Subversive Play – Lego






Lego has been a staple of almost everybody’s childhood. The popular toy bricks are founded upon the idea that anything that can be created and assembled can and should be taken apart again to be reinvented as something different and new. With a few simple building blocks and a lot of imagination, anything is possible! Lego has several defining qualities that make it the ubiquitous and beloved toy it is today: it encourages creativity, promotes hands on learning, and inspires curiosity and a desire to solve problems. It is also perhaps the single most reusable toy in the world. A+ investment for parents.

Lego sets usually come with an instruction manual of some sort with simple Ikea-like diagrammatic directions. My set (Lego 31010 – Treehouse) came with 3 booklets. While the pieces are specifically tailored to the construction of these featured structures, at the end of the day, they are only a suggestion. The point of having a pile of diversely colored and shaped pieces is to tinker with them and to discover for yourself what kinds of cool models you can build, and build, and build…

My subversive play mission was pretty simple: to use lego bricks in all the wrong ways. I wanted to make my lego set as un-reusable and as permanent as possible. I wanted to stifle this spirit of re-creation (as well as recreation). My materials: Legos, Krazy glue, hands, and no plan in mind (also a little bit of acetone and some q-tips). I super glued everything that could be glued in every direction and at every angle I could think of, shoved pieces into other pieces that weren’t supposed to fit together, flipped things sideways and upside down, and even incorporated a cut out section of a Ziploc bag just because I could (I felt like I was breaking a sacred unspoken rule by introducing non-lego or non-lego prescribed materials into my model… I also broke the no gluing legos rule, the other sacred though frequently vocalized rule*). I created my own rules: once glued and secured, no more changing allowed / have no mental visualization of an end product – just stick random stuff together and go with the flow / no attaching things that look like they’re supposed to go together.

Misplaying legos is actually harder than it appears. Nothing just fits anymore. Attaching objects is a pain. Everything sucks. Gluing pieces together at wonky, messy angles and then ripping apart the crappily glued parts and seeing the residual damage… it hurts your soul. I kept questioning what I was doing and why I was purposely making haphazard arrangements out of perfect, synergistically designed pieces. At many points, I found myself desperately clicking bricks together the way they were meant to fit together, but then immediately berating myself for “cheating” (for following the rules).

By building something out of legos in this way, I didn’t get to experience the parts of playing with legos that make it fun. I had no clear goal to achieve, besides making something, anything. There was no problem to solve. I was just doing things at random. There was no structure to my building. I couldn’t try again – once I had glued something, I had to live with it. All in all, it was not a satisfying experience. I also wince at the fact that I spent $29.99 on a set that I will never get to rebuild. 0/10 would not recommend.

*Some impassioned comments I saw from googling variations of “how to glue legos”…