Tuesday, June 5, 2012

AFOL Classifications

An engineer by profession my area of specialty is water resources which, in laymen's terms, means I design water and sewer systems.  The other day as I was working through some calculations involving microbial growth in a waste water treatment plant I encountered the scientific names and classifications of several different types of microorganisms.  This reminded me of the obligatory unit that all of us who endured high school biology went through which sought to give us an overview of the monumentally complex system of categorizing the different types of living things on the planet that the scientific world has developed.  Words like "genus" and "species" that I had not considered in years spontaneously emerged from some deep forgotten memory banks. 

On my drive home, with classification still on m mind, I began to think about the AFOL community and what categories those of us who comprise it would get put into should some scientist seek to map the genus-Lego-obsessed.  To be sure within the community there are a variety of different "species" if you will, made up of people who enjoy certain distinct aspects of the Lego habit.  Overarching I think there would be three major groups, call them species, that all of us fall into:

This first species is made up of those whose primary interest is collecting.  What they collect may vary (classic space, poly bags, castle, etc.) but ultimately what they are after is not so much building original creations but having the most complete and thorough collection possible.  They do very little original building but require a ridiculous amount of pages on Brickset to catalogue their entire collection.  These are the people who pay exorbitant prices on EBay to get that unopened set and then never open it (a concept I must confess I cannot grasp).  The displays these people can put together with their collections are truly awe inspiring. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Collectors are the MOCers.  For these people sets are merely a way to acquire the parts they need for original creations.  There are some amazing talented (and I would venture bank account drained!) people in this species that keep the sellers on Bricklink in business.  These people posses thousands of bricks that they craft into breathtaking original creations. 

This last species is squarely between the two extremes and it is the one I fall into.  We hybrids dabble in a bit of both.  We love boosting our collection's size but also get great pleasure out of making our own creations.  However, the sentiment jack of all trades master of none applies.  I have a big collection, but not compared to the die hard collectors.  I make some cool stuff, but can't hold a candle too many of the MOCers out there.  So my collection is not that noticeable on Brickset and though I am a frequent customer on Bricklink no seller is going to out of their way to solicit my business. 

Obviously within each of these larger categories are a thousand little ones.  Almost no collector, for example, tries to collect every theme.  Each theme (and many sub themes) has its die hards who have crazy collections in that area but next to nothing in others.  Star Wars, trains, mini-figures and classic space seem to command the most die hards but almost every other theme has a loyal group of passionate collectors too.

MOCers too fall into numerous categories.  Some do sci-fi, others focus on mecha, still others do modular buildings, castles or some other structure.  Some are passionate about little details, others go simply for size.  Many model scenes or vehicles from movies or popular culture while others rely solely on their own imaginations.  There are even professional artists who use Lego as their medium.       

And finally us hybrids break into a bunch of categories too.  I myself love trying to make my own sets.  I don't do big creations (though I have in the past) but I substantially enjoy trying to create detailed and complete worlds whether by populating it with sets or with original creations.  The result is a collection of original works intermixed with official sets.