Friday, 23 May 2014

Everything is Awesome... When you're playing Lego games.

Who didn’t play with Lego as a kid? I used to love building things. The suspension of reality that we have as children is wonderful. Running out of red bricks and giving a car one random blue door or building a house with a brown roof and a green chimney pot.

If you haven’t seen the Lego Movie yet, I won’t spoil it for you, but there is a sentiment there about grown ups following the instructions to create perfect lego models while kids just build whatever they want and create fun exciting worlds in which to play.

Lego has never been so popular. I hadn’t given much thought to Lego after I left primary school, until Travellers Tales started making video games, which sparked a whole new love affair with Lego.

Throughout Inspired By Night, Olivia Jones is playing the first Lego Batman game. I have to confess that even though the Lego games have developed considerably over the years, Lego Batman remains my favourite because it was the first one I played and actually really got me into video games in a big way. So it felt right to have her play it in the novel.

I don’t really feel like going out tonight can we just stay in and play Lego? – Steven Teller

I believe authors tend to write about what they know. Certainly I’d be lying if I said there was absolutely no similarities between myself and Olivia Jones. Though I stress that is only in personality and taste and not in action. My disclaimer is that I exhausted all my creativity inventing the more intimate scenes so everything else had to be borrowed from real life.

In our house we have a policy about completing all the Lego games. We’ve been known to come up against a bug/glitch in a game that would prevent us from achieving 100% so we’ve started the game again from the beginning. Oh yes. 100 percenting Lego is a big deal in our house. It always amuses me when people say “you do know these games are aimed at kids?” Because frankly, I don’t believe that for a second. Sure it looks like a kids game but the jokes and references are aimed at grown ups. Lego City Undercover was littered with film and TV references that no child of the 2000s would ever understand, unless they have particularly cool parents that have brought them up to love the classics – and by classics I mean Star Wars, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, oh you know what I mean!

But what really persuades me that Lego games are not really aimed at kids is that my boyfriend always says that nothing turns the air more blue than me playing a Lego game. I get so frustrated by some of the challenges, that I have to invent swear words. Only because the commonly used ones are just not enough to really vocalise my frustration, at a little lego guy trying to jump onto a rope. Or whatever it is that I inevitably fail to do in a short space of time. Oh yes. Time trials and jumping are not a good mix for my sense of calm.

On the flip side, playing Lego games is great for relieving some anger and frustration, mainly because you have to destroy all the objects and scenery that are made from bricks. Controlling a Lego Batman and having him punch and kick Lego trees and flowers and walls and cars and everything else on the screen is surprisingly cathartic.

I destroyed every Lego building I could see and when there was nothing left to break I punched Robin. Part of me liked making my character punch his assistant, it was as close as I was going to get to doing it in real life. – Olivia Jones

Lego games have progressed so much over the years, what we still lovingly refer to as the bat cave – the base camp of the game from where you select the levels or change characters or view your progress – has grown into a whole open world game. Completing the levels in story mode accounts for such a tiny percentage of the game and really it’s the open world side that gets us excited. Lego Batman 2 was a triumph, wandering around Gotham City, flying through the air as Superman, performing acrobatics as Robin and unlocking characters like The Joker.

But still, the original Batman game holds a special place in my heart.

I mentioned recently that we’d started playing Lego The Hobbit. We finished it last week and it was brilliant. I’m hoping for a short break before the next Lego game, otherwise I’ll never get my sequel written. The air did turn blue though, but it also inspired a scene in the next novel, which I’m looking forward to writing.

What games do you enjoy playing? Which is your favourite Lego game?

Everything is Awesome... When you're playing Lego games.