HYBRIDEX

A Research Project on Hybrid Experiences


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Getting back to LEGO, Pt. 8

This post continues the series of auto-ethnographic posts concentrating on my venture back into the world of LEGO at an adult age.

Well, I’m back from a long hiatus on updating my progress within the world of LEGO and I thought this would be a good time to share some pictures of the King’s Castle (6080) I finished already in January. I really loved building the set (for nostalgia, sure, but otherwise too). Here are some pictures of the finished set (enbiggenable to huge versions):

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Ultimately I wasn’t able to replace some of the missing parts – some might notice this for example in the main tower  of the castle. You can also see how some of the parts are really yellowed compared to others. While at first I might have been a bit upset about this, I soon realized that the mixing of different shades of grey (yes, even the newer bluish grey) gives castle builds a nice texture if you take the time to spread the different colored pieces evenly. Overall, I’m very happy how the castle turned out, and it really looks like the way I remember it looking.

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Additionally, I only had a few of the parts and accessories needed for the original minifigs from the King’s Castle, so I had to create new ones. First of all, I only had one lion shield. Thinking about how to fix this little plot hole I figured that mine is a scenario where the lion knights, weakened by some conflict, have been forced to invite their enemies, the falcon knights, to the castle to negotiate some kind of a truce with them, a temporary one perhaps. Already, the new joint colors of red and blue have been raised (instead of the traditional red and yellow) and a scene of negotiation is going on. As I didn’t have more of the classic knight helmets, I had to create characters with hair pieces. Not having that many classic smiley faces, I also used a lot of newer faces ordered from Pick A Brick and many faces from the Kingdoms Chess set. With these I felt that the scene depicted well the reluctance of the lion knights to broker a peace with their age-old enemies and the arrogant pleasure of the falcon knights of things having gone this way (a future betrayal in their minds, no doubt). I was also very happy with the red haired character in the middle, who I imagined to be this Worm Tongue -kind of guy, having slipped into the ranks of the lion knights and being the chief architect of this plan through which the falcon knights now have gained access into the lion king’s fortress.

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I was also pleased with some of the supporting characters, such as the ominous tower guard below, as I felt that his new face really nicely reflects his worn out chest armor. My old customized blacksmith found also a new home in the castle.

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One of the most interesting aspects of the building process was tackling the missing pieces problem. Among other pieces, LEGO’s Pick A Brick service didn’t have the kind of prison doors originally used in King’s Castle, so I had to order a different kind of version. I had the original hinge pieces and I assumed that the hinge mechanic on the door would work the same way as it had on the original door. I was wrong. And, to my surprise, I first found myself completely lost when suddenly I didn’t have building instructions to follow. I simply couldn’t figure out how to create an alternative way to make to door work. Finally, one night as I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, a (super-simple) solution suddenly came into my mind, and I had to get up in the middle of the night to go quietly finish the door. Even a tiny solution like this made me really proud of myself and I’m sure many LEGO builders recognize this ‘A-ha!’ -moment to be one of the best things about LEGO building.

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I also had to add a skeleton in the cell, plus some foreboding skulls and bones in front of the cell. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how these fit in the backstory of lion knights being the good and just rulers of the kingdom…

Having built the castle I realized something: I really like minifigs. I like them because of the roleplay/pretend play aspect they give. Creating characters and scenarios such as the ones on display in the above pictures really lights up my imagination and just…feels fun.

I’m now kind of sorry that, instead of the R2-D2 (10225), I didn’t get the Haunted House (10228) during the winter holidays. R2 is great, don’t get me wrong, but the decision to buy it was motivated too much on the fact that you could pose it nicely on a self for everybody to see, like a statue, same way as I imagine my AT-ST (10174) has worked for me. I wasn’t considering the minifigs. The minifigs, the minifigs. Scenarios. Scenarios with story. I love them. Much more than I love statues on shelves. Notably, minifigs and play sets have play value among each other – that is, they derive meaning from each other. Even if I won’t be pretend playing with the sets until I have kids, I actually kind of do that, only in my head, when I look at these castle and pirate sets. Creating these scenarios is shaping up to be a very interesting mix of creative building, storytelling and roleplaying, and something that I find to be a very appealing corner in the LEGO community. Having researched the community and its subgroups I really feel that I would like to be somebody who builds castle/pirate themed MOCs. From this perspective (and from subcultural research perspective) I’m really getting interested in the roleplay/play/build forums for castle MOCs, such as Guilds of Historica.

