The term “your Lego dark ages” is used among fans of Lego to refer to a period where they stopped actively building, collecting or playing with Lego. I think this is an interesting phenomenon among Lego fans that isn’t seen as often in other hobbies.
Younger Lego fans may also have a period where they lose interest in Lego for a few months or a year then they get a new set or something and they start building again. The term Lego dark ages is used most frequently by adult fans of Lego (AFOLs) when they refer to the time usually near the start of adolescence where the stop building with Lego.
For the adult fans there are several possible causes for having a Lego dark ages period. One is just naturally becoming interested in other things. Maybe they get another hobby, started reading more, playing video games or are become more engaged in dating and friends. Also, other responsibilities like school or work can initiate a dark ages. Especially if they go away to college and are forced to leave their Lego collection at home. If they don’t live close to their folk’s house they may not get many opportunities to build even if they’d like to.
Some people are influenced to put Lego aside at a certain age because it is often viewed as a “toy” meant mostly for children. Most Lego fans will obviously disagree with this misconception, but culturally there are some who feel that it is childish. The same thing is often said about adults who like video games, comic books and other hobbies also enjoyed by kids. There may even be pressured by friends or family to put Lego aside.
There is a great book called “Rejuvenile” by Christopher Noxon that has a whole section talking about adult fans of Lego. He suggests that America and other industrialized nations focus on preparing people to be a productive workers in society. There is this invisible line drawn (often in adolescence) where it is expected for people to become more “serious” and drop any interests that are not focused on working or finding a mate. The big drawback of cutting out imaginative play from people’s lives is that it makes them more stressed and they are often less creative.
Luckily, I think people are starting to recognize the benefits of creative hobbies like building with Lego. These benefits don’t go away with the persons age either. Even major corporations like Google are seeing the benefits of using Lego as a means of creating an imaginative working environment. Google headquarters has a whole room full of Lego for it’s workers to engage with.
But back to the individual Lego fan who has had a dark age period where they weren’t building with Lego. What is it that gets these people back interested in Lego after stopping for a time? Each person has their own reasons but there are some trends. Some people get re-interested in Lego because they find their old collection of bricks and just start building again. Some are fans of franchises like Star Wars and start collecting the Star Wars Lego sets thus sparking their interest again. I think a main event that causes some AFOLs to get back into Lego is when they have kids. These new moms and dads will often buy a Lego set for their infant and realize they are too young for it yet. So they parent starts playing with it and the addiction takes over again.
The internet and computers are another reason people may get back into Lego. Minifigs make great ready-made actors for stop motion animation videos. Youtube is full of people making their own animated Lego movies. Plus, the new Lego video games like Lego Star Wars and Lego Batman may draw in gamers into building with the real bricks. The internet also allows fans of Lego to communicate and discuss their interests. Things like Lego User Groups (LUGs) let Lego fans connect and share ideas.
Lego company definitely is aware that they have fans of all ages and they are always coming out with sets aimed at adult as well as kids.
For my younger readers who are passionate about Lego I would say don’t slip into a dark ages if you don’t want to. It’s one thing if you just get interested in other things. But don’t feel you can’t enjoy a hobby like Lego because of what others might think. For those who say Lego is just for kids, show them pictures of Nathan Sawaya’s amazing Lego sculptures or mention the many practical skills like problem solving, imagination and creativity that building with Lego helps you develop. Those skills are useful and a huge advantage to have at any age, especially when you join the work force.
You may be wondering if I experienced a Lego dark ages. The truth is I probably had a few years there when I was busy with school and didn’t build much. But ironically art school also got me re-interested in Lego as a way to exercise my brain for other creative projects. And the love of the brick has been there since.
Tell me all about your “dark ages” period in the comments section. What was it that go you back into Lego?