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Soapbox: About the Industry

Hobbies

by Sandy Antunes
May 08,2003

 

Hobbies

There comes a time in every daughter's life where she wonders what sort of hardware her daddy is packing. But first, why doesn't RPGing appeal to a wider spectrum of people?

The answer to that latter question is that, at dollars per pound, gaming really sucks. It's worse than comic books. You'd have to be a loon to spend $40 getting a hard-to-read instruction manual just for the privilege of spending your free time making stuff that only lasts hours and requires a bunch of friends giving up their free time to enjoy it with you.

Anyway, for hardware, I just bought a new toolbox, because I have to start locking down the sharp pointy stuff from the young-uns. The one I bought had a free bonus-- an additional smaller toybox inside. What a stupid gimmick! If I need an 11" toolbox, why would I buy one just because it comes with a useless 9" toolbox? Of course, I bought it anyway because, hey, free toolbox! I'll give the smaller one to my daughter.

So I buy gaming books that I'll never read, because I'm suckered in by their 'win' proposition. "We're the best game ever!" "Get new ideas!" "Boost your character performance!" I swear, it's like spam or something. Intrinsically, each book is going to be the same-- a bunch of possibly nifty rules, a setting so intricate I'll have to discard it because it's too detailed to remember, and maybe, if I'm lucky, it'll have the gaming equivalent of 'free toolbox'-- some in-game fiction. Ugh.

If you take the amount of tools (power tools, hand tools, and work-tables), and the amount of hobbyist woodworking or home repair books I've bought, and balanced it against the dollar value I've actually either a) created or b) saved in repairs, well, it'd be pretty pathetic. Clearly carpentry is something that is a hobby, defined as "takes up lots of time, costs money, produces nothing meaningful, yet still brings me pleasure."

Now, $40 for a 20-hour computer RPG isn't gaming. It may take lots of time and bring pleasure, but that simply puts it into the category of 'high level masturbatory activities' (HLMAs, i.e. "That MMORPs is an HLMA because it lacks true person-to-person contact, especially as many players would probably fail a Turing Test.") Whereas tabletop gaming requires creation and interaction as well as the 'play game' aspect.

Simple pride in creation can define a hobby, especially a craft-building one. But even the more misanthropic practitioner loves to do at least a little bragging-- about tools, about new techniques, about something they want to build. Successful long-term hobbies require some human contact. Often that contact is simply the local expert at the store, or classes, or sharing work, or displaying it.

Gaming isn't art, and it's not a lifestyle. It really is a hobby, and hobbies tend to appeal to population niches because hobbies aren't enjoyed in isolation. Hobbies return more to the participant when there's a shared group component-- something gaming does provide, in spades. In fact, the dollar amount of gaming isn't too high when compared to the interacting-with-people component.

So I may have way too much hardware and spend too much on gaming junk, but the social factors really make my hobbies not just a means of enjoyment, but a way for me to connect with others in that thing we call 'the world'... 'of people'... 'who share the same wacky tastes as me'.

Cheers,
Sandy
sandy@rpg.net
freelance

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  • June 2, 1997 "Dirty Laundry" (copyright and slander on the net)
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