Is There a German Word for Lamenting the Joys of Others?

The big Lego news at the New York Toy Fair this week was that Lego is balancing its hopefully-girl-friendly Friends line with another line in which there are somewhere between 0 and 2 female characters.

The Lord of the Rings license was actually announced a few weeks ago (and some set images have leaked already), but this is the first picture of the minifig designs. I have to say: those are, without a doubt, Lego minifigures based on the Lord of the Rings movies.

A lot of folks are mad excited about this and that’s totally understandable; there’s a sizable fanbase for LotR. I’m not part of that group — I’m one of the sole nerds who doesn’t get aroused at the thought of the Riders of Rohan — but I can certainly understand the enthusiasm.

The LotR announcement also doesn’t really affect me because, as I’ve said umpty-jillion times, I don’t buy for sets. I wouldn’t buy, say, a Mines of Moria set because I don’t have any interest in constructing a miniature Mines of Moria. If that set has some really cool pieces in it I might be interested, but I’m not going to want it for the set qua set.

There’s something else, though.

God knows I’m put in my time on the Lego front lines, defending the brand against the charges of lack of creativity, fighting back against “the new sets have all these special pieces and can only build the model on the box” nonsense. But still, the licensed stuff is really starting to grate on me.

There’s a new-ish site called Lego Cuusoo (I don’t know what a “cuusoo” is or means but that’s what it’s called). It’s a sort of Kickstarter for Lego. You can suggest a Lego set (or theme), people can vote on it, and if it gets to 10,000 votes, Lego will take a look and consider actually making it. That’s pretty neat. Here are some of the things proposed on there that are getting votes now: Back to the Future, The Legend of Zelda, Macross, 2000AD (the British comics), Phineas and Ferb, Xenogears, Shaun of the Dead. So many existing properties. People really want to see Lego versions of things they already know (the top project right now is Lego Minecraft, a Lego version of a videogame that is like Lego.)

Inexplicably, there are also a number of proposed projects involving Star Wars. Maybe I’m ruined by going through the seemingly-endless parade of storm/clonetroopers on Flickr every morning for Lego Diem, but I cannot imagine who out there is thinking that there isn’t enough Star Wars Lego sets.

Granted, there are a fair number of non-existing projects on Cuusoo: some wild west modular buildings, baseball stadiums, some cars. But the stuff that’s really getting the attention is all based on existing movies, comics, videogames, and such.

I know more than anyone that these sets, were they to exist, would be constructed of individual parts that could be used to make other things. If they existed and I bought one, that’s exactly what I’d do with it. (And I’m also aware that I’ve built “original” stuff based on Star Wars, Space Cabby, and The Royal Tenenbaums.) I know how excited I was when the Star Wars sets were first announced, so I should be able to still connect with this feeling. Obviously the licensed stuff is very popular and people want more of it, so I’m in the minority here. And for the reasons above, it doesn’t even affect me all that much. I still buy bricks and still build my own thing and don’t really worry about whether something originally came from a Harry Potter set. Anything that puts bricks on store shelves and keeps Lego going works for me. So I don’t know why this bugs me as it does.

I also realize that there are a lot of non-licensed themes that are really cool. I like the current alien invasion sets, I enjoyed Space Police, and I liked Atlantis as well. I’m really excited for the colors in the Friends sets, even. Two of Lego’s biggest lines were Bionicle and Ninjago, two themes so original they defy comprehension.

So this is a non-issue. I don’t know why I’m even talking about it. But there’s something there, something I can’t put my finger on, which keeps nagging at me.

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12 Responses to Is There a German Word for Lamenting the Joys of Others?

  1. Jordan says:

    Cuusoo is hilarious to me. The Minecraft theme has got to be the most pointless idea for Lego theme i’ve seen yet, and the only motivation I can see for petitioning it is “I like this game so I want to see Lego Sets of it”. Why pay 13 bucks for a finite set of pieces when you could pay the same price and have an endless virtual world to explore?

    I feel the same nag, basically. I think Cuusoo is just revealing the true driver of the internet, that people don’t really want new things, they just want new iterations on the old things they already like.

  2. Thunkd says:

    From wikipedia:

    “The transposed variant “Freudenschade” has been invented in English to mean sorrow at another person’s success.”

  3. greg says:

    I do love it that the first two featured products are real-life-exploration themed though, Dave.

  4. Dave says:

    That’s true, greg. I should have mentioned that.

  5. Lugh says:

    The reason is that you guys (I mean you, Dorian Wright, Andrew Weiss and your friends) immerse yourself vicariously into insane fan culture. It’s maddening and I totally understand the urge to just look at it! But at the same time… It’s like how I’m into table top RPGs and I’m pretty sure if I read forums about that, I would already be dead.

  6. Zhu Wuneng says:

    Lugh, you missed the point here. They’re immersing themselves in the culture because they HAVE to. If Dave didn’t follow a bunch of trends that bug him, there’s no way he could just do his own thing with no reference to those trends. Defensive geeks like you should just go back to making mashups, but different kinds of mashups than Dave’s friends make.

  7. Dave says:

    What the hell, dudes?

  8. I wrote hundreds of essays on 20th Century American social history, but do they call me “Andrew Social Historian?”

    But if you occasionally hate on geek excess….

  9. Lugh says:

    I’m sorry. I intended my remark to be a quick off the cuff joke, I had absolutely no idea that it would bother you guys so much. I honestly love your blog, and don’t think you’re some kind of “fake nerd” troll at all.

    I wrote another response here

  10. The proliferation of licensed Lego sets bothers me because it seems to squelch the idea of using Legos to make whatever you want. I’m not going to go on a long rant about that, because I got out of Legos quite some time ago. But at some point, all the licensing seems like it’s getting away from that core idea.

    Then again, you could say that having all these specialized features makes it easier to mix and match sets, so maybe I’m just off base.

  11. Zhu Wuneng says:

    Eh, I just wanted to preempt the kind of comments I got last time for saying essentially the same thing Lugh did. Does that make me a dick? It’s not like you never mentioned it again after that, or weren’t condescending or dismissive when you did.

    Also, just to comment on Andrew’s post relating to the malestorm of, um, two comments (oh the fucking humanity!), I leave complimentary/relevant comments plenty. I don’t always do so because I don’t always just want to say “yeah, word up”. Interestingly, the only time I get any response is if I’m not 100% positive.

  12. Dave says:

    I’m just not sure why that post prompted that stuff in the first place. I didn’t think it was particularly or even slightly nerd-bashing — if anything, it was me-bashing.