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LEGO purism is the idea that LEGO constructions should be made with only with official Lego blocks with no modifications. Other bits of plastic, papercraft, metal supports, and so on are frowned upon.

What is the reasoning to why one might build using solely LEGO elements? Is there something particular about LEGO as a building toy to which inspires this way of thinking?

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-1 This is subjective. If you want to be pure, be pure. If not, don't. If you're entering a contest then use whatever the rules are. It's as simple as that. –  Pubby Oct 28 '11 at 19:15
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I'm not asking about whether one should be purist or not. I'm asking about the import of this philosophy. You apparently would answer "it's not important at all", and I encourage you to express that as an actual answer, although I'd appreciate it if you could provide more depth into your reasoning. Thanks. –  mattdm Oct 28 '11 at 19:19
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I don't mean to ask about other toys; I'm wondering if there's something special about Lego (either as a company or as a product) that encourages or prompts this philosophy, or whether it's just kind of an obsessive-fan thing that happens to appeal to Lego builders. –  mattdm Oct 28 '11 at 19:32
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By the way, being a zealot doesn't usually involve reason. –  Joubarc Oct 29 '11 at 19:53
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I guess I'll open a discussion on Meta later when I have a chance. This is actually an important part of Lego fan culture and there is solid answerable theory behind the a great answer (which we don't have yet). –  mattdm Nov 3 '11 at 22:34
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closed as not constructive by ProSay, chown, Dori Nov 3 '11 at 22:21

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6 Answers

Is there something particular about LEGO as a building toy to which inspires this way of thinking?

No - it's just the way humans are. At a very basic psychological level we make distinctions based on the most arbitrary criteria. In many activities, a 'purist' group will emerge, as will an 'extreme' one etc.

I think I have been mostly a purist, but that is just because there are so many things you can do with basic sets that I haven't needed to modify.

I am a definite purist though when it comes to the merchandise LEGO kits (like the star wars ones, or any with a piece that can have only one use - a cockpit canopy, or a strange wing element, for example) - I reckon keeping it old school is much better :-)

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Is there something particular about LEGO as a building toy which inspires this way of thinking?

Of course. LEGO is reusable. It's high-quality, durable, and you expect it to last many years. You might keep a construction together for some time, but always with the potential of being disassembled and turned into something else. Modifications like painting, cutting, or gluing are no longer reversible. You only make these changes when you're sure you don't need those pieces in their original state.

Have I irreversibly modified LEGO? Yes: I've made small stickers, painted minifigs, or used a few bricks in a permanent decorative piece. Nor do I really feel I have to use only LEGO. I would add a paper umbrella, a cardboard backdrop, a styrofoam support—anything I was sure wouldn't harm my bricks. On the other hand, I don't think I could bear to glue or paint a whole structure. (That's what other building toys and strategies are for, like modelmaking, dollhouse furniture, or model railroad set construction.)

To me, construction of something too permanent would subvert one of the reasons I love LEGO. There's always a bit of hidden potential: I might need those pieces for the next thing I'm dreaming about building...

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What is the reasoning to why one might build using solely LEGO? Is it just an affectation, or is there some deeper meaning? Is there something particular about LEGO as a building toy to which inspires this way of thinking? I am interesting in understanding both sides of the argument.

I agree that this question is highly subjective, but it reminds me of several discussions that I've heard or participated in.

Many of the purists that I've spoken with have mentioned that they've enjoyed the challenge of building something with a limited palette. The restriction to only use LEGO parts challenged their creativity and forced them to work around issues without using non-LEGO parts that would make the project "easier." As other posters have noted, they felt that using non-LEGO parts was "cheating" - a highly personal opinion.

One other factor that some purists have mentioned is that this restriction to use only LEGO parts also permits any other LEGO builder to replicate their project, if so desired. Some of these builders were scientists, and they liked the idea of being able to reproduce a project.

I've also observed a sliding scale of purism - ranging from the use of only LEGO parts but permitting the use of glue/stickers to the use of only official LEGO parts/stickers.

