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Weaponised plastic: A history of Lego violence

A study that examines the inclusion of weapons in Lego kits has found that the toy's violence is increasing.

Lego Minifig of Luke Skywalker from "Return of the Jedi" wielding a light saber.
Gareth Bellamy/Getty

Lego is possibly the world's most beloved toy, but according to one study, even it isn't immune to trends of violence. Published in PLOS One, the study finds that the inclusion of weapons such as guns, swords and cannon has steadily increased since they were first introduced in 1978 as part of a castle set. Today, nearly 30 percent of all Lego kits contain at least one weapon. (Or, to look at it another way: Over 70 percent of Lego sets contain no weapons.)

The team, from New Zealand's University of Canterbury, used BrickLink.com, which has catalogued inventory of every brick in every set since 1949. They also had test subjects examine 1,500 images from catalogues dating from 1973. These test subjects reported seeing more violence in recent catalogues.

"The results from both studies, weapons count and perceived violence, showed significant exponential increases of violence over time," the study concluded.

"It is unlikely that the LEGO company is the only toy manufacturer whose products have become increasingly violent; for instance, Oppel has already provided initial evidence that Playmobile has followed a similar trajectory ... The question remains, though, why violence has increased so much in general."

Lego did not immediately respond to a request for comment.