by Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Brick by brick, nearly everything in the real world can be recreated with LEGO.
“People have varying interests,” says Joseph Williams, spokesperson for the Victoria LEGO Users Group. “I can say I like the Wild West and I want to make it in LEGO.”
Williams often hosts workshops for the club, which is also known as VicLUG. VicLUG was formed in the late ’90s because the members—most of which are in their twenties and thirties—had a passion for building with LEGO.
“We have people who are architects and engineers,” says Williams. “That’s primarily the LEGO fan community.”
The toy was originally manufactured in Denmark in the ’40s. The concept of interlocking building blocks achieved huge success because of its simplicity—the endless possibilities of what can be made.
“It’s timeless,” says Aaron Dayman, an active member of VicLUG. “Every day, Lego is still a top seller.”
Although the club’s membership is small, the group is very active. For example, VicLUG gets the opportunity to construct large-scale displays for special events such as the biannual Ultimate Toy Fair, or displays at The Sidney Museum.
And virtual reality has been good to VicLUG too—the Internet has been important for the club’s growth.
“It not only helps members find new pieces and plan events, but it also helps people reconnect,” says Williams.
Even though the Internet helped the club grow, membership also increased through word of mouth. Williams and fellow club member Steve Barker were friends for many years before discovering their common interest in Lego.
The camaraderie that comes with this common bond is one of the club’s strengths.
“We feed off each other’s energy; everybody is giving ideas to everybody else,” says Barker. And in a town the size of Victoria, compared to a bigger city like Vancouver, it’s easy to feed off that energy.
“Here, we’re five or 10 minutes apart from each other, so it’s easy to coordinate meetings,” says Williams.
And meetings lead to events out in the public, where the club gets to show that LEGO is a toy that not everyone left behind in their youth.
“The public events are a really good way for people to see firsthand that Lego is not just for kids,” says Dayman. “Everyone is having a whole lot of fun with it.”
The LEGO industry changed in 2004 after fans suggested the company create interactive toys with buttons and movable parts.
But that’s not enough for some fans who actually make their own customized Lego characters. LEGO builders can communicate with the company and post pictures of their creations online.
“Just about anybody who’s anybody will post on Flickr, a photo-sharing website, and you have the option to comment on it,” says Williams.
“They can point out the little details that are missing in the LEGO construction,” notes Barker.
With an extensive subculture of LEGO movies, games, competitions, and Lego-themed amusement parks, this simple toy from long ago should be around for many more years to come.
November 18, 2009, Nexus Newspaper