Sunday, May 5, 2013

K'nex vs Legos

I'll admit it, I was a K'nex-kid.

Honestly, I got some flak from that growing up. Everyone I went to school with was either a Lego-kid or didn't take part in either. Even today, online, people harass me when they find out that I think K'nex are better than Legos.

Here's why.

Just keep in mind that most of my arguments are based on information at least a dozen years old. No, it's not that I haven't touched my K'nex for that long, just that I haven't gotten any new kits for that long, and have been completely out of touch with Lego developments for at least that long as well. Nonetheless, I think most of my arguments are still sound.

Why K'nex Are Better Than Legos
1. Scaling
If you want to build something small with K'nex, you use smaller pieces; if you want to build something bigger, use bigger pieces (to an extent). If you want to build something bigger with Legos, you have to use more pieces.

Legos don't scale like K'nex do. Lego bricks are mostly uniform in size, so if you want to change the size of whatever you're building, you have to use more Legos. K'nex, on the other hand, allow for scaling. You can build larger structures, not by adding more pieces (though that works too), but by using larger pieces; since you're not constrained into adding one row at a time, hypothetically you could build the Big Ball Machine with yellow or red rods instead of using blue for the base grid. Sure, you'd have to adjust all the slopes and everything (and use bigger balls), but you wouldn't necessarily use more pieces.

2. Moving parts
The concept of moving parts was built into the basic design of K'nex. You could get a basic starter kit (which they don't even seem to sell anymore, to my disappointment) and from that build something that moves.

For Legos, the only things that move are specialty kits. If you want something to move or roll with Legos, it's not going to happen with a basic starter kits, if they ever even made such a thing (I had a red bucket, but that could have just been salvaged pieces from someone else's discards).

3. Weight vs Strength
Even without considerable training in architecture, you could hypothetically build something that could hold an adult person's weight out of K'nex. I never succeeded, but that didn't stop me from building fairly strong structures.

Just this month, I built something small, only about 30-inches tall for the sole purpose of holding a potted plant. Since I have a small apartment (and even if I didn't) I don't like to waste space, so I added a shoe-rack underneath it. In the process of constructing it, I was worried about the weight of my shoes.

Well, I shouldn't have. I could store low- to medium-weight barbells on it, and it would only start to show the strain. How much does it weigh, empty? Maybe five pounds. I challenge you to do that with vanilla lego parts.

4. Ventilation
Looking at the shoe-plant table above, you realize that shoes need to air out; it doesn't do to have them in a constricted space. Well, no worries. K'nex walls breathe. With Legos, strength comes from solidity, which equates to minimal breathing space.

5. Litter
Now that's a funny point. Litter? What would trash thrown on the ground have anything to do with this argument?

Well, if you're thinking that you've clearly never stepped bare-footed on a Lego in the dark. Anybody who has knows it hurts. I'd rather walk on a bed hot coals than walk on a bed of Legos. K'nex on the other hand, with three exceptions, are relatively soft and very forgiving. (Those exceptions being the blue and purple connectors, when combined with themselves or each other.)

With Legos, the only exception is the field, which hardly counts because it's not a building-piece, it's a platform to build on. And the only reason to have a platform out is to stick things to it, and those will hurt when you step on them.

Why Legos Are Better Than K'nex
It doesn't do to present an argument without trying to present both sides, so I've done what I can to try to come up with reasons why Legos might be better than K'nex. It's an unsurprisingly short list.

1. Walls
Before you learn to exercise your imagination, try building a house with K'nex. Okay, now build one with Legos. Which would you rather live in? The Lego one, because it has solid walls.

2. Dolls
Vanilla Lego comes with dolls. K'nex doesn't. When I was growing up, playing with K'nex, I had to build my own dolls. (Though it has lately come to my attention that K'nex does actually build dolls now, so this reason has expired.)

3. It looks like Tetris
Yes, that's the full extent of this point.

Okay, sure I'm biased. And sure, my opinions are based on old kits.

But seriously: when I was a kid, I had a red bucket of Legos and a orange starter box of K'nex. I hardly ever played with the Legos. I still build things with the K'nex to this day. There's a purple tub in the corner of one of the rooms of my apartment, mostly filled with all of my K'nex pieces, except for the ones I'm using.

Oh, and I have a poster frame on one of my walls built out of K'nex too.