The Year That Was 2013

In my neck of the woods, 2013 is less than 24 hours away from drawing to a close (and I have no celebrations planned at all – in fact I’ve caught the flu for the second time in a month, thanks to ever-present draughts).

In terms of LEGO, 2013 was a very busy year. I found myself spending less time building things out of LEGO and more time working on Project Swapfig: an experiment that turned into a full-blown web site, along with the responsibilities. Somehow I was also able to put out more reviews along the way, with around 30 of them written this year. Of course, what would SilentMode.tv be without me being outspoken on a handful of things (cringing about crowdfunding and the BrickQueen situation).

2013 also marked my second underwhelming exhibit at the National Space Centre (I really must do something space-related next time, if I do it next time), and my exhibiting and public speaking debut at STEAM. The LEGO Show was really missed this year, and STEAM felt too short, but exhibiting is always the highlight of my calendar.

Though it was also the year I gave up on my three projects on LEGO CUUSOO (and I had a lot to say about that too), we’ve also had both the first UK-based and non-IP based successful CUUSOO project, in Peter Reid’s Exo Suit. Additionally LEGO are getting their house in order regarding future CUUSOO projects, which is theoretically great news for those with original ideas.

Strangely enough, this year included a couple of competitive wins. My first win was finding Mr Gold from Series 10 of the Collectible Minifigures, which I was dead certain I had no chance of finding. I still have the receipt and the Mr Gold leaflet from the moment I’d struck it lucky – but most importantly I still have Mr Gold. My second win was a miniature copy of the LEGO Minifigure book, courtesy of Hive via Twitter, which I’d won purely by chance.

But if anything, 2013 will go down as the year of the alternative web sites. Whether it was because they weren’t satisfied with what existed, wanted to do things differently, wanted a slice of fame or something else entirely, a handful of people decided to take matters into their own hands – and I admire that.
The ones that immediately spring to mind are: BrickTrader (a LEGO-specific alternative to feeBay); The New Elementary (a weblog specifically about LEGO parts); Wall of Bricks (an updated Pick-A-Brick reference, inspired by BrickBuildr); Brick Owl (a LEGO marketplace that has BrickLink running scared); of course Project Swapfig (for trading LEGO minifigures). If there’s anything I’ve left out, I apologise.

One thing I hope happens is that the word alternative enters the general AFOL lexicon, as I see all of these sites being alternatives to existing things; I don’t think anybody’s intending to take anything over. Brick Owl and Project Swapfig in particular have had some fierce opposition, but eventually they’ve gotten used to their presence.

In writing that last section, I want to crack open a malt for The Brick Stop, and to encourage people to stop by swap.minifiguresseries.com if they’re interested in minifigure trading.

2014 is going to be a busy year, I can tell, and it’s anybody’s guess as to what’s going to happen. For now I’m averting my eyes from the numerous spoilers and leaks other people are posting for their ten seconds of fame.