Thursday 29 October 2009

Uphill Struggle

Yesterday I mentioned the TV programme James May's Toy Stories. Mondays programme was all about Airfix. The format of this programme was take a well loved toy from our (meaning 40 somethings) youth and introduce it to the kids of today. I thought it was a great programme, funny and entertaining as well as educational... but boy did James May have an uphill struggle with the kids. I've written several times about the need to introduce new blood into our hobby. Like many gamers my age I now have kids of my own and I'm already indoctrinating teaching them how to paint miniatures and play D&D. Whenever I go to conventions there always seems to be healthy number of kids present, mine included. But I'd lay good money on most of them being the children of aging gamers as opposed to kids that have dragged their parents along. The fact remains that they are easy recruits, living as they do in gamer land. What about other kids, from normal homes?

One of the things highlighted by May's programme was that kids today have so many distractions. They live in a technological age of wonder (compared to our day) full of computer consoles, iPhones, MSN, Laptops and mobiles. Communication is easy, instant and ubiquitous and entertainment has become hi tech and portable. The tech-noise is now so loud it has drowned out everything else. This sounds like disaster for our hobby which maybe lacks the glamor and easy access of a computer game.

Despite this I did think the programme gave us old farts a small glimmer of hope. When the kids had finished their project (to build a 1:1 scale Airfix Supermarine Spitfire) they seemed genuinely proud of their achievement. Some even said they would make an Airfix model again - without the incentive of a TV personality prodding them with a stick to do so. These children learned the hard way that making a model is fun and deeply satisfying in a way that computer games with their instant gratification are not.

Let me state for the record that I love technology, I love computer games and I love living in the future. OK I haven't got the Jet Packs and Spaceships I wanted as a kid but on the whole we live in an exciting and fast moving age of wonder. But sometimes we need to slow down to truly appreciate what we have. I for one think this is ever more important for our children who are saturated and utterly immersed in this hi-tech world. Now and again we should encourage them to unplug, disconnect, turn off and slow down. That's also good advice for us adults.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks - some interesting thoughts.

    I'm a secondary teacher, and in my last school (in Norwich; on 'Special Measures') I ran a D&D club for a bunch of kids (all lads; all too reminiscent of me as a schoolboy!). This was great fun, and got them genuinely fired up.

    At my new school however, the kids are mostly from privileged South Devon backgrounds and take advantage of a very broad variety of activities. Despite, or maybe because of this, there seems to be less interest in such activities than I thought.

    That said, I believe there's a very popular Warhammer club nearby, and those richer kids are always far more likely to be able to afford the likes of GW miniatures, which really are prohibitively expensive. And as for getting people into the hobby, I guess GW are pretty good at it...they just seem to have trouble with retention.

    I don't know. Boys still love WW2 and fact books about history, so I think the interest may still be there, but as for investing time and patience into models, well...we'll see, I guess.

    Of course, if a broader cross-section were tempted in the first place, it'd be easier. I wrote a long letter to Jervis Johnson at GW a year or so ago pointing out how 'male' and 'white' their hobby is (I didn't get into class) - it's something we're all aware of, but any change would have to be a huge top-down marketing drive, and I'm sure it just wouldn't work.



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