available are some of the most usual ones. I figured I’d get all the parts for such a classic and by-the-numbers set as King’s Castle. To my surprise, this wasn’t the case. The defining construction element in the King’s Castle, the wall panel 1x5x6, wasn’t offered in the store. Luckily for me, however, my old LEGO box contained all but one of the 30 panels needed for the castle. Other parts, however, would have to be substituted too. 1×3 arches in OldGrey were nowhere to be found, and I found myself really frustrated being forced to think of alternatives for the build. I’m not sure if this had more to do with my inability to come up with substituting build plans or with the fact that I, for whatever reason, felt that the castle had to look just right. So, for the missing arches, I decided to go with 1×4 arches, the missing cell door would be replaced by equally fitting jail door, axes would have to be newer designs comprised of two separate pieces, etc. etc.

Ordering through the shop.lego.com’s Pick A Brick service was delightful. In no time, I was getting over-anxious with the ordering – and beyond my needs: “This part looks useful, I’ll take 2, I mean 5…let’s say 10, just in case.” “Wow, that color was not around back in the eighties – could be really useful in case I have to build a wooden shack in the courtyard”, and Getting back to Legos 12so on. In the end, I had chosen parts worth almost 50 euros, clearly more than I had anticipated. One thing was lacking though: my box had not included many of the 12 minifigures originally packed with King’s Castle. Yes, there were a lot of minifigs in the box, but for example only a couple of shields and knight’s helmets. Needing a new army, I remembered the guys at one of the LEGO video channels I had started to follow, The Brick Show, talking about good sets for army building. One of these sets, Kingdoms Chess Set, included not one, but two armies (it was a LEGO chess set, after all, with Lion knights and Dragon knights representing the two sides), and it was still available in LEGO Shop! For the castle to work, I had to have it.


Author: Heikki Tyni

Heikki Tyni is a researcher at Tampere University Game Research Lab. His work concentrates on the game industry, and specifically on game production studies.

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