Part of playing with LEGO is being part of a community that shares the same passion you have for the brick. In my 2 plus years of returning to the hobby, there’s been a lot of ups and downs and I am taking this time to reflect on those.
[Caution] This is a pretty lengthy article 😛
Before coming back to LEGO in 2013, I was mostly a stalker on anything LEGO and LEGO robots. Often reading about this thing called MFZ (Mobile Frame Zero) over at an art blog, I became increasingly reinterested in an old toy that I had stashed away in the attic for almost 10 years. This is what my fellow Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL) call the Dark Ages or the period of time in your life where you stash away your LEGO as a child and pursue other hobbies.
Eventually, I decided to restart my love for LEGO and had cleaned up my really filthy mechs that had remained on my unused desk. Sadly this is the only photo I have of the mechs I built as a child. I had another one in yellow and black but had dismantled it without taking a photo.
Even as a kid I’d often stray from building a set in its specified instruction, probably build it once, display it for a day or two, then dismantle it for parts. I’d then recreate it to a mech or a jet or some other military build that I could do with what I had. Fast forward my dark ages era and…
Returning to LEGO
There I was, relatively a fresh university graduate, looking at all these LEGO mech posts and itching BADLY! I often thought to myself during those days that LEGO had produced so many new parts that were just crazy good for mech building and 10+- year old me would go nuts if I had those pieces. I scavenged for my hidden LEGO (thankfully I kept ALL my toys.. tch what a hoarder) and began going through the old parts that amazingly still snapped together like brand new but with the occasional teeth marks.
It was here that I suddenly realized I didn’t have that much LEGO growing up (everything seems big or plenty growing up). I now wanted more LEGO and quickly searched around Google and/or Facebook for a cheaper alternative than mall prices, I lesson I learned from my Gundam hobbyist days.
I’m not sure how I found I ended up over at bricklink.com but going through their catalog sorted by location, I find two Manila-based sellers and I began my shopping by part. After a few hours of clicking, I then realize I had wracked up a few thousands worth of new parts in assorted colors with the mindset of building something like the MFZ-scale bots.
A little later, I ended up joining the same group my seller was part of.
PhLUG, the LEGO community, and relearning to love a toy
I actually didn’t know what to expect joining a toy group for the first time in my life. Back during my Gunpla days, I had been a solo collector, probably just sharing the hobby with a few friends as a casual group but never as an officially recognized public community.
PhLUG is the premier LEGO community in the Philippines that is an officially recognized LEGO User Group (rLUG). At the time that I joined, they were a growing community of AFOLs and had recently migrated from Multiply over to Facebook.
At first, I was detached to the whole idea of being part of the group, just checking the posts in the group page and barely socializing with anyone. With my growing LEGO itch however, I began interacting with the group by sharing my first few builds after returning from a decade of no LEGO.
I had made micro mechs that were a little bigger than the MFZ scale I bought parts for but at the same time, I sensed a thrill of creative freedom I have not felt since I was a child (I never went into custom builds or kitbashing with Gundam kits). At the same time, I had started exploring the LEGO Flickr community for inspiration on my starting builds and had also started posting these simultaneously with my PhLUG FB posts.
As I grew more active with the PhLUG community, I got exposed to more and more like-minded AFOLs, and quickly learned of more ways to buy LEGO. PhLUG had a marketplace community as well with members selling their own sets and/or parts although with the community being of good size, it was a challenge to be the first to reserve specific parts. This is when I resorted to shopping over at Bricklink but this time from international sellers (mostly in the US) and going through a 3rd party consolidation/forwarding service.
Some time after joining, there was a community build and I got offered a spot to participate as I constantly posted new small mech builds. It’d be a friendly showdown between two 5 man teams and the pattern was similar to the Flickr Spaceship Telephone Game where creations get passed from one person to the next, each member evolving the build on their turn. It was then where I met my closest and craziest group of LEGO buddies and we named ourselves TeamChiu. We lost the challenge but it was all good fun nonetheless and I had suddenly found myself completely immersed into LEGO as an AFOL.
With my active building of mechs, I got asked to lead a LEGO mech based build group within our own LUG. It was here that Mech Wars was born, thanks to the help of Josiah Samaniego, and we did that in 2014 and 2015 with the 2015 event producing the Mech Wars eBook. This was probably the peak of my involvement with PhLUG. Several more PhLUG events happened between then and now, with our regular group meetups every 45 days over at a fast food restaurant’s conference rooms, our first major exhibit last 2015, participating in toy events around the metro with our displays, and other smaller events.
Alternating between PhLUG, Flickr, and shopping for more parts, the LEGO AFOL life was truly addicting. I enjoyed and still enjoy looking for great builds over at Flickr and see how parts were used differently by fellow builders. It was like a mind=blown moment every few days or so, especially with the Japanese mech builders. We also had our own discussions over at our group within PhLUG about them and our own theme builds.
Lately though, it’s been pretty hectic for me so I’ve distanced a bit from the LUG and well with a few unavoidable issues with not seeing eye-to-eye with certain members on the creative push, I’ve decided to just focus on what I love most and that’s LEGO mech building.
Lately I’ve been spending more time over at Flickr like how I was back when I restarted LEGO in 2013. I’m trying a few new things for this year, taking things at my own pace and time and trying not to let the hobby burn me out too much. My LEGO time is pretty limited though as I’ll be leaving for business starting April this year and can only bring a limited amount of LEGO with me but hopefully I can still do Mech Wars remotely this year and build whenever I have the time (and parts :P)
Cover photo is my mech collection back in Dec 2013. I now have easily double the amount of mech builds and they’re all significantly sturdier 😛