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Pdaitabird

Lego Trains: Avoiding the Uncanny Valley

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Just an observation: looking at pictures of O, HO, and N-scale layouts recently, I noticed that the hyper-realistic scenery sometimes induces an uncanny valley-like effect. It's as if your brain expects the scene to be real and notices if the slightest thing is off. Lego trains and layouts seem to avoid this pitfall...perhaps that's one reason this hobby is so appealing to me. Ironically, the lower levels of detail and realism somehow make Lego train layouts more aesthetically pleasing. Has anyone else ever experienced this? What are your thoughts on the ideal level of realism in a layout?

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Pdaitabird said:

Just an observation: looking at pictures of O, HO, and N-scale layouts recently, I noticed that the hyper-realistic scenery sometimes induces an uncanny valley-like effect. It's as if your brain expects the scene to be real and notices if the slightest thing is off. Lego trains and layouts seem to avoid this pitfall...perhaps that's one reason this hobby is so appealing to me. Ironically, the lower levels of detail and realism somehow make Lego train layouts more aesthetically pleasing. Has anyone else ever experienced this? What are your thoughts on the ideal level of realism in a layout?

Actually, no, I have never experienced this. I think there are people who go over-the-top on the density of scenery and achieve a kind of "carnival prize booth" effect where their layouts are cluttered beyond all comprehension... 

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... and I think this tends to detract (heavily) from a good scene. When we look at the world, it is - by and large - populated by foliage. The effort to "pave over" - in the form of random festivals, businesses and industries of every sort, shops, houses, sidings, light fixtures, or just modeled trash and junk piles - to achieve some kind of visual candy store is completely misguided. Earth just doesn't tend to look like that. 

But when it comes to photo-realistic models, no, I think everyone should be trying as hard as they can to look real. Real never gets old for me:

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In fact, scenery is one of the reasons I can never fully give up on traditional model railroads, even though I find Legos more satisfying overall - because we just can't do that ^. And that is amazing. Awesome as our mocs may be; creative and even ingenious as they may become, they will always be limited by the medium we have chosen - they are never going to be anything but toys. Really cool toys... but toys.

And I'm okay with that. I love Legos - I love, even as an adult, playing with Legos. You really cannot do that with a model railroad (you can follow train orders and 'play engineer,' but you can't move figures and objects around in the same way; Sephiroth, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Doc from BTTF cannot take tea in a dining car on an HO model railroad like they can with Lego). There are huge advantages to Lego that traditional model railroading will never possess. 

But no, when it comes to a stand-up competition in looks alone, they beat the snot out of us.

 

Edited by SteamSewnEmpire

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3 hours ago, Pdaitabird said:

I noticed that the hyper-realistic scenery sometimes induces an uncanny valley-like effect. It's as if your brain expects the scene to be real and notices if the slightest thing is off. Lego trains and layouts seem to avoid this pitfall... Has anyone else ever experienced this? What are your thoughts on the ideal level of realism in a layout?

I think I understand what you are referring to (and I agree); even if my lego layouts are really bare (no scenery, no ballast) I prefer them to certain models that look like small islands detached from the real world.
Lego toys with their childish quality leave thoughts free to imagine a world that real models (sometime) define in a fake pretense :wink:

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So you don't expect Minifigs becoming alive like zombies or something (that is what Mori talks about isn't it ;)). I really like model trains, but the pity is that you build it once and then more or less are stuck with it. I very much like more detailed sceneries like the Carl Greatrix scenes and layouts in Germany and the US that are really realistic and it is even hard to see it is LEGO sometimes.

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@SteamSewnEmpire I get where you're coming from, but commuting to a large city (from the suburbs) every day, most cities are packing in every little thing they can - super dense, no room to even build parking lots making life very difficult for most people.  There's green space, to be sure, but a small cluster of trees here and there.

Frankly, I prefer the latter pictures, too, but only because that's the speed of life I'd like to be living, not because it's any more or less "real" as the first couple of pictures.

 

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