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LEGO Life of George

Life Of George 2Life of George is an “app toy” Lego game. Players purchase a set of Life of George Legos and download a free smart phone app in order to build displayed Lego models. These are then “verified” to be properly assembled by using the smart phone camera. 

Life of George combines real Lego bricks with a smart phone app. Players first purchase the Life of George Lego set which includes an array of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 long Lego bricks and a special “green screen” play mat. Available free for iOS and Android, the Life of George app provides the associated assembling game and the capturing software. Play consists of players trying to build displayed models, one at a time, as fast as possible. In the 2 player mode a friend can be challenged and competed against on 5 different models to see who builds the fastest. After finishing a model, the smart phone camera is used to capture the model to “verify” it. A score is then awarded for time, accuracy, etc.

The app includes also a creation mode where you design and capture your own models and use them to challenge your friends. There are various difficulty levels determined by the models and the time setting you choose (easy or hard). An internet connection is not required to use the app.


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Getting back to LEGO, Pt. 7

Getting back to Legos 14This post continues the series of auto-ethnographic posts concentrating on my venture back to LEGO at an adult age.

I wanted to get a taste of pretty much every theme out there. I was now looking at the models from a new perspective: what parts did the sets contain. Suddenly every set seemed very interesting. Take for example the Toy Story sets with the Woody “maxifigure”. As far as I know, there are no other instances besides the Toy Story theme where a LEGO figure with longer legs has been released. Even with the cowboy boot printing on them, these longer body parts instantly give possibilities for some cool MOC scenarios, such as this atmospheric whale hunter crew. MOCs include also entirely brick-build characters, such as these dwarves from The Hobbit, and other, creatively “combined” characters, such as this cool fox with a Fabuland head (which reminds me of the Wes Anderson movie Fantastic Mr. Fox).

Trying to remain calm with this lush, abundantly creative scene on my hands, I finally found myself going for the classic castle themed sets. The castle MOCs impressed me the most and the Castle sets were the ones I most feverishly wanted to purchase. The current Castle theme was called Kingdoms (still is), but, to my dismay, there were only two sets available: the Kingdoms Chess Set I mentioned in an earlier post and this quite impressive Kingdoms Joust set. Soon enough I found somebody selling the Joust set on a Finnish online auction site and was instantly getting really nervous on what to do about it. The set cost a little over 100 euros – and I already had my King’s Castle to build. It was the winter vacation, my family members were relaxing and playing board games right next me, and there I was, browsing these rare sets on these auction sites, hands trembling as I was some kind of gambler – and steadily moving to ever more expensive toys.

You see, every time I visited (the very useful) Brickipedia to check something, the front page teased me with this awesome Imperial Flagship. (It’s still there by the way.) Pirate LEGOs were the True Love of my childhood, number two. I had Pirate LEGOs almost as much as I had Castle LEGOs. I remember being around eight and coveting for the pirate ships of the day, namely this Black Seas Barracuda (without ever thinking I would get it – there was no point in even asking). Now, though, could be my chance to remedy all this – Imperial Flagship, too, was on sale at the same marketplace. Only 200 euros.

And so there I was, eyeing these things like a junkie who has decided to relapse this very evening and is now savoring the options on hand – while still feeling kind of bad. Still, by now I was so in the subculture. I felt that this was a huge, glorious, creative thing, perfect for me but something that I had foolishly missed for years, giving away my childhood LEGO collection and all. This was something I could delve into. This subculture was the home that I had been searching for a long time.


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LEGO computer games

Lego computer games 1Lego computer games are a series of digital games featuring characters and worlds modeled after corresponding Lego toys. The games utilize this modular logic of the world in its structure and humor. Since 2005, all major Lego games have been developed by TT Games.

Lego has been releasing software based on the Lego bricks since 1997, starting with Lego Island. Since 2005, the development of Lego games has been licensed exclusively to TT Games. These newer games, starting with Lego Star Wars: The Video Game (2005), are a series of adventure games, mainly aimed at younger players, featuring digital counterparts of the familiar Lego toy figures, locations, vehicles, and worlds. Notably, games employ the constructional form of the toys to great effect in their writing, design, and lighthearted humor. A car crashing in to a wall for example will break down to Lego pieces and can be constructed again.

Majority of the games are based on existing third party licenses such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Indiana Jones. Excluding Lego City Undercover, which was developed by TT Fusion, all the games have been developed by Travellel’s Tales, one of TT Games’ three internal divisions.  LCU is the first game to be published by Nintendo, rather than an independent publisher such as WB Games or LucasArts, and the first game in the series to feature defined characters (Chase McCain) developed primarily for a Lego computer game (though, for example, Ninjago games are based on Lego’s internal toy IP).


