Of all the subcultures held up as paragons of geekdom, rarely does anyone mention the AFOLs. That's Adult Fans of LEGO
, the Danish toy seemingly invented to lure kids away from dinosaur hunting and superheroism and toward the more solid career of structural engineering. It's a bit odd that this niche group—which held its 10th annual summit meeting, Brickfest, at the Oregon Convention Center
this past weekend—isn't a bigger part of the nerdosphere; truth be told, it might be the geekiest hobby of all. And I mean that in the most reverential way possible.
Consider, first, the sheer dedication involved in being a LEGO nut. Sure, it takes a certain amount of devotion to be, say, a Star Wars junkie, but really all you're doing most of the time is sitting, collecting various Lucas-brand arcana, absorbing useless trivia, and occasionally dressing up like a Jawa. As an AFOL, though, simple enthusiasm isn't enough—one must create. At Brickfest, the focus was not necessarily on the product itself (though a bunch of current and vintage LEGO sets were available for sale) but the mini-monuments to man's architectural ingenuity born from its interlocking design: a working roller coaster; a slot machine; a replica of a steel bridge and the Space Needle; a massive fortress that began three years ago and is continually expanding. This isn't just fetishism. It's art. An incredibly dorky brand of art, but art nonetheless.
See TONS of amazing Brickfest photos after the jump.
But here's the biggest reason why LEGO deserves perhaps the highest rank of nerdicality: It is the only geek community that can contain all other brands of geek. You'll never see Trekkies at a Wookie convention; beneath the ceiling of the OCC, however, sci-fi freaks mingled with World of Warcraft obsessives, model railroad aficionados brushed up against classic car enthusiasts, pirate supporters shook hands with pirate backers. It was a vision of utopia—a Nerdvana, if you will. No wonder the Danes never seem to be angry with anyone.
Here's a walk through this blocky Eden:
A seven-foot cake celebrating Brickfest's tenth year, courtesy of LEGOLAND.
Stephen Penuel's "Fortress Refuge," which he started putting together way back in 2006.
A selection of Lino Martins' truly kick-ass collection of LEGO cars: a '66 Batmobile; an I Scream truck (on the card: "Hey kids, you like ice cream? How about some scotch?"); and an El Dorado. Ohhhh baby.
LEGO Coaster! (As in roller coaster, not something you put a drink on. Though I'm sure somebody in the building had a LEGO version of that in their house.)
In addition to teaching kids how to build things, LEGO can also be used to introduce children to gambling at an early age.
Despite their perpetually upbeat demeanor, LEGO Men need help sometimes, too. That's where LEGO Jesus comes in...
Susan Michan's incredibly detailed open-air LEGO Art Museum, complete with portraits on the walls.
A LEGO dollhouse is presumably more architecturally sound than a normal dollhouse.
From the set of the lost Sam Peckinpah film Bring Me the Head of Carmen Miranda -- In LEGO Form.
Fun fact: Fifteen LEGO Men per year leap to their death from this bridge each year. No one can see the pain behind the smile and those black, dead eyes.
Does it get any geekier than this—a LEGO'd rendering of Brickfest itself. Bow to the AFOLs, Civil War reenactors!