As I was toying around with my father’s 1960s LEGO, it occurred to me that in my household there are LEGO from three distinctly separate eras: first from the early 1960s (my father), then from the late 1970s to late 1980s (myself), and finally from the latter half of the noughties until present day (my son). From each of these five to ten year periods a pretty representative collection of models (or at least bricks) exists. But from the in-between years, a big fat nothing. I have nothing and I know almost nothing. Adult fans of LEGO (AFOL) call these years the dark ages. I have missed the LEGO maxi-figs of the 1970s, the jelly bean knights of the 1990s, the town fading and finally returning as city and who knows what else. Yet, from the active periods there are literally dozens of LEGO models here.
This is how it seems to roll with LEGO. As a child is growing up, there is maybe a ten year window of opportunity for LEGO. It is extended somewhat upstream by the occasional LEGO attempts at babies and downstream certainly by the computerized Technic and Mindstorm products, but the basic premise still stands – you need various skills to build LEGO, but at the same time a certain playfulness to enjoy it. These requirements naturally limit the primary target market, perhaps roughly from ages 4-14, give or take a couple of years to either direction. Many teenagers will at some point find LEGO too toylike and move on to more sinister things. And so the dark ages begin.
Clearly there have been two LEGO dark ages for my family as a whole: roughly speaking the 1970s and the 1990s. Each of the periods in light is separated by some 15 years in the dark. I guess that is the length of time it usually takes for one to grow through their teens, grow up and have a child of their own. It makes sense. When a new family-member reaches LEGO age, the hobby is rekindled. This, I guess, is also a time where many adults like myself find their inner-AFOL. Without the teenage stress and hurry to be all adult, many grown-ups allow themselves to enjoy toylike things again. With children certainly, but possibly by themselves too.
So, there is much to rediscover out there, but for myself also literally decades of LEGO to discover for the first time. I like that potential, even though I have no idea where and how far my new-found AFOL hobby will take me. Maybe I will just build this one classic castle and return to being simply a LEGO parent, or perhaps there will be more. The beauty of dark ages is, you can always return to the light.