Saturday, February 19, 2011

You'll never be cool enough for the Cheerleaders

An interesting conversation was raised the other day on one of the web forums, about the perceived cost of the hobby of Wargaming.  Well specifically Games Workshop, of course.  Oddly I found myself defending them  in the process of challenging the belief it is an expensive hobby, but it begs the wider question, of on what grounds do you define expensive?

The argument essentially was that to start Warhammer or 40k costs around £4-500 to get an army together.  True enough perhaps, and some of the chatter was that this was excessive compared to other activities, notably video gaming.

But is it really the money?  I think there's more to it than that.

 Snowboarding; by far the most expensive thing the author does; and a great way to break bones too!

After all, Wargaming on face value is much cheaper than many pastimes.  I spent £800 on a snowboarding holiday in December last year; for three days snowboarding.  I think in the last ten years, my addiction to snowboarding has cost me around £10,000; not to mention lost earnings whilst I took an 18 month sabbatical to do two seasons in France instead of making a living!  That is not a cheap hobby.

Other people opt for Scuba diving, collecting rare records, Parachuting, Hunting, Playing in Bands or Customising cars.  Their all far from inexpensive...
 You can spend hundreds of thousands to look this stupid going down the street. A Games Workshop carry case is a bargain by comparison!

The cost equation is in perceived returns; and these are more complicated to gauge.  My personal view is that Wargaming gives very poor return in terms of social currency whilst giving very good returns in personal currency.

I'll explain.  Pound for pound you get a lot from Wargaming; once purchased models have to be researched, cleaned, modified perhaps, painted and based.  This gives lots of activity in return to the initial outlay.  You have to produce scenery maybe, build a table even, find opponents, a club, so on and so on.  Once complete an army can be used for games pretty much forever.

 Never in the history of mankind have these resulted in a guy scoring with the opposite sex...

It however, provides one with no social cache.  Ever chatted to someone you didn't already know pretty well, or know was involved in gaming already about your wargames?  No of course not (well at least I haven't).  It isn't the sort of thing that impresses people.  It's not a basis for social climbing, it won't impress a woman, it doesn't improve your credibility with an employer.

 Yes, but he'll be crying all the way to the bank about it

And that is the crux of the argument, that is why I think gaming seems expensive to some people; because like comic book collecting for example it is something that only earns you respect with other people who already also appreciate it. 

You may be just as interesting, or otherwise, when talking about it as the next person talking about their football team's performance at the weekend or the new improvements they've made to their Evo 7.  But in the first place you would be hamstrung by the innate geekiness of the hobby; it is not for everyone, and that lack of approval devalues it to those not interested in it, where they can dislike golf, say, profoundly, but see it as an indicator of social status that wargaming would not be.

You may not agree, your experience may be different, and that's fine.  But I recognise in my own experience, that as much as I love wargaming, military history, painting and modelling - the whole shebang - if asked about what I do in my free time, I'll always, always lead with snowboarding.

Do I get more fun for my money from it than gaming?  Probably not, it's far more fleeting and a higher risk activity to boot.  But it also serves functions that wargaming won't. 

And that is part of the, unspoken value of a hobby.


  1. Sometimes it's hard to be proud of our hobby but when you're with like minded it's a blast and relatively cheap as you said compared to others, as long as you don't go too mad:D

  2. Interesting topic and one I have often considered myself.
    Wargaming is the last of my hobbies I would disclose to an unkown audience for all the reasons you state.
    I have had several heated discussions with mates at work who think its uber cool to play Call of Duty online for hours on end, but to play with and paint 'toy soldiers' is akin to admitting to trian spotting or worse. When I argue that to be a wargamer you need to be an artist, academic, tactician, strategist, researcher, to be socially adept and much more. I am pretty sure hours in front of a screen playing CoD doesn't require any of those things.

  3. Heya
    Nail on the head... this comes from a long term gamer and seasonaire with six seasons 2 snapped boards and hospital visits in four countries to provide social status when not leaning over a miniature cursing the poor lighting and unsteady hand...Cost is relative to life style, lifestyle determines true values.

  4. I am no longer ashamed of being a wargamer and will openly state my addiction to the hobby.
    Perhaps that is the problem - the more we deny our hobby the more we stigmatise it.

  5. Interesting and very valid argument. I'm often surprised by how much the hobby is looked down on. My other hobby is ballroom dancing - not that you'd every guess from looking at me. It always gets people talking as they often admit they'd like to be to do it themselves but not so with wargaming. It still seems playing with toy soldiers is not as socially acceptable.


  6. Interesting post, partially agree as I think the social ROI improved a lot over the years. At least for me. Funny enough just did a blogpost a bit similar stating wargaming is just like fashion, how to explain the hobby to a woman you meet in a bar. It can be done, but at your own risk :-)

  7. I think acceptability has definately improved. I think we are seeing greater exposure and popularity. It's fairly easy to find a club now, whereas a few years ago you might have had a problem. Games Workshop have helped, but there is also the tournament scene. Rankings HQ are doing great things, and we'll be seeing it on digital before long. The only problem is that is essentially a male, middleclass hobby. Cracking other demographics would certainly improve things even further.