We are no strangers to LEGO in this house. Both Micah and I grew up playing and building with LEGO and for an engagement gift way back in 2005 I bought him a small LEGO Exoforce set that ended up bringing us out of our “dark ages” of LEGO and into the world of Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL).
Since starting our collections again we have gotten married and grown our family by five kids. All seven of us love LEGO. Our oldest is fascinated by Bionicle and creating creatures with his collection, but he also loves Harry Potter. Our second born is all about Marvel and Star Wars sets. Our daughter is working on collecting every Friends set but also really enjoys all the Disney Princess sets and misses the Elves sets from years ago. Our youngest two are twins and they will take any and every set you offer them.
Micah and I have wanted to attend a LEGO convention for years but either funds weren’t there or there wasn’t anything close enough. We figured eventually we might make it to Chicago for Brickworld since it’s the closest, but even that seemed unlikely for the forseeable future because of having so many young kids.
And then of course this year, the world shut down! What was a huge bummer to so many thousands of people ended up being a huge opportunity to us. Brickworld Chicago decided to move their convention online and thanks to the amazing folks at US Family Guide we were able to attend this virtual event and make a full family day out of the experience.
A LEGO convention is an event typically held over the span of several days as a chance for fans of LEGO, builders of LEGO, and sometimes even employees or representatives of LEGO to come together and celebrate their love of the brick.
Often the first day or so are for attendees to set up their displays because nearly every booth is filled with LEGO fans displaying their own creations. There are often vendors as well that create LEGO themed and compatible items for sale.
The second portion of a LEGO convention is open to the general public for a small entrance fee. Attendees can walk around to look at builds, talk with creators, and often attend interactive activities. It's a wonderful chance to dive deeper into the world of LEGO with like minded fans.
You can take a peek at the 2012 Brickworld here.
Due to the worldwide pandemic from COVID-19 and the restriction of large gatherings, the team behind Brickworld Chicago needed to cancel the in-person convention. Instead of forgoing any type of event in 2020 they instead decided to try a virtual event all taking place on Zoom.
Knowing the capacity of Zoom, Brickworld decided to limit the tickets to 2000 worldwide. I don't know how many attended but since your whole family could attend on one device with one ticket this still offered lots of people the ability to participate in the event.
Attendees could purchase a ticket ahead of time and then an email containing a link to the event page and a password were emailed out shortly before things started. It also contained information for getting set up such as downloading Zoom and how to access rooms.
Featured events took place in Zoom rooms
The event page was displayed as a timed schedule with a listing of what was taking place in each room at what time. When you discovered a room you wanted to visit, you simply clicked the link on the schedule and it opened a Zoom link. Each room had a host and moderator to keep things moving smoothly and select rooms offered you the chance to turn on your own video and microphone. Lots of kids were sharing their own creations with the LEGO Masters contestants which was really fun.
Speakers from around the world were featured
I wish I had taken note of where more of the presenters were from but I know there were displays from multiple countries which was fascinating! I would imagine that travel would prohibit many international fans from making it to the states for Brickworld or other US LEGO Conventions so this offers them a chance to share their builds with a different audience.
Travel costs have been one of the biggest reasons we have not attended Brickworld. In order for our family of seven to attend a LEGO convention we would need to drive or fly quite a distance, rent two hotel rooms because most only sleep six, and pay for a weekend worth of food.
By attending the convention from the convenience of our own home, we skipped all of that! We ate breakfast like normal, loaded up Zoom on all the screens we planned on using, and ordered pizza for lunch. The kids were able to build with LEGO while watching the events and we never felt rushed to pack more in.
At a typical LEGO convention there are various events scheduled throughout the convention center. You need to visit different areas or rooms in order to catch each demonstration. Need to go to the bathroom or your kid is having a meltdown? There go your seats or spot in line!
Attending from our house meant I could still hear the speaker as I washed dishes. I even set up my laptop on the kitchen table so I could watch some of the demonstrations as I went. We were able to have several screens going at once because we had four tickets so we didn’t feel like we needed to pick and choose and risk missing out on something we really wanted to see over another room.
We LOVED watching LEGO Masters on Fox this spring. We cheered and gasped right along with the TV each week so it was awesome to have several of the contestants in a Zoom room building and talking to the audience. They took questions and some kids were able to pop in and show their own creations to the LEGO Masters. This was by far our kids’ favorite room to be in all day. I’m not sure they ever turned off this room!
Great Ball Contraptions (GBC) are incredible builds that are hard to even explain without seeing one. Basically, they are motorized machines that move a LEGO ball (typically soccer or basketball) from one part to another. The goal is to build several and have them all work together to move the ball from machine to machine in various ways using interesting techniques.
This was another room that we watched nearly all day. The amount of detail some of the builders are able to achieve in their machines is incredible! This feed featured GBC builders from around the world showing off their modules and demonstrating how they work and are built. This was especially fun for our engineering minded kids.
I thought these events were some of the best of the group because it was a choose your own adventure style storytelling! I watched several rounds and the host would be building a scene such as a pond or forest and would ask for suggestions about the characters and their adventure for the build. Questions such as “what type of creature should they encounter?” or “how should they travel along the road?” were answered by the audience and determined what the host built.
I loved that this brought the audience into the event as active participants rather than passive watchers. This also demonstrated the skill level of the hosts because they needed to be able to build the suggestions of a giant spider or horse-drawn carriage quickly enough to keep the story moving. I was in awe of their skill sets!
One of the best parts of LEGO is that it appeals to a large demographic. If you have a specific interest, you can probably find a LEGO set or someone’s creation in that interest. Just look at what my kids like - Harry Potter, super heroes, city - all different things. Micah really enjoys elaborate builds that use uncommon techniques. I love the modular buildings that LEGO has been releasing over the last decade.
Brickworld’s virtual convention kept the spirit of this up with a variety of speakers and rooms to visit. There was one room featuring the upcoming LEGO Super Mario World sets and showing off how they will work. Another room showcased trains while another focused on pirate ships and another on how to use pieces in new ways. No matter what type of LEGO builds interest you or your family you could find a room to visit.
Brickworld Michigan is scheduled for September 26-27th but they are holding off on selling tickets until closer to the event in the case they need to cancel. You can find updates for Brickworld Michigan on this page.
Join in the fun for a LEGO virtual Halloween event on October 31, 2020! You can already purchase tickets here for only $9 for one device. This will all be done via Zoom meetings, just as Brickworld Chicago was done this last weekend. It will take place from 11am-5pm CT. You can find more information here.
While nothing can fully replace visiting a LEGO convention in person (something we definitely want to do someday!) I am so happy that we were able to experience Brickworld in this fashion. It allowed us to try out the idea of a convention with our kids in a convenient way and at a super affordable price. We are already discussing buying tickets for the remainder of the virtual shows because we all enjoyed Brickworld Chicago so much!
If you are interested in attending either or both of the upcoming Brickworld virtual events you can visit this page to buy tickets and learn more.
*Brickworld LEGO Halloween Virtual Con on Saturday, October 31, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. CT
*Brickworld LEGO Holiday Virtual Con on Saturday, December 12, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m CT