Anna from "Frozen" hanging out, because it couldn't be a Con without "frozen" showing up somewhere.

Anna from “Frozen” hanging out, because it couldn’t be a 2014 Con without “Frozen” showing up somewhere.

A little over two years ago  As I took on the role of “Magnet Integration Specialist” I decided that since the school had spent a bazillion dollars on LEGO bricks, I should learn more about how they could work in the classroom.  So one weekend I headed to Fort Wayne, Indiana to go to “Brickworld Fort Wayne”  There I ran into a friend who invited me to the next LUG (LEGO Users Group) Meeting.  After doing My Geek Odyssey for a few years I had learned that I had only scratched the surface of geek culture.  One of the major things I had learned is that everyone is a geek about something… be it football, basketball, curling (GOOOOO Sportsteam!), dogs,  model airplanes, books, cooking… you name it and there are people who are really passionate about something that other people don’t care a hoot about.  SO two years ago I started to see what the AFOL (Adult Fan Of LEGO) world was all about.

This whole post comes about because while attending Brickworld Chicago (a LEGO Convention) I kept getting questions from friends about LEGO and specifically Lego Conventions.  I was going to post this after that (life got in the way) so after attending my third Brickworld Fort Wayne (link to my Flickr Set) over the weekend I decided it was long overdue. I know I’ve covered some of that in other posts, but thought I would consolidate everything here.

What is it all about?  Lego is just a toy isn’t it?


From “The LEGO Movie”

The Man Upstairs: You know the rules, this isn’t a toy!

Finn: Um… it kind of is.

The Man Upstairs: No, actually it’s a highly sophisticated inter-locking brick system.

Finn: But we bought it at the toy store.

The Man Upstairs: We did, but the way I’m using it makes it an adult thing.

Finn: The box for this one said “Ages 8 to 14”!

The Man Upstairs: That’s a suggestion. They have to put that on there.


Yes, “The Man Upstairs” is an AFOL… which actually upsets some AFOLs since they “aren’t like that at all” – and comic books are “graphic novels.”

Project M-Tron by IndyLUG reminding me that I need to help out besides setting up the conga line.

Project M-Tron by IndyLUG reminding me that I need to help out besides setting up the conga line.

My experience with Lego Conventions (i.e. Brickworld) is this is a place for Fans of Lego to show off and be honored.  This is where they can sit back and have crowds of people look at them in awe.  While LEGO is a “toy” there is so much more that can be done with it and going to a LEGO Convention is a way to see just the tip of the iceberg of what can be done with a simple plastic brick and some imagination.

At a comic book conventions you have the Exhibit Hall that really isn’t an Exhibit Hall since the majority of the floor space is taken up by people selling things.  They call it an Exhibit Hall, but in the old days they called it the Vendor Hall and it still is that. At a Lego Convention it is mostly an Exhibit Hall, a place to see what others have done.  Table upon table of things real people have built using the same materials, little plastic bricks.  There are vendors, selling a variety of LEGO related items, from old sets to custom pieces, but they tend to be on the periphery, the reason to go is to be inspired by what these artists & engineers have created.  So adults and kids wander around screaming with joy over a discovery or just in utter amazement over what is in front of them.

MOCs

"Just Like Beggar's Canyon" at Brickworld Chicago

“Just Like Beggar’s Canyon” at Brickworld Chicago

MOC stands for My Own Creation and this is what happens when someone builds something that they want from whatever reference they have and it isn’t a LEGO kit.  It might have started out that way, but now it is something no one else has ever seen before.  Yes, it might have some elements from a store kit, but the colors might be different, or there’s a tweak here or there.  I keep looking at the Arkham Asylum set and shutter at how it is a toy (a toy for kids who want to play in an Insane Asylum) but it isn’t enclosed its a playset.  The Haunted House is a play set also but was designed to be a show piece also since it closes up like a freaky dollhouse.  So what did a Batman fanboy and AFOL do?  they built Arkham Asylum they is should have been done and it is a thing of beauty.

Just one park of the Arkham Asylum build.  The actual build was on rails so it could be spun and reveal something deaing with a number of major Bat crazies.

