A great new direction & an Open Letter to Lego....
"I purchased this set as a present for my nephew who recently turned 8.
The night before we went to Smyths Toy Shop to purchase this together, I noticed that he was having trouble trying to realise the building he had in his imagination. He was becoming quite frustrated. Not because he couldn't imagine how to build it, but because he didn't have the appropriate elements.
He has hundreds of pounds (£) worth of Lego and yet he couldn't build a basic house. The reason? All of his many, many sets that he owned were the movie franchised sets, so think Star Wars, Marvel Superheros, etc. and even with thousands of elements he simply could not build anything that met with the expectations of his imagination. Imagine that, all that Lego and he couldn't build a basic house.
You might argue that he simply wasn't using his imagination and that you can build a house (in Lego) out of any combination of elements. This is true. However, we all have to manage the void between imagination and expectation when working with constraints (limited elements) and the fact remained my nephew couldn't realise his imagined house, to the expectations he set upon himself (which were not unrealistic in the slightest) during his build. He was becoming disenfranchised with the Lego brand as a source of being able to help him realise his imagination and express his creativity.
The next day, after a few other purchases were secured from his birthday money, I directed him to the Lego aisle because I was determined for him not to give up on the brand that helped make my childhood the wonderful experience it was. We gave Lego another chance with this set...
What a difference. Even though this set lacked what I would call "wall elements", its move towards a modular nature allows children who have yet to experience building something from their imaginations from scratch, the opportunity to experiment in customising (the first step to experimenting with creativity). Then, when they are done experimenting, they have a collection (or at least a good start of a collection) of elements to build their first creations from scratch that look realistic and live up to their expectations.
If your child is facing the same dilemma and frustrations as my nephew, I implore you to purchase this set. It's relatively well priced, comes with a great assortment of elements and is an excellent precursor for the more aspirational modular sets aimed at experienced builders. But more then anything it is a set that actually supports your child's creative development. Ditch the Superheroes sets and buy this. Your child will thank you later on in life.
Dear Lego, I am sure I am not the first person to bring this matter up. I'm not even sure if anyone with any influence will ever read this. It doesn't matter because I'm writing it anyway in a hope that I can share my experiences and suggestions with other parents and adults who buy Lego for children.
I am an educator in the creative arts. I consider myself relatively creative and technical in equal measure. I have won awards for my design and development work.
I grew up in 1980's when money was scarce and toys were few (at least in my family). I attribute a great deal of my success today directly to Lego. Lego allowed me to conquer my fear of failure by allowing me to experiment. The risks were low and the rewards were high. I can not stress how important it is for children to develop their skills in exploration and problem solving using constraints.
Lego sets of the 1970's and 80's were very basic by today's standards. But there's one thing they had which is not present in more recent sets. That is their flexibility to be rebuilt in different forms. Even the Lego City (or Legoland) sets had suggestions (and sometimes instructions) for alternative models. This is crucial. Not because the other models were as appealing as the primary model but because it demonstrated that it is ok to try something new with the elements from this set.
To your credit you have never given up on this notion. You have always provided buckets of bricks and the recent Creator series is probably the best it's even been. But your focus has shifted away from creativity and moved towards play and selling franchised sets. I totally understand your business model and that franchised sets represent an important core to your sales strategy. You are also competing against products with high engagement factors. I wouldn't expect you to change your approach. What I would prefer you to do is to ensure your themed and franchised sets are designed more to be modular (like you've done with the set above) with the notion (and suggestion) that "more can be built with this set" and encourage creativity and experimentation. Even if this means you have to sacrifice some likeness accuracy.
You should also address the issue of problem solving. Instruction manuals are aimed at quick and easy builds with instant gratification. However, the sense of achievement after a build can be quite low. No child likes to be frustrated, but managing and coping with frustration is crucial to their development. Instruction manuals of the 1980's were far more challenging. Please make your sets a better balance of construction/problem solving and play again.
Adults and parents, I implore you to consider encouraging experimentation and creativity by purchasing more of this type of set or at least mixing the "cool looking" themed and franchised sets with expansion sets of bricks to elements to allow your child an outlet to manage their expectations, aspirations and frustrations. See and support Lego as a creativity tool and not just a play experience."
"First of all I have to be honest, this is my first Modular Building purchase so my comments are only relative to the amount this set cost, the reason I purchased it and my experience building it. I can not comment on how this stands up against the other modular buildings in the series.
I have always been a big fan of Lego since I was a small child collecting, building and playing with City sets so recently, in my adult life, I decided to get reacquainted with the experience I was looking for a blend of the theme that I loved as a child and the difficultly required for a satisfying build as an adult... with that in mind I stumbled upon this set.
The build was enjoyable and took around 3 hours without counting breaks between building sessions. There were some tricky and fiddly building techniques to learn while constricting this set but the majority of your time will be spent sifting through the bricks as although the build is split into 4, there are still a lot of bricks per section. This isn't a negative in my opinion and I found it quite therapeutic.
I absolutely loved seeing the sections come together during the various build phases and the amount of detail in things like the window ledges, flower boxes, interior fixtures and intricate brick-built signage.
Considering the emphasis of these sets is in their exterior, in my opinion, the interior is relatively well appointed and features enough detail to carry on the quality and care shown in the façades.
When completed, each building looks great on its own but when connected this set is just fantastic to behold.
Although I will not be 'playing' with this set, I can confirm that because of the easy way the floors come apart, children (or fun adults) could play with this despite the sets being enclosed by 4 walls.
I will now be purchasing the other available modular buildings sets to complement this set, in fact, the Grand Emporium is already ordered and on it's way."