Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Hobby: Games Workshop from the Inside Out

As I'm sure you're aware by now I'm a massive nerd. Not in a socially inept or damaged way but my interests tend to lean towards the more obscure and some would say bizarre end of the spectrum. One of such interests which has stuck with me since I was but a wee nipper is my near fanatical dedication to the Games Workshop (GW) hobby. One of GW's major games systems, Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K) recently had it's 25th anniversary recently leading to a small amount of press coverage of the hobby and the company. The problem is that press coverage was rubbish. I am not a journalist but I do have a pretty specific set of skills and experiences that have given me a unique insight into the GW world and it's machinations:
Little Timmy should probably stick to his lego
  1. I have been a hobbyist since I was about 10. That's about 13 years.
  2. I worked for GW at their head office flagship store for 9 months.
  3. I have ran GW a couple of hobby centres on my own.
So first things first one of the obvious issues a lot of people have with GW is that they essentially have a monopoly over a niche business and charge very high prices for what are essentially toy soldiers; an issue which has stung many well meaning parents come Christmas or Birthday time. If GW makes toy soldiers why aren't they the price of toys? The answer is simple really. They aren't toys. 

The GW hobby is actually aimed at people my age, the logic is however that kids and teenagers get into it because they see it as something adults are into. Sure kids are good for getting that first hit of cash (a beginner hobbyist will spend £200-400 in their first year) but its the grizzled vets who drive the company with their repeat business. New releases are also for us because they keep things fresh and interesting. It's these new releases and hobby innovations that drive the high prices as well, GW is not a stack em' high sell em' cheap business; only about 10% of its income last year was translated into profit, it continuously reinvests it's earnings into the customer base. This has been evident in the massive increase in quality of plastic model kits, paints and hobby supplies in recent years.

So if GW doesn't make toys what does it make? Also why do us older hobbyists continue to spend our hard earned cash on whatever it is they make?
No matter how cool the artwork is, we're still pushing models around a table
As I'm of a pretentious leaning I would say that GW gives us all the opportunity to be artists. Within the hobby we tend to encounter two kinds of people, painters and gamers. Most people would rather paint models, play games or find themselves somewhere near the middle. I personally prefer the creative process of building and painting models; I have a number of complete armies but I only really use them for casual gaming because I'm kind of bad at table top war-gaming. Other people just want to build the best and strongest armies and then use tactics and cunning to beat their friends/ enemies into the ground with them and that's fine too. 

GW also gives people who are generally quite reclusive or odd the opportunity to share their passions and creativity with others and learn to interact in a safe and social environment. These customers were always my favourite; a good example was a teenage boy I used to know who had one of the most over-active cases of ADHD I have ever come across and would be a whirlwind of chaos without the right supervision. That was of course until you put a model kit or rule book in his hands. Over my career with GW I got to watch him grow, learn basic maths, social skills and the importance of hard work all though his hobby involvement.

So the GW hobby is fun, narrative, creative and it gives teenagers and adults the ability to discover new things about themselves. Best of all you're never too old to start. So what are you waiting for?

Stay Crunchy Internet

No comments:

Post a Comment