Just one park of the Arkham Asylum build. The actual build was on rails so it could be spun and reveal something deaing with a number of major Bat crazies.

MOCS are inspired by the other things that AFOLs are passionate about maybe it’s a book, or movie… could be a genre like steampunk.  My only MOC to date has been a portion of the Death Star trench from Star Wars.  LEGO had created X-Wing and TIE fighters at a certain scale so I decided to build a scale model of the trench and include something LEGO hadn’t done Y-Wing Fighter/Bombers.  Yes, LEGO had at one time created a kit, but as a old school Star Wars fan they didn’t look right, mine may not be perfect but were a lot closer to what was in the film.

Massive Displays & Collaborative Projects

Tables with massive cityscapes, interplanetary mining operations, feudal keeps, pirate ships and treasure filled islands fill the hall, some done by single people, but a number of them are collaborations put together the day before the show opens.  People bring what they have and set them all together.  With the popularity of “The LEGO Movie” Bricksburg has become a staple.  And besides marveling at the detail people also search for Minifigs since they help tell the story.  Most AFOLs will put in little jokes “easter eggs” for the worthy person.  In many cases it’s a way to keep kids

The Odyssey (not My Geek Odyssey) done completely in LEGO... just say "wow" and wish you'd paid more attention when you read it in school.

The Odyssey (not My Geek Odyssey) done completely in LEGO… just say “wow” and wish you’d paid more attention when you read it in school.

mesmerized as they search for the familiar figure.

The Great Ball Contraption

Something I marvel at, but just haven’t had the energy, motivation, or bravery to try is the Great Ball Contraption or GBC.  This collaborative build has nothing to do with a theme like “pirates” or “super-heroes” this is heavy duty engineering- the purpose is to move a ball around the table.  There are guidelines since everyone who participates has only one segment of the machine so everything must line up.  Tab A needs to line up with Slot A or all is lost (or at least a whole lot of LEGO balls are going to be lost.  As I said, I haven’t even attempted at building a component for this, so all I can say is they are just awesome (as is everything).

Other things happening at the Con

While every Con is different there are usually other things to do besides wandering around looking at LEGO creations.  A lot of this is on the Techic side of things- the more engineering and mechanical view, to help kids and parents see that while these are a “toy” you can learn a lot from LEGO. Like remote control LEGO cars that they can drive over a LEGO terrain.  Sumo Bots (again remote control) – were you attempt to flip your opponent.  The don’t look like Sumo wrestlers the are more like wedges with wheels.  Mindstorms robots playing games like Connect Four, or solving a Rubik’s Cube.  One of my favorites is RoboRally and Monster Chess that end up at GenCon.  Programmable Robots that play chess or RoboRally.  Besides this families can build mosaics  using LEGO bricks or just build with a table covered with “elements.”

Brickworld Chicago

Architectural masterpieces made out of little plastic bricks.

Architectural masterpieces made out of little plastic bricks.

What I’ve tried to describe to you is just a part of the Brickworlds I have attended, they are basically for the public to see what people can do with LEGO elements.  Brickworld Chicago takes it to the next level. It isn’t just for the public, but actually has two days of workshops and presentations before the public arrives.  Where LEGO Fans get together, talk and learn from other LEGO Fans.  There are a bunch of different competitions for people to enter.  The old pinewood derby race, a regatta in the hotel pool, auction and raffles.  Think of a typical convention for a professional organization and that’s the “Non-Public” Days for Brickworld.

I haven’t attended any of the other conventions across the country (Brickworld is expanding to Tampa this year) because of other commitments, so I’m no expert, but I’m pretty happy with the experience I have had and really would suggest it to be added to anyone who is creative’s bucket list.  Even if you don’t care for LEGO, or haven’t built anything since you were a kid, like going to a Comic-Con or a MINI Cooper rally, it’s just wonderful to see people happy and passionate about something.  Oh and I apologize to any diehard AFOLs who feel that I used “LEGO” incorrectly in this entry… It’s not the end of the world (like when the person auctioning off LEGO variant covers of Marvel Comics had no clue what they were- now that was a tragedy).

Comic fanboys rejoice... Batcow at Brickworld

Comic fanboys rejoice… Batcow at Brickworld