Friday, May 06, 2011

LEGO & Video Games: Perfect Harmony

A quarter of a century ago I came to a decision. Having made the terror-inducing move from primary to secondary school I'd also made the heart-wrenching decision to ditch my toys. Farewell Millennium Falcon, au revoir plastic soldiers and cheerio matchbox cars. Oh, and that even goes for you LEGO. My days of building all manner of wondrous contraptions forged of my youthful imagination and your colourful bricks are done, and no, I don't care that my Mum has styled my hair on your little characters for years, you're still out! Neil Bason 'the LEGO years' was least that's what I thought.....but LEGO had a plan, in fact, lets call it a masterplan.

As masterplans went it was simple, but the way in which it was executed was pure genius. If these kids will no longer sit and play with actual LEGO blocks, then lets take the battle to them. 'Operation Pixelate' was on and our video games were about to be invaded by a virtual LEGO world.

By having the little LEGO people don the outfits, play out the roles and enter the world of some of our most loved movie characters, console LEGO games had an instant route to our hearts, and now find themselves as one of gaming's most popular franchises. The secret to this success? Well that's as simple and carefree as those childhood days were when we played with real LEGO. The games' managed to tap into the often overlooked vein known as fun.

While Call of Duty and Battlefield were throwing us into high paced, adult worlds fraught with tension, frustration and uber-competitive online foes or Heavy Rain and Condemned were taking us to darker and more disturbing places than any gamer ever thought they'd go, the LEGO bus was driving straight over the rainbow to destination Happyland.

Speaking as a gamer with more years on the clock than most, nothing quite harks back to a golden bygone age of gaming than the LEGO titles. They're a series of games that could easily have found a home in any of the generations past and have an unbridled ability to please gamers of all ages. If you've a curious son or daughter at home there can surely be no better introduction to video games than a LEGO title. It's an utter joy watching the wee ones' faces light up as they take control of LEGO Indy or LEGO Batman for the first time and take their first baby steps into gaming. While for us longer-in-the-tooth gamers it's the perfect antidote to the usual super serious fare we're served, for just sitting back, relaxing and simply enjoying gaming at it's purest and simplest, LEGO games are worth their weight in gold. They know how to place a smile upon your face and these days that's a quality that so many others fail to appreciate.

LEGO has been a part of the video game world since the late 1990s in various guises but it was the release in 2005 of LEGO Star Wars that really took the world by storm and set the trend for LEGO games to come. Since that fateful day we've seen not only the Star Wars Universe given a LEGO makeover but also Indiana Jones, Batman and Harry Potter. Even Rock Band was given the treatment and they all delivered something a little bit special.

Each movie tie in not only manages to provide humour, entertainment and a sense that you are rediscovering days gone by, they also manage to outdo almost every other, more serious, movie tie in without even breaking a sweat.

So with LEGO: Pirates of the Caribbean about to drop anchor and row ashore into our gaming lives I urge you to put out the welcome mat and embrace it. The LEGO phenomenon is here to stay and if games are still about fun and enjoyment, which isn't always as clear as it should be, then LEGO can stand alongside any game as an equal, maybe it could even give a little lesson on not taking yourself quite so seriously.

LEGO Goonies next perhaps?..........pretty please.