As I mentioned, Lego was always a big part of my growing up years. I'm very grateful that my parents bought me mostly generic sets, forcing me to have to use creative ways to make things. Nowadays, Lego has a bewildering array of specialised pieces, which actually requires less creativity to build stuff, in my opinion, because you can almost always find exactly the right shape you need for what you want to do. I don't blame Lego, it's had to innovate to stay ahead of competition, especially in light of the many Lego clones from China that have sprung up over the years. To continue to appeal to today's kids, who have so much choice of toys and electronic devices, Lego has gone towards doing specialised pieces and tie-ups with movies and comics.
Back when I was a kid, though, you didn't have so many pieces to use. Special pieces were very rare, and you had to think of creative ways to use them to make what you wanted. An example would be the standard Lego "operating handle" that was used to simulate the levers that a worker would grasp when operating heavy machinery.
These were highly sought after pieces, because if used differently, could become laser turrets on a spaceship or anti-aircraft platforms on a naval vessel. In fact, many years later, these appeared on the smaller Lego sets in very much the same fashion.
Lego would be my way of bringing my imagination to life. Whatever I was currently interested in, I would go build it using Lego.
A particularly funny memory for me was when I was about ten years old. I had just watched "The Empire Strikes Back" on TV and fell completely in love with the Rebel base on the ice planet Hoth. I went back and built a complete base that took up a quarter of the floor of my bedroom. There was just one problem - the standard Lego "base plate" was green. So it looked like my Rebel base was located on a nice pasture in the middle of summer. The only thing lacking was for Maria and the Von Trapp children to come waltzing through singing "Doe, a deer, a female deer".
I decided I would not be defeated by the limitations of my small Lego collection. I had a brainwave, and went to my bathroom to fetch a bottle of talcum powder. By the time I was done, I had run out of talcum powder, but my Rebel base now looked like it was properly built into the snowy hillsides of a frigid world. I was ecstatic. I spent several happy days replaying the battle of Hoth in my bedroom.
Until a few days later, my mum happened to walk in and saw talcum powder EVERYWHERE on the floor. She went ballistic and scolded me. I was forced to clean up the mess. But at some level, I think she was also a little impressed.
I never managed to get a photo of that Hoth base, though the memory remains vivid. Just for old times' sake, I did a very small AT-AT walker scene just for this blog, complete with crashed Snowspeeder.
And yes, that's really talcum powder there. Specifically, St. Luke's prickly heat powder, also known as the famous SAF-issued "Snake Brand" powder.
You know, the more I think about it, I was really a pain to raise as a kid. Thanks, mum and dad, I owe you so much, not least for your patience and understanding!
I've learnt over the years that I don't have any real skills except the ability to play games. So I guess it makes sense that eventually I would gravitate towards making my own games.