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When Light Brick Studio first set out to create the Lego-themed puzzle game Builder’s Journey, the goal was to create a thoughtful yet challenging experience that embodied the Lego Idea, or the belief that you can learn something valuable through play.

“We’ve been given a lot of creative freedom, a lot of trust and faith in actually trying to go down this route because it’s probably not the most explosive genre we are in at the moment. … So it’s been really cool to be given that free mandate to take the Lego brick and the Lego Idea and see where we could take it,” said Light Brick Studio director Karsten Lund.

The Guardian’s Keza MacDonald moderated a panel with Lund and Lego Ventures managing director Robert Lowe at GamesBeat Summit 2021 about how the Lego Idea applies to games. Lego Ventures, the investment division of The Lego Group, is actively involved in funding game creators like Light Brick and Klang.

According to Lowe, they want to partner with teams that are building games that provide a similar sense of learning and curiosity as Lego’s popular brick-building sets. The games don’t have to be strictly educational (which is a space that Lego Ventures is interested in as well), but they do have to expand on the Lego Idea in some way.

“So when we talk about learning through play, it can be various types of learning. It’s not just creativity as a core concept, although that is an important part of it. We are super-interested in how games can be the ultimate form of narrative expression, placing the player at the heart of the story, giving them agency over where it goes and difficult choices to make,” said Lowe.

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For Builder’s Journey, Light Brick prototyped the diorama-like levels with actual Lego pieces, making it easier to visualize what they wanted players to see and do. The team sought to create a minimalist environment for the game, one in which players would be free to view the world from different angles in order to solve complex puzzles.

Early playtesters found this zen-like focus really relaxing, and this encouraged Light Brick to find a way to sustain that feeling throughout the entire game.

“We actually [used that feedback] and put that back into the development process and said, ‘Let’s see if we can keep players in that state because that is actually the state of learning and opening your mind, when you are in that focused flow.’ That’s where we want the players because that’s when they are fully alert and fully attentive to what’s going on,” said Lund.

Lund added that while his team will explore other types of genres and worlds in future projects, they want to make sure that they continue challenging players in some way, to make games that’ll teach people “to use their mind in new and interesting ways if they just let go and play a little more.”

The same is true for the games that Lego Ventures is looking to fund. After a brief hiatus during the pandemic, when Lowe said they took the time to narrow their focus, the investment firm is open for business again. It’s pursuing games that incorporate the learning-through-play ethos.

“We’re very keen to unlock all the goodies and all the expertise that Lego has and use as much rocket fuel as possible to help studios grow and make cool stuff,” Lowe said.

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