On the other hand, my non-purist friends just want to make cool projects and don't care what parts or techniques they might use to accomplish their goals.

Again, there's no right or wrong answer, but I found that the purists enjoyed the challenge and wanted to allow others to replicate their work, while non-purists just liked the joy of building.

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This IS a subjective question and answer, but here is my take speaking as someone who got a start with LEGO toys in the 80's it came down to this:

  1. The minifigs for non-LEGO brands were terrible and incompatible! Nothing beats the lovable, quirky shape to the official minifigs. You often had to construct differently for the different dimensions of the non-LEGO figures, or toss them out.

  2. Non-LEGO brands at the time would snap together with official LEGO pieces, but the fit was different: either too much or not enough friction.

  3. At the time: LEGO had the dominant brand, therefore, most of your pieces were likely to be LEGO brand, so the fewer pieces of the non-LEGO brand would be annoying for reasons 1 & 2.

  4. LEGO was the original brand. There is nostalgia in it like real Coke vs store brand cola.

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Certainly a +1 for point 1 :) –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Nov 2 '11 at 23:33
    
There are also purists who won't modify their minifigs at all –  Joubarc Nov 3 '11 at 14:55
    
@Joubarc: I have found that people who view my collection, enjoy my minifig modifications more than the models I have built. –  Dan Sorensen Nov 4 '11 at 18:42
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IMHO: It's a matter of quality, physics & imagination. To me, non LEGO elements visualy "clank" when viewed amongst a LEGO scene. I can't stand Megablocks. The pieces are inconsistant & quality control is poor when measured by the LEGO standards. As for what lurks beneath the surface of a LEGO model, well, I suppose it all depends on what you are making. Some models require creative solutions. Hidden frames & underlying supports certainly reduce the number of unseen pieces required in a display & give you the ability to flex your LEGO imagination by freeing those elements up so you can add them to your build.

Now my answer to the question: LEGO elements seem to flow and blend nicely. Their quality is excelent, and the overall playing experience is satisfying. Mixing in other elements into a LEGO build somehow seems to reduce the visual impact of the model. So, I say it's the outside that counts. Master Builders may use shims, but friends don't let friends use Megablocks.

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I'm not too sure how to answer that. I don't want to modify any brick whatsoever myself, save for the occasional eletrical wire cut, but on the other hand I don't really care what other people do.

Considering LEGO designers aren't purist themselves (Need this part in green? Ok, I'll paint a yellow one.), why bother? Why not cut your own baseplates to the dimensions you want, when you know LEGO produces them exactly the same way, by cutting large sheets?

Then again you have different levels of purism. Part modifications. Non-LEGO usage. Non-LEGO stickers usage. Brick printing. Brick engraving. *cough*Glue*cough*. MegaBloks. And frankly, to each his or her own.

What I can say however is why I'm mostly a purist myself, if that's of any help. I don't want to modify bricks, or use anything non-LEGO, simply because I feel it would be cheating. I see building as a challenge, and each challenge has its own rules and limitations. If the part I would need to build something does not exist, then I have the additionnal challenge of finding another way to build so that I don't need it. And that's the thrill I get from LEGO building: finding the right existing part to suit my needs.

But then again, I'm not purist enough to care about what others do. Sure, I'll point a finger at them, but it's all in good fun.

Of course, glue will get you more than finger-pointing. Heretic!

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Joubarc, I'm watching you, glue is illegal on Lego! –  jfyelle Oct 29 '11 at 1:47
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I'd like to point out modifying minifigures using self-made props is ok to most. There are even shops that specialize in custom minifigures. –  jfyelle Oct 29 '11 at 1:50
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I was joking - maybe I should put smileys :) –  jfyelle Oct 29 '11 at 17:56
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So I've been a LEGO purist all my life without realizing it (no third party modifications at all whatsoever). –  BoltClock Oct 29 '11 at 18:19
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There's no badge for that, unfortunately. –  Joubarc Oct 30 '11 at 9:21
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