Last week I had a discussion with a manager at GW HQ that focused on ways to build the hobby community in our area. My friend summarized the situation in a way I thought was brilliant, referring to it as “my hobby, your hobby, the hobby”.
I believe what he meant by that is that the challenge that faces anyone trying to grow the hobby through community building is to find ways to provide people with help and fun that fulfills their own hobby needs even when those might be quite different from your own.
For example, I recently ran a Drop Pod building clinic at a local GW store a few days after the model was released. This was very helpful to anyone interested in building that specific model, but activities like that don’t reach a wider range of the community. After all, not everyone, not even every Space Marine player, wants to build a Drop Pod or wants help with it. It’s the same with painting clinics. There are many people who love to paint their models and who are greatly interested in tips on doing it, but again, not everyone paints their models. Now this is not to say that activities like assembly clinics for certain models or painting clinics in general should disappear. Quite the contrary, these are highly useful to a lot of people. But the question remains, how can we serve the needs of the hobby rather than just my hobby or your hobby?
One thing we can do is passive rather than active, but important nonetheless. Few people are more passionate about building and painting models than I am, but I never denigrate others who have no interest in it. Remember when GW used to kick customers out of the store who had unpainted models? Guess what, it did not grow the hobby or their business. A customer is a customer. There are people out there who collect the models and leave them in the boxes as they literally just stuff the unopened boxes of models in a closet collection and leave them that way. Is that for me? No it isn’t, but they paid for the models and they can do with them what they please. The fact that they spend money on the models helps keep GW afloat and keep the hobby alive for those of us who do paint and convert lovingly. Customers who hang around the store playing games with unpainted models buy a lot of product and stores need customers who buy merchandise. It’s that simple. Low sales mean store closings and that’s bad for all of us in the hobby. The first obligation of any business to its customers is to stay in business (thanks to Mr. Lightner for that one, what a great quote). Would I like to see everyone paint their models? Sure I would, but it’s not for everyone and it never will be. I love Thai food, but that’s not for everyone either. That’s life and everyone who paints needs to learn to accept the fact that not everyone who collects models likes to paint them.
Of course, it’s also important to be active in promoting the hobby. This means sharing what you know when people ask questions or show an interest in your hobby. From what I’ve seen through hundreds of hours spent at my local hobby stores, all hobbyists both new and veteran alike benefit from sharing ideas. It’s fun, gets people excited about their projects and often provides inspiration that gets projects completed either more quickly, with a more satisfying outcome, or both. Providing help to people with their hobby is rewarding for purely altruistic reasons, but there is also the satisfaction in knowing you helped keep the hobby alive and well. An ulterior motive for being helpful in this case is not a bad thing, because if you want to keep your hobby alive it’s important to support others in their hobby for the sake of the hobby. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
It’s also essential not to discourage people in their hobby no matter what level of participation they currently enjoy. The way to get more people interested in painting and converting is to keep them in the store near people who do those things and to encourage them when they show some interest in the hobby. Don’t insult them, avoid them or wish they’d leave the store, let them enjoy their hobby their way. Eventually some of them will be converts (pun intended) to the painting and converting fun of the hobby. I know, because I have had at least one person who only used to play with unpainted models come up to me and say they started painting because I made it look like so much fun.
Now, it’s time to gather up some bits for a conversion I have planned to represent myself in the “Streets of the Dead” event this Halloween at my local Battle Bunker. With luck I’ll have some good pictures of conversions and of the costume contest to show you after the Halloween events are over. Back to the hobby!