I have a little bit of time post-wedding to update the old website so I thought I’d take advantage of it. Instead of my usual painting progress, I wanted to write what I would probably classify as a personal essay. It relates to my main hobby that I discuss here which is miniature wargaming but also involves my other hobbies. Even if you don’t share all of the hobbies discussed below, I hope that this is still relatable and thought-provoking.
I called this hobby madness because while we often refer to our hobby as if it is the only one, there is something I’ve seen across many different hobbies and I think it is affecting us negatively. I know it certainly is for me. I unfortunately don’t have a clever name for it but have you ever noticed that our hobbies are becoming more and more intense as time goes on? There are more products to buy and more expensive products than ever before. Even if you can afford them, do you have time to enjoy them? Let me give some examples across a few hobbies to demonstrate what I mean.
Let’s start with the love-them-or-hate-them company we all know to some degree, Games Workshop. Games Workshop has released more products in recent years than I could have ever imagined. I think everyone would agree that it is simply impossible to buy and paint or use everything they put out for more than maybe one game. Okay, maybe MESBG or something that gets infrequent releases, but one of the Warhammers? Forget about it! To make matters worse, Games Workshop has gotten in on something that is become way too common in many hobbies, limited availability. Basically, they’re using FOMO (fear of missing out) to get people to spend more money on their hobby because if they want X product, it may not be available in the future or if it is, the scalpers will take your kidneys in exchange for it! I’m sure some wargamers will think this is Games Workshop up to their old tricks like when they went through a period of not treating their customers very kindly but actually this is going on everywhere.
One hobby I had before I got into miniatures was casually collecting and reading comics. I do still read them but I only buy them digitally as you they accumulate really quickly and don’t have much value in the long run. One thing that people who don’t read comics might find surprising is that outside of the movies, the actual comic book industry is not healthy at all. In fact, I wonder what the comics market will look like in five or even ten years. The problem as I see it is that the core reading base of comics has been aging out and despite their best efforts, it has been hard to get new readers. So Marvel and DC, who built their business on shipping comics once a month to consumers changed strategies. They started double-shipping books. So do you like Spider-Man? Great, now you get two issues a month instead of one. In theory, this is great. More of what you love. But the downside is that it costs twice as much! It also means that you’re being squeezed by the things you love to give more and more of your resources to remain a part of them. What is the effect of this? Well, I can share a bit of this based on a hobby I have been actively spending money in recently.
I have collected non-sports cards (Star Wars, Marvel, and Game of Thrones) for at least ten years now. It has been a nice hobby for me and I’ve really enjoyed collecting cards over the years. This isn’t nostalgia talking (or at least I don’t think so) when I say that it was much easier and more fun when I started. With Star Wars cards, Topps released 2-4 sets a year and while I don’t want to say every single one was amazing, but it was nice because I could keep up and buy the cards that I liked from each set fairly easily. There was less demand for cards then as there is now (there are lots of “investors” right now who think they’re going to get rich buying cards which isn’t going to happen) so prices were lower and it was easier to get what you wanted. I often got complete sets back then which is so hard to do now without spending over $500-$1000 on a single set. Over time though, things have changed. There are WAY more releases now. There are easily 6-10 sets being released in a year for Star Wars or Marvel. Unsurprisingly, this has become quantity over quality. Many of these sets are skippable or barely have anything new or interesting in them. Whereas before, I often wanted to get the whole set because I liked most of what was in there, now, I spend more time thinking about, what is really good or worth getting in these sets? I have to filter them down into something I can actually achieve and like. I also have to calculate which sets are worth buy and which ones do I need to skip. Its a complicated and not all that fun process.
Even more frustratingly, Star Wars and especially Marvel cards, seem to have realized they have what are known as “whales” in the seedy world of mobile apps. Whales are people who (I think) have spending problems and addiction issues because they have an app or possibly several on their phone that they spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on because they can’t control their need to own everything in those apps. With cards, the card companies have started releasing really rare cards that are highly desirable (they look the coolest basically) but there are so few of them available that you have to compete with other collectors to be able to own them. This is obviously a financial drain for anyone who wants to get into the “collectors rat race”. For me, it has become a real turn off because I don’t want to have to compete and spend more time and resources to enjoy a hobby that I’ve happily been involved with for tenish years. This may ultimately be profitable for these companies, but at what price?
While I’m singling out the card companies here as the worst offenders, many companies who sell hobby products are doing this. I fear that there will be people who collect lots of Warhammer products and wake up one day with a basement full of products which may or may not have any value that they never got around to painting or using. Its the same way with cards. Maybe it is because I just moved but I feel like I’ve accumulated too many in the last ten years and need to scale back because I have more than I can really appreciate.
Most importantly, I’m tired of being squeezed dry by things that are supposed to be fun. I want to enjoy collecting cards but I’ve realized lately, that I’m not. There are things released that I can’t afford to buy and/or I don’t have time to hunt them down. There are so many products coming out that it becomes hard to even judge what is worth my time and money and what isn’t. I think I just feel burnt out chasing after everything that comes out. Hobby companies need to take stock and realize that there can be too much of a good thing. When consumers realize they’re burnt out, at best, they’re either going to take a break or they will just get out of that hobby, maybe for good.
That is what I’ve been struggling with. I have too many interests and they’re all trying to suck me dry. I read comics and books and play video games but neither of those are particularly expensive. However, I can never seem to stay on top of my other two hobbies which is card collecting and painting miniatures. I don’t have enough money to buy all the cards I want, in particular. I had joined Facebook groups several years where card collecting is discussed and it felt like everyone in those groups was constantly buying cooler cards than I can afford which starts to take a toll on you. I left those groups recently and am better for it. I don’t blame the people who post their latest acquisitions either. It is the hobby companies that create environments like this with too many releases and too rare of things that people want to own. I would love to keep collecting cards but I can’t justify staying in it if it doesn’t bring me joy. I’m struggling with whether I continue you on with collecting in a more limited capacity or if I start selling off my collection and make a clean exit. This is what I’m dealing with but these kinds of situations are going to cause people to turn away from hobbies that they might otherwise enjoy.
To help me decide what to do, I actually stuck my toe into another hobby to see if maybe that would be a good replacement for card collecting. I’ll talk more about that in a future update. Regardless of how that goes, my reaction to all of this is try to simplify my hobbies and do less so I’m not as burnt out. I hope that sharing my experiences will help others who might be feeling the same way too.
Ultimately, here’s what I think should happen for long-term health of these hobbies. We need quality over quantity. A manageable number of releases so people can enjoy being in the hobby and not feel overwhelmed or like they’re a second or third-class citizen if they aren’t spending hundreds of dollars on a particular hobby. Squeezing more and more money out of your fanbase is only going to turn them off and away from you. I don’t know why so many companies have adopted this strategy but ultimately, they’re going to be left with a small number of “whales” and a lot of burnt bridges. Once a bridge is burnt, the likelihood that someone will leap over a chasm to come back into that hobby is not very high.