Nostalgia, universal appeal, and positive collaboration
There’s one video game franchise that seems to be universal to both older and younger players — it’s the Lego video games, from Lego Star Wars to Lego Lord of the Rings. I am currently playing both of these games with my girlfriend and I started to wonder why the Lego video games were so appealing and why they are so successful — to both children and adults.
In 2005, Lego partnered with TT (Travelers’ Tales) Games to release Lego Star Wars, which is still Lego’s most popular game today. At the time, they had already released multiple Lego video games, including Lego Chess, Lego Knight’s Kingdom, and Lego Raiders, but none of these games had the commercial appeal of Lego Star Wars.
I believe the Lego video games are some of the best cooperative video games because they allow collaboration between two people playing at the same time to solve an elaborate and well-crafted puzzle. You’re constantly making progress and helping each other figure out where to go, what blocks to hit, which characters to talk to, and which items you need. You’re sharing triumphs as well as struggles with someone else, and I don’t know if I would like the games as much without playing with my brother or my girlfriend.
To be fair, the appeal of Lego video games is not their story. The plot follows pretty closely after a movie franchise like Star Wars, The Incredibles, or Lord of the Rings, but people in these games rarely talk. They may tell you about an item they need, but the story is often more lightly comical than it is profound in a Lego video game.
The visual appeal is obviously similar to buying Lego toys when we were kids. For the adult, playing these games brings nostalgia to when we ourselves were children. For kids, playing them feels like building something forever and lasting. It’s an entertaining puzzle.
For adults too, the Lego video games are funny. According to Keri Honea at The Playstation Lifestyle, the miming, drawings, and gestures of the Lego games often parody the seriousness of the movies. In Lego Lord of the Rings, one of the main characters is killed with a banana and a broom in his chest. Serious events that the survival of the entire world is contingent on, such as Gollum and Frodo fighting over the ring, are treated with meme-like dancing and faux-outrage.
The director for Lego The Incredibles, Peter Gomer, calls the process similar to building a giant Lego set, where developers have components, ideas, and mechanics, and then proceed to modify them, mix them together, and use their imagination to make whatever they want.
After you get through the story of each Lego game, it’s an open world. You’re on a quest to 100% completion of the game, even if there’s no one set, linear path to get it. And then there’s the element of fantasy, imagining that we are all also ourselves building our real buildings or climbing our own elaborate towers ourselves.
“Every single prop in the Lego video games could be made out of real Lego,” Gomer says. “If you were to build them, it would be super expensive, but because it’s digital we just make as much as we want and the player gets to build some really interesting models.”
To Alysia Judge at The Guardian, the games are potential for kids to stretch their imaginations and play god at construction. It is a way for kids to create their own playground like a puzzle. Not only do they force kids to be more productive, but they encourage children to work together, and figure out puzzles.
In its video game push, Lego has clearly embraced a changing world where the majority of kids play video games. Brick by brick, Lego has not only survived, but thrived. The Lego video games as perfected by TT Games is such a unique and unorthodox idea, partnering with popular movie sci-fi and fantasy franchises to give them more exposure and benefiting the Lego Group as well.
It’s very easily to waste away several hours of your day playing Lego video games, and in your fascination with the game, you might buy a Lego action figure or set. It might happen vice versa as well, and the marketing strategy in terms of Lego expanding to video games was nothing short of brilliant.
Lego seems like such a universal constant in every child’s life. No matter where children come from or are raised, so many children across the world can bond with the fact that children play 5 billion hours a year with Legos. Like Hershey’s is universal chocolate for every child, Lego has firmly established itself the world’s top toy brand. Every child has a Lego story, because it is just a common fixture of every person’s childhood in this day and age.
And the Lego video games are a huge part of that legacy. Some people will be brought to the video games through their familiarity with the Lego toys themselves, but the Lego video games allow kids to expand their imaginations, as well as adults to have an outlet and reminisce in their childhood.
For me, the Lego video games are some of the best co-op video games. I’ll always remember Lego Star Wars and at some level be reminded of the time I spent playing the game with my brother, the times we played either the best Lego video game of all time or Star Wars: Battlefront II together. My brother and I fought and disagreed on many things — but the Lego games were not some of those things.
Lego is a universal unifying force, without a doubt. I don’t mean to oversell or engage in too much flattery of the franchise, but the Lego video games are collaborative, creative, and always make you feel like you’re moving towards something bigger and greater, always moving one step more towards perfection.
Isn’t that what we, as humans, have always been seeking?
Originally published on SUPER JUMP on May 6, 2020.