lego society
It’s Never Too Late – Confessions of a LEGO® Game Consultant

Bernie DeKoven tells us how he ended up helping the LEGO Group develop the new LEGO Games System despite discovering LEGO bricks relatively late in his life. Bernie lives in Indianapolis, US and is a 67-year-old self proclaimed ‘Fun-smith’, who helps people make things more fun in life. As a natural consequence he has spent the last 40 years designing games, teaching games, writing about games, helping people improve their games, advocating play and fun.
How did you discover LEGO play?
LEGO play didn't enter my life until a few years ago when the LEGO Group hired me to consult on the development of the new LEGO Games System. During the project I began to appreciate the depth of the LEGO concept and its execution. I have had the privilege to tour the LEGO facilities and meet LEGO designers which helped me begin to understand how visionary and considered the entire LEGO system is. Ultimately, I’ve become a passionate fan of LEGO play.

What is unique about LEGO toys?
First, I'd say quality. No, maybe even more, the whole idea that everything will fit, from every set, into every other set, so that no matter what LEGO toy you buy no matter at what stage of your life, your LEGO set just gets bigger and more fun and more capable of being a tool for your imagination. But the way they fit, the smoothness of each piece, the durability... No, I think it's really the LEGO players that are unique. The huge number of people who can play just as creatively with the most dedicated LEGO model as they can produce amazingly precise replicas with an open-ended set of do-anything LEGO pieces.

What you find most important about child development?
I'm particularly interested in social skills. I'm also very interested in creativity, though I think kids are naturally creative and need nothing more than the opportunity, so I'm not that focused on those particular child development skills. But social skills get more and more complex and challenging as kids grow - making and keeping friends, sharing leadership, building community, negotiating fairness, expressing compassion and support, dealing with differences in language, culture, belief, and opinion.

How do you do it?
I wrote a book titled "Junkyard Sports," and later made up a game I call "Junkyard Olympics". Players form teams and use whatever they can find to make an Olympic-like event that they can play, using whatever junk they can find. This game is such fun. And in the process of using junk, inventing and refining their "events." players exercise just about every essential social and creative skill you can think of. I even ran this game at this year’s annual LEGO Idea Conference. It's as much fun and as instructive for grownups as it is for children. And it was later, when I led a special version of the Junkyard Olympics for the LEGO design team, that I saw how much more fun the game can be if you happen to include LEGO bricks in among your collection of junk.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities you think the future may hold for children these days?
The development of social skills is only getting more complex. We are more and more part of virtual as well as neighborhood communities, and each require us to exercise our abilities to collaborate and communicate, to organize and nurture relationships, to negotiate, accept and leverage differences. I am very, very pleased to have played a small role in the development of the LEGO Games System, because I believe that LEGO Games are uniquely positioned to help kids meet those challenges and nourish those opportunities.

To go to the LEGO Games site, please follow this link: http://games.LEGO.co.uk/parents