Why build in a theme?

For obvious reasons, the idea of subthemes has been on my mind of late. Why are we so obsessed with creating them? What makes us want to build in someone else's? What satisfaction is derived from building in a subtheme that cannot be gained otherwise? I don't really know; I can only postulate.

Perhaps it's the concept of being part of something bigger. The US Army uses the phrase "Army Strong" to mean that the army is stronger than the soldiers it's made of. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Is it that support, that feeling that our tank isn't all alone, that makes building in a faction desirable? To try to get a grip on them, we can take a look at the subthemes registered at Classic-Space.

After spending a couple minutes looking through those pages, you might notice that most of those subthemes have some distinguishing element, some style or idea which makes it different from all the rest. PCS is the good-guy faction that protects all the peaceful realms of SPACE. The Space Hippies are peace loving pacifists. The Galatic Inquisition is a group of religious extremists. Each has their own style to go with their ideology- PCS, righteous white and blue; Space Hippies, groovy rainbows; the Inquisition, grey with imposing architecture.

But those were the old days, when all of those themes were being created by grown men. These days, you can go to MOCpages and find a plethora of personal armies with no way to tell one from another. To make a good faction, you must, in my opinion, combine an original idea with a distinguishing style and the building skills to back it up. When someone like Keith Goldman or Nick Dean comes along, a lot builders want to build in their themes- want to become a part of the Iron Reich or the Royal Austrian Mechanized Military. Why? To be cool, I guess.

But really, those builders should try coming up with their own themes.

Those are my thoughts on the subject; I don't have much experience in thoughtful, wordy posts, so I hope it doesn't suck too much. Please share any thoughts of your own in the notes section.



Garth Danielson said...

Hey, this is a good topic. I'm interested in creativity, so in my mind you've got a good idea and some good observations on same.

Try writing about the same subject a couple of times over a couple of days, pretend your sites page got deleted and you don't have anything but your notes. Then compare the two and pick the best points and combine them. Re-writing is also key.

Anyway, I think people also like to build other peoples themes because they just aren't that original themselves. I know what you mean about MOCpages, there are so many of the same things, but as you point out, that's partly an age thing. Everything is new and original when you're young, huh.

The three things you mention: an original idea with a distinguishing style and the building skills to back it up.

Most people can't pull off that hattrick, so there's always going to be the original and the imitators. Even if a builder raises their building skills they might not have the age or knowledge background to know much about style or know how to rework style they see around them to even seem more original.

This is what Frank Lloyd Wright did. He's touted as an original builder in the big leagues. He had a great talent for taking elements from other, especially Japanese, culture's buildings and combining them with his own thoughts on building. Not all of his stuff was successfull but he built a lot and some of his best, is the best there ever has been.

Be bold, and observe.

see ya around

Mike said...


That has to be one of the best comments we've ever gotten. Well done Jacob!

Jacob said...

Thanks for the reply, Garth! I completely agree with you about the re-writing. It was a matter of me being too lazy and impatient to spend so much time on the article, but I'll definitely try to do that next time.

Dez, np, but have you no thoughts worth sharing? ;]

Mike said...

Oh I have thoughts, in fact I have a response article I'm writing.

Spook said...

I'm content to be cool by myself!

Linus Bohman said...

It's interesting to note that there are (at least) two kind of subtheme thinker-upers. Those that do it because they like to have a solid foundation on which to base their creations, and those that would like others to build in it. What are their motivations?

I suspect that for the former, it is to have fun. The latter are more intent on getting quasi-fame from the community, but that's just speculation.

I would've liked you to branch out on this a bit more. When you say "Why? To be cool, I guess" you could've ranted for a few sentences about the inherent value a well-crafted subtheme brings. Or a motivation for why you think it's better to build your own theme rather than build in someone elses. (Originality? You can be original within a theme.)

All in all a nice post, though. I'd like to see you do more meta-thinking.

(I've replied to our religious discussion, by the way. Very interesting! It took me a few days to word it.)

Occasional driving force of the blog, self-proclaimed Lukas fanboy, and aspiring engineer, Jacob spends too much time building LEGO, not enough time practicing piano, and not nearly enough time doing school. He also enjoys long sentences. In the instance of blogging, he believes in quantity over quality, wherever quantity can be maintained.
One of the cofounders of YSAB, and the founder of YSA, Observing Mike actually being productive is a rare occasion. Mike enjoys making outlandish claims in relation to actually building, pretending he's actually sorting his collection, and making excuses for why he hasn't photographed his MOCs. In his free time he enjoys learning CSS from Spook, photography and poking badgers with spoons.
Occasional builder, occasional blogger, and full-time procrastinator. That's really the only way to describe Dean. He rarely gets anything done, but is a very active lurker. He's probably seen and liked your MOC, but just forgot he had a blog.
Erik is still a teenager.
Lukas is tall, blond, mildly OCD, and doesn't build nearly enough as he would like to, thanks to school. He has a webpage.
Spook (Tim)
The resident codemonkey and graphics person. If something isn't working correctly, it's probably his fault. Fitting to his name, he doesn't post often, but someone has to do this stuff too, right? Spook does build with laygoes, and has his own blog as well.