July 10th, 2008

Et in arcadia LEGO

Part of my recent Legomania is due to our considering including some games that use Lego as components in Games Unboxed. Clark and I determined that Legos are "ordinary components" because nearly everyone has some, especially if they have kids. Lego brick designs are in the public domain because Lego's patents have expired, and there are many compatible clone brands. I'm happy to see there are even web forums devoted entirely to Lego clones (forum 1, forum 2, forum 3). Open-source Legos!

Not only that, but there are now intersystem protocols for connecting Legos and clone brands with other kinds of building toy systems, such as K'nex, which are a hub-and-spoke system like Tinkertoys. For example, there was a patented toy called Sploids (now defunct) that connected Lego and K'nex; these days, K'nex makes its own Lego-compatible bricks.

Thus, I see Lego and the like not only as a toy system and as "ordinary equipment", but as a highly flexible game system, and I'm trying to prove it by showing that you can play almost any chess variant with a Lego set. I'm also in the early stages of work on some of my own games using Lego as components, but more about that later.