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LEGO CUUSOO

LEGO CUUSOO 3Started by Lego in 2008, Lego CUUSOO is a website that allows users to submit ideas for Lego products to be turned into potential sets. Currently, three sets have been released with a fourth one in pre-production.

Users may create a page about their proposed idea for a set. Once the project reaches 10,000 supporters it is reviewed by the Cuusoo team who then decide on whether to produce it. Currently three sets have been produced: Shinkai 6500 (a Japanese research submarine), Hayabusa (a Japanese satellite) and Minecraft Microworld (based on the hit game). A fourth set based on the DeLorean time machine from the Back to the Future movies is in pre-production.

A number of sets based on specific intellectual properties have been rejected because due to the content matter presented. References to alcohol, sex, drugs, religious references, post-WWII warfare and for example FPS games are deemed inappropriate for younger Lego fans. Such rejected IPs include, among others, Firefly and Shaun of the Dead. Lego also rejected My Little Pony -themed project due to the property being owned by rival toy manufacturer Hasbro.


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Getting back to LEGO, Pt. 6

Getting back to Legos 12This post continues the series of auto-ethnographic posts concentrating on my venture back to LEGO at an adult age.

I was getting pretty fired up with my new hobby. As I was getting prepped up with my shop.lego.com process, I was also scouring the Internet for new LEGO models, sites, video blogs, etc. And when it comes to LEGO, these are in no short supply. The web is full of LEGO aficionados and builders. I’m talking about countless blogs and bigger sites like Brothers-Brick.com which are updated many times a day and highlight LEGO related news, phenomena, and most of all, MOCs (short for My Own Creation, the word used for custom LEGO builds). If you add to this the fact that most every MOC builder uses Flickr photostreams and/or MOC pages to showcase their creations from every possible angle, I was quickly spiraling into a situation where I could get sucked in to the world brick-building-ingenuity for weeks.

In case you were wondering, great many of the MOCs are by and far more impressive than anything LEGO itself has ever created.  This is mostly because LEGO needs to keep tabs on the cost and affordability of its models, whereas MOC builders throw apparently endless resources and staggering amounts of bricks into their creations. (That is not to say there aren’t very impressive MOCs build with very limited number of bricks.) Obvious talent is on display for example on the numerous, awesome MOC castles and towers around the web. Or take this Batcave, or this Star Wars sand crawler, or this Pakistani style Isuzu truck. Or, or…

Gathering the know-how of thousands of gifted, innovative builders, the Internet seems to be an endless supply of building techniques. The things I had learned as a child, building sets like the King’s Castle, had somehow locked my mind into a specific formula for LEGO building. Looking at these masterful MOCs was like reinventing laws of gravity! Talk about thinking outside the box! (Ok, to be fair, it is obvious that the classic sets, such as King’s Castle, have no doubt inspired many of the modern builders in hugely important ways.) And, the building techniques themselves are many times so entrancing precisely because they are so simple (take a look at this curved wall technique, for example, or this offset window technique, or this guy’s awesome sewer pipes – ok, that stuff cannot be called simple anymore) .

Another seductive sub-sector is microscale building. Building in micro scale basically boils down to figuring out how to represent specific objects, like trees and people, with fewest possible bricks and it’s remarkable how stylish it can get. Microbuilds aren’t of course far-removed from architecture builds such as this train station (which also highlights the effect a good photography can give to a MOC model). Of course, LEGO has for a couple of years now put out architecture sets itself that are microscale building at its finest.


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Mega Bloks World of Warcraft

WoW Mega Bloks 2Mega Bloks World of Warcraft figures are a line of action figures, dragons, castles, attack vehicles, and mounts. Due to their high number of articulation points, the toys offer more varied play options compared to Lego figures.

Developed by construction set manufacturer Mega Brands and based on Blizzard’s popular MMO game, Mega Bloks World of Warcraft figures can be seen offering more action figure-like alternative to the competitor Lego’s construction-oriented toy lines. Compared to the standard 7 articulation points on a typical Lego figure, Mega Bloks World of Warcraft figures have up to 12. (Generally, the ones with some kind of robe lack the knee joints and only have 10 points.) Furthermore, Mega Bloks figures have ball joints on their necks, shoulders and hips, giving them more possibilities for posing. So far the series includes such popular characters and locations from the WoW lore as Colton, Lich King, Stormwind, and Deathwing, with characters based on the Mists of Pandaria expansion on their way.

Mega Brands has also released other Mega Bloks toy lines based on computer games, including the Halo series by Microsoft.