I’m sure you wonder what the heck is a “LudenSystem?” This term, which I hope will become a meme, is an invention to create a way of playing that becomes something like an ecosystem.
“An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system.” Wikipedia
The aspect of a system that is particularly relevant in this new term is that ecosystems tend to complexify over time and fill all available niches. I am combining the term system with Luden as it is used in the seminal work Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga, in which he makes the case that play is the foundation of culture.
To make a case for this new term’s value, we can look at Lego as exemplary. Lego’s history goes back to 1895, but the portion that is relevant to this discussion begins in 1949 when the company began making “Automatic Building Bricks.” The simple bricks, now called Legos, begin to become a system in 1955 with the addition of windows and doors. The coupling system was patented in 1958. In 1966 Lego added a train with an electric motor.
In 1968 Lego expanded the Lego brand into a theme park in Denmark. 1969 sees the introduction of Duplo, which expands the range to younger children. In the early ’70s, theme sets are launch, and dolls, furniture, figurines, and boats are added to the range. By the late ’70s, there are complex lego sets, including Space and Castle themes replete with minifigures with moveable limbs.
In the ’80s, 70% of the Western European children owned Legos. Themes continue to expand. Duplo Baby further extends the age range to younger children, and the Technic series grows to include robots and programming to appeal to older children. In 1986 the Lego Foundation was established.
In the ’90s, Lego goes through a rapid repositioning by dropping may sets and introducing new themes. New theme parks are opened. Lego launches computer games, Mindstorms with fully programable elements, and Lego Studio, a stop motion video product.
By 2000 Legos themes have become tied with commercial enterprises such as Disney and Lord of the Rings. Two Lego movies and Mixels cartoons are created.
These days even the Maker community plays with Legos, and you can have custom elements created for you or print your own.
Whew! To think it all started with little plastic bricks and now encompasses nearly every aspect of contemporary culture and education. But this is the power of a LudenSystem.
Now, why can’t a new play system use Lego as its model and not require 75 years to fill all of the available niches? Is there a place for a LudenSystem that has large scale components that can support active physical play? Give me a minute. I think I have an idea.