Entertainment

Why Lego Rules Among Toymakers

Kids toy banks on company's educational bonus

Once known as the biggest thing a parent didn’t want to step on, LEGO has exploded in popular culture.

From movies to art to video games, the brand is growing in various arenas. With the company’s release this week of its new toys-to-life game “LEGO Dimensions,” the company enters a booming, yet crowded, space.

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Toys-to-life video games let gamers take a physical character, whether it’s a figurine, vehicle, or a LEGO character, and place it on a device that essentially teleports the character into the game for use within a variety of modes.

Activision’s Skylanders debuted this category in 2011, and it proved to be a smash. Disney Infinity followed in 2013, with similar praise. With those major players in the field, LEGO has its work cut out for it. The company has a brand benefit that might easily be overlooked — education.

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LEGO faced a steady decline throughout the 1990s and teetered on the brink of bankruptcy as late as 2004. One thing that helped turn the company around was its licensed video game line, featuring popular themes like Star Wars, Batman and more. “The Lego Movie” also helped to put the toy back in the minds of parents, who had been swept away by the newer high-tech toys for kids.

As the turn-around blossomed into a full-fledged phenomenon, the power of LEGO as an educational tool started to take hold. While stacking and building were the order of the day in the ’80s and ’90s, creation and exploration became the norm as the 2000s began. LEGO saw the possibility of its products as educational resources and developed lines for every step of the way. From preschool through college (some companies even use the blocks in team-building exercises), there is a LEGO set waiting for everyone age 9 to 99.

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Early childhood development sets include a “Community People Set,” which helps children identify those around them, from grandparents to police officers, while helping to enlarge their vocabulary. “Math Train,” as the name suggests, allows children to load numbered bricks onto a train. Covering all its bases, LEGO has play sets developed for home-schooled children, as well as “after school” play packages to continue the educational process outside of a typical school environment.

As learning progresses, LEGO is there, building sets that begin basic robotics in middle school and leading up to advanced robotics with corresponding software in college. This allows students to build, program, and test their creations based on actual robotics technology.

From preschool all the way through college, there is a LEGO set waiting for our children.

Video games as educational tools are largely relegated to mobile devices, with few choices that provide a real chance of enhancing the learning experience. LEGO’s opportunity with the current and future incarnations of Dimensions lies in unlocking creativity across all ages and implementing a learning experience that can be beneficial to parents and children.

Don’t discount LEGO’s place in pop culture. Parents and children alike love the movies, the toys, and the licensed games. Adults have become certified LEGO artists and building professionals. A recent documentary shows the might of the brand across pop culture.

As LEGO stares down a multibillion-dollar genre of gaming led by powerhouses Activision and Disney, the creativity of its customers will be what the company must mimic in order to stand out.

Brick by brick, “LEGO Dimensions” will look to build success in its own unique way.

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