The new face of LEGO?

Study says LEGO toys have more weapons and angrier faces these days

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As if the world wasn’t violent and scary enough, now it seems we have to worry about LEGO, too.

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At least, that’s according to a new study from researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

The scientists have discovered that children playing with LEGO today face more mini-figures with aggressive expressions, LEGO weaponry and violent catalogue images than when LEGO first started.

What’s this study about, then?

The paper ‘Have LEGO products become more violent?’ was published in the PLOS ONE online journal and analysed LEGO toys to see whether or not there had been a rise in the inclusion of ‘violent’ products since the company began.

Given that LEGO launched in 1949, perhaps it’s no big surprise that “LEGO products have become significantly more violent” over time.

What you may not know is that 30% of modern LEGO sets contain “at least one weapon brick, and this number does not even include weapons that consist of an assembly of non-weapon bricks”.

“The LEGO company’s products are not as innocent as they used to be,” lead research Christoph Bartneck said.

It’s also been revealed that 40% of LEGO catalogues show some of kind of violent imagery.

What does this really mean?

Many LEGO sets are now licensed by brands such as Star Wars and Marvel, where a ‘good vs evil’ battle between characters is often a key part of the storyline – and, we have to admit – it’d be pretty weird to have a Luke Skywalker in LEGO form without his Lightsaber.

Though, as someone at MFM HQ pointed out, this isn’t just related to themed sets. The knights in older castle-building brick sets still have swords, crossbows, flails and axes… because that’s what a knight would’ve done in real life, right?

Are baddies with weapon bricks really all bad?

LEGO spokesperson Troy Taylor said: “As with other play types, conflict play is a natural part of a child’s development.” We know that children use toys and play to help make sense of the world around them – and sadly, conflict exists in the real world.

An interesting article by LEGO looks at good vs evil in conflict play, and the importance of what it calls ‘true conflict play’ (where the child is in charge of the story), which we’d recommend reading. 

What does this mean for you?

While we can’t argue with the facts found through this research, we do have to wonder… is this exclusively a LEGO issue, or is it a general issue faced by all toymakers today?

The study does suggest that companies such as Playmobile have seen similar changes, but doesn’t elaborate.

But really, the most important question, of course, is: do these angry-faced characters and extra weapons have a lasting (or damaging) impact on our children? Now there’s a study we’d like to see.

We’d love to know your thoughts. Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.

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