A recent review of Lego mini-figures by a New Zealand researcher has found they are getting angrier with each passing year.
A Lego mini-figure is a small plastic articulated figurine available as part of the Lego series or themed kit, produced by Danish toy manufacturer the Lego Group. Over 3.7 billion have been produced since their inception in 1978.
Mini-figures have appeared in a variety of media, including movies and video games such as “Lego: Star Wars.” But typically the figures are found within a Lego series.
While some are meant to represent specific characters – licensed from film franchises like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings – many are unnamed and are designed simply to fit within a certain theme such as police officers, astronauts, and pirates, but the company also produces series with warrior women and revolutionary soldiers.
But according to Dr. Christoph Bartneck of the University of Canterbury the number of happy expressions on Lego mini-figures is on the decline – in contrast, the number of angry faces are increasing. A greater variety among the characters has been regularly introduced every year since the 90s – but anger seems to be the more popular expression plastered over their tiny plastic faces.
Dr. Bartneck, who has studied 6,000 Lego mini-figures, and will present a paper on his findings at the First International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction in Sapporo, Japan starting August 7, finds this trend unsettling.
The UC’s HIT Lab Acting Director is simply concerned how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces, armed with compatible mini-weapons, influences child play.
“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,’’ Dr. Bartneck says.
Dr. Bartneck says the themes are becoming more about conflict – the battle between good and evil – a good force struggling against a villainous one, branding more and more characters with either strife or smugness.