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Points of Articulation

Monkey Boy
Monkey Boy
Lego is an Engine for Circulating Horrible New Architecture Designs

People will always rail against things that are new and better. Buggy-whip salesmen complained about cars, animation fans complain about CGI, Baby Boomers call Millennials lazy, and just think about the fetishization of "practical effects" that's going on in movie fans. You wouldn't brag about using oil paintings rather than photographs, or about only having a black-and-white TV, would you?

Anyway, The Washington Post recently published a review of the new Super Mario Maker that boils down to "videogames shouldn't democratize the means of production!" It's the equivalent of saying "home video cameras can only ever turn out bad movies," ignoring that quality is a matter of talent, not tools.

Anyway, game developer Chevy Ray recognized this idiotic comparison for what it was, so he rewrote the entire article to be about Lego:

"LEGO" IS AN ENGINE FOR CIRCULATING
HORRIBLE NEW ARCHITECTURE DESIGNS
=============================================

"LEGO" is a bad comedy. It indulges players in the fantasy that they'd be good at architecture and building. This sort of self-deception has become common in the age of toy consumption, and while there's something utopian in "LEGO's" appeals to community participation and sharing, the toy quickly collapses into a collection of horrible ideas and structures you'll regret having looked at. It's a tool for the mass production of cultural refuse, single-use distractions that fail to replicate the spirit of true architecture and design.

The toy is built by having blocks with little pegs on the top and holes on the bottom, allowing kids to quickly build structures by stacking different sized blocks on top of each other. New items, characters, and environmental block pieces can be bought, forcing kids to stick with basics block pieces before advancing onto more complicated connectors and pieces.

The toy is both incredibly easy to use and despairingly limited by the mandate that all of your ideas fit in the "LEGO" universe. It's open-ended enough to make one want to imagine entirely new ways to build things, but in practice it seems capable of producing only bad variations on ideas old "Architecture" has already done better.

Playing with other kids' creations feels antithetical to the welcoming nature of most true "Architecture," which even at their most complex have a simplicity and transparency to their design. The most popular "LEGO" creations feel bafflingly opaque, frenzied contraptions that rarely seem to have a purpose.

Returning to older "LEGO" structures after a dozen hours, the distinction becomes even more radical. "LEGO" structures often feel like they have nothing to offer but petty ideas.

"LEGO" structures feel strangely raw and hostile, an unreliable heap of broken community creations. Over time, it becomes intensely dispiriting, with the few creative designs being lost among the gaping archive of disposable failures.

There is a futile egotism to "LEGO," a toy that caters to delusory belief that enthusiasm and creativity are interchangeable, that being a fan of something can, if practiced with enough care, create an equivalent of the work to which one’s fandom is fixated.

This self-deception is antithetical to the genius of true "Architecture" From "Michelangelo" to "Frank Gehry," Architectures always felt like creations in pursuit of abstract ideas rather than homages to any specific history or design tradition.

Famously, "LEGO" creator Ole Kirk Christiansen never imagined himself as an architect. He trained as a carpenter and dreamed of becoming a toy maker. Christiansen was inspired to construct a small wooden duck toy for his children. He soon found that his sons loved the new toy and decided to put the ducks into production, using the leftover wood from his old business.

"LEGO" designs feels like the antithesis of this spirit. "LEGO" constructions begin to feel like traps that can't be escaped. As with many toys that seem to liberate us from the laborious demands of creation, "LEGO" is primarily an engine for circulating bad ideas and broken gimmicks as if there weren't already an overabundance of them.

Nice work, Chevy Ray. It nicely underscores the idiocy inherent in the original.


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