You’ll often hear it said that the children of the 21st century lack the imagination of the children of the 20th. We don’t know how true that statement is, but those who believe in its veracity put it down to the fact that the children of last century didn’t have immersive video games to entertain themselves with. There were no digital worlds for them to go and explore. They had to create their own using action figures, dolls, or in some cases, nothing at all. Because today’s children are more interested in video games than physical toys, the toys our parents and grandparents played with are going out of fashion. There’s an exception to that statement, though, and the exception is LEGO.
LEGO saw the way the wind was blowing a very long time ago. Rather than fighting against the tide, they decided to jump in with both feet and started making official LEGO video games. It seemed like a niche idea at first, but the idea quickly caught on. In some cases, LEGO video games based on popular franchises have turned out to be better than the official ‘traditional’ video games made by the same franchises. As an example, you’d be hard-pressed to find an official “Star Wars” video game that’s enjoyed more than “LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game.” We’d also argue that “LEGO Harry Potter” is a far better “Harry Potter” game than anything that’s come through more traditional channels. Even “LEGO Marvel’s Avengers” is a cut above the “Marvel’s Avengers” video game that came out in August 2020, but that’s probably a low benchmark.
Anyone who doesn’t understand this phenomenon fails to appreciate the lure of ‘cuteness’ when it comes to motivating people to buy video games or anything else for that matter. The ‘cute’ factor unquestionably draws in children, but it also draws in adults. The staggering success of the range of “Fluffy Favourites” online slots is proof of that. The average person in the street wouldn’t think that adult gamblers would be attracted to an online slots website by a game that features cuddly toys, and yet it’s one of the highest-earning online slots attractions in the world. If the ‘cute factor’ can attract millions of dollars worth of revenue for a comparatively niche entertainment option like online slots, we shouldn’t be surprised that it can rake in billions in the more conventional end of the video gaming market.
If you want to play a LEGO video game, you’re not exactly short on options. We’ve already mentioned the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” variants on the market. They’re just the tip of the iceberg. There are several “LEGO Batman” games you might wish to consider. If one superhero or super-villain isn’t enough for you, you could go toe to (plastic) toe with a whole range of them in “LEGO DC Super-Villains.” See the world created by J.R. R. Tolkien as you’ve never seen it before in “LEGO Lord of the Rings.” Relive some of the best action movie moments of the 1980s in “LEGO Indiana Jones.” There’s also “LEGO Jurassic World,” “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean,” and “LEGO The Incredibles.” You could play a LEGO video game every month and have plenty of content to last you well over a year. For some people, that still wouldn’t be enough, and we have good news for those people. If you have a creative mind and a few production skills, you can now design a LEGO game of your own – and it might even get published.
This new idea comes courtesy of “LEGO Ideas,” who opened a competition on January 28th inviting creators to make new LEGO games in Unity and submit them for consideration. A wide variety of prizes are on offer, including a range of Unity goods and the possibility that the company will explore your idea further and work on developing it into a full entry into the already-crowded LEGO video game universe. Right now, the best listed prizes on offer are a personalized LEGO Nintendo console, a ‘Robot Inventor” set, a free one-year Unity Pro subscription, and a Unity Microgames Premium asset pack. Everyone who enters the competition will automatically receive one free Unity Lego action figure in the mail. The competition is a collaboration between LEGO and Unity, for which Unity has made all of its development tools available to would-be game designers. The wording about the potential to have your creation turned into a full game is a little vague, but the company specifically reserves the right to take your idea under consideration for “publication as an official LEGO title,” so it’s on the table if your idea is good enough.
You shouldn’t be put off the idea of entering the competition if you’ve never used Unity before – that’s the whole point of the existing LEGO mini-game that exists on the platform. It teaches newcomers how the basics of the engine work by allowing them to make short, simple games using LEGO characters. As users become more familiar with the engine, they can develop their ideas further into longer-form games. Unity says that their end goal is to open up video game development to people who have no coding experience and no game design background. They think that anybody who has a great idea for a video game should be able to make one, and they’ve provided a method for people to do so. LEGO is the vehicle they’ve chosen for their purpose.
It’s possible to ‘complete’ the basic Unity LEGO mini-game in around half an hour, which will give you a very basic understanding of how the different development tools work. You’ll have to invest a lot more time than that if you want to make something that’s likely to win a competition of this magnitude. Perhaps more importantly than that, though, it’s fun, and it’s a way into game design for people who’ve always loved the idea but never had the time to acquire the necessary skills. Could LEGO be your ticket to the video gaming big time? Why not try your hand at it and find out!