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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Devin Toohey | Pop Culture Gone Bad

Remember LEGO, back in the good ol' days when we were growing up? You could use them to build anything you wanted ... granted, anything you wanted that you could build out of little plastic rectangular boxes. You could even splurge on one of those cool sets and build castles, pirate ships or dungeons. Heck, they even had the little LEGO ghosts and dragons and wizards!

The best part was that you could mix them up. You could put a castle tower in the middle of your treasure island or give your archer a skeleton head! Or, if you were particularly avant-garde, Spider-Man or Iron Man could become a Gulliver amongst your Lilliputian creations (or, conversely, have your LEGO world become a Brobdingnag to Mighty Max).

Clearly, there must still be something in us that harkens back to those days. Go to quite a few college students' rooms and you'll find copies of the "LEGO Star Wars" (2007) or the new "LEGO Batman" (2008) video games amongst their books for classes and DVD collections. These games, as many of you know, are much like you would expect a Star Wars or Batman video game to be, except everything is LEGO-y, including your death (your character goes literally to pieces).

As I watch these video games gain popularity, I cannot help but ask myself: Why aren't we just playing with LEGOs? Is it just because these games have voices and explosions and we don't have to see our own hands moving around the action figures? Or is it something else? Do we want to be kids again, to do the things we knew were fun years ago, but are too embarrassed to be perceived as immature? What I just don't get is how no one sees through the paper-thin pretense of it all. Why is it perfectly logical to bring "LEGO Star Wars" with you to Tufts, but no one would even think of buying a LEGO set and reenacting the Battle of Endor in the common room of Lewis?

What bothers me even more than imagining double-standards of college students playing these games is imagining them getting into the hands of children. Just as people complain that TV does all the imagining for you instead of books, which exercise your mind, this rings true with playing as well. Instead of kids shouting the "BOOMS!" and having to imagine the flames emerging from the crashed space ships, the video games do the work for them. Where's the fun in that? Where's the adventure and imagination?

Furthermore, all of these kids are now turned into an anal-retentive, OCD child who cannot let his or her toys mix. One of the best things about having action figures is to create stories that could never happen in the movies, comics or TV shows. Poison Ivy can turn good and team up with Cyclops to fight Godzilla to stop him from destroying your kitchen! In "LEGO Batman" however, you can have Batman team up with ... uh, Robin to fight ... the Joker. Does that seem familiar, or is it just me? And, not only are the story options far less diverse, but, just like the explosions, the voices, the scenery and everything else, they are already provided for kids, cheating them out of what used to be the fun part about LEGOs.

You know what? I'm going to take a stand against these toy-video games! I'm going to go to a mall, buy some action figures and then watch with uncomfortable glee as the Flash and the Invisible Woman stop an insane Wolverine. And then I'm going to make them get it on. Let's see your LEGO video games do that!

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Devin Toohey is a senior majoring in classics. He can be reached at Devin.Toohey@tufts.edu.


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