A new angry Legos study has examined the changes across the Lego brand across the past few years, positing that the tone of the colored blocks has become more sinister with the introduction of a bevy of “angry faces.”
The Legos study concerns the growing prevalence of minifig heads and how the expressions present may influence play using the toys that previously were restricted to brightly colored blocks.
In the past, the Legos study notes, Lego play centered around building and more raw creativity — but with the introduction of branded sets, the feel of Lego toys overall has been shaped by other factors.
The University of Canterbury in New Zealand’s Dr. Christoph Bartneck said that the rise of “conflict based” themes in Lego sets was a worrisome trend. Bartneck examined thousands of Legos study samples to arrive at the conclusion that changes in the Lego brand may prompt aggression in kids to follow.
The researcher said:
“It is important to study how to create appropriate expressions and how these expressions are perceived by the users. Children’s toys and how they are perceived can have a significant impact on children … We cannot help but wonder how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces impacts on how children play.”
As franchises including Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Pirates Of The Caribbean have proved lucrative for the popular perennial brand, their influence on Lego play becomes more significant. Noting a drastic increase in pieces with negative facial expressions in the Legos study, Bartneck explains:
“It is our impression that the themes have been increasingly based on conflicts. Often a good force is struggling with a bad one … The number of new faces that the Lego company introduces every year is increasing steadily. Lego started producing a greater variety of faces in the 1990s. Happiness and anger seem to be the most frequent emotional expressions.”
“But the facial expressions are not directly matched to good and evil. Even the good characters suffer in their struggle and the villains can have a smug expression. In any case, the variety of faces has increased considerably.”
Bartneck’s Legos study will be presented in August at the First International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction in Sapporo, Japan.