May 24, 2016

    Toy makers, including Lego, 'fighting' for business: Study


    LEGO products are becoming more violent as toymakers engage in an "arms race" to retain children's attention in the digital age, New Zealand researchers said yesterday.

    The University of Canterbury team said child's play was becoming more brutal, with a higher proportion of weapons appearing among Lego's building blocks and war-like scenarios featuring in its themed kits.

    "The Lego company's products are not as innocent as they used to be," lead researcher Christoph Bartneck said.

    The study, published by the online journal PLOS ONE, concluded that Lego "showed significant exponential increases of violence over time".

    While Denmark-based Lego has been making plastic building blocks since 1949, its first weapons were issued in 1978 when a castle kit included swords, axes and lances.

    Weapons are now included in 30 per cent of Lego kits.

    The researchers also examined Lego catalogues from 1973 to 2015 and found the scenarios depicted had become increasingly violent.

    "To catch the attention of customers, toy manufacturers are similarly locked in a metaphorical arms race for exciting new products," they said.

    Lego has reinvented itself since it almost went bankrupt in 2003-04. It began selling kits linked to popular movie franchises such as Star Wars, Batman and Harry Potter.

    It also created light-hearted computer games and animation, such as surprise hit The Lego Movie in 2014.

    Lego spokesman Troy Taylor said the company's products promote various play activities such as construction and fantasy, and that "conflict play is a natural part of a child's development".