Since you now all know what the Guest Room is and who Predrag is, there is no need for a long introduction… You don’t? Then go read this immediatly and come back afterwards!
A hobby is a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time. Hobbies can include collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports, or pursuing other amusements. By continually participating in a particular hobby, one can acquire substantial skill and knowledge in that area.
Humans, by their default nature, require fondling and twiddling with things. This is perhaps a hereditary trait leftover from our non-evolved ancestors which helped us get to this stadium of cultural and scientifical development. An interesting assumption, that our entire wealth of knowledge, physics, math, space exploration, that it all owes its existence to the fact that a long time ago, a monkey-like creature developed a habit of stacking rocks in a particular order while his food digested.
Hobbies help our mind relax. And yes, hobbies help our minds grow too. They start out as simple, enjoyable pass-times we start doing in order to relax ourselves from our daily lives. They’re the moment when we can escape the toils of the weekly nine-to-five, the little diamond in the rough called life. They come in many different forms, from simple to insanely elaborate. Sometimes those hobbies slowly become our professions; other times they’re guarded and nurtured as one of the things we share our family time with after a long day at work.
However, it comes a time in every hobbyist’s life when he gets hobby burnout. He or she simply can’t find the motivation or the energy to do his hobby. We’ve all experienced this, we’ve all had it happen to us, sometimes more than once. In recent months (years?) it has grown more often, if the comments on social networks can be an accurate measurement.
Today I’m going to talk about this Hobby Wobble Syndrome, how we’ve locally got to call it, as it sweeps the wargamers on all parts of the globe. To those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, wargamers are hobbyists that partake in collecting and assembling miniatures and then utilising them in war games on a diorama-like board – hence the name WarGamers. There are many types of these games, with many different rules, scales of miniature sizes, themes, fandoms, there is something for everyone there. A wargamer can partake in one or many of gaming systems, many of us falling in the latter category. Given the scope of this particular hobby where it encompasses both miniature building, painting and actual gaming, there really is a lot of activities one can partake in and to find enjoyment. Hobby burnout would be odd in these circles, one would assume. But in recent years, it has become very frequent. Now, there are articles and articles out there suggesting how to find back your hobby “mojo”, but I won’t dwell on that. Instead, let’s discuss the more important question:
To understand why such a phenomenon is happening, we need to go beyond the scope of
wargaming for a second and go back to the core definition of what a hobby is. A hobby is a regular activity done for one’s enjoyment, typically in one’s leisure time (as the Wikipedia article states in that quote I left at the top). Right there, in this sentence we already have a hint of more than one reason why this phenomenon of burnout is happening.
Let’s focus on the first part of that sentence. A hobby is something done on a regular basis. But then in the later part it says during leisure time. At this age of instant gratification and a perpetual “plugged-in” state of mind, when was the last time we actually had true leisure time? If you respond with something in the lines “well just 15 minutes ago, when I was on a social network” I will sadly have to correct you. That is not leisure time. It was once, but not anymore. Leisure time is a time of relaxation, time when we’re not doing our chores (be it work or school) and when we’re not eating or sleeping. It’s a time spent stacking those little rocks after our meal is being digested and we don’t have to hunt or forage or watch for that panther lurking for us. But given our work methods, communication methods and just everyday exposure to networked devices, our brains are slowly, but surely getting rewired (evolved, I dare say) to a new method of being, where information is constantly available as a stream. Problem is, we’re still not there. And because we’re in this mid-point, even though we’re kind-of feeling that being online and doing squat-nil on the web is “free time”, we do exactly the same during work and chore time (research, work e-mails…). Our brains still can’t adjust to that. True free time becomes odd to them, we feel detached.
With free time being an old but also a new concept, our definition of it also fluctuates, resulting in things that were reserved as free time getting the feeling of being chores. There have been many times we have just sat at our desk with our hobby material and just going “but I don’t wanna” like it was a homework we don’t have to do. That right there is wrong, because it has to bring us enjoyment. If it isn’t, then it’s no longer a hobby. But we have an issue finding enjoyment in it because our brains are confused. They don’t have a steady stream of information available to them so this means we’re being punished somehow. Like our phones were taken from us during lecture because we got caught.
Yet we still have to find actual free time for our hobby because if we try to do it during being online we start to get…
Attention Deficit Disorder. Or some form of it, at least. Constant and repetitive work on just one subject, if it doesn’t frighten us into thinking that we’re somehow being punished or forced to do something we hate, then it starts to bore us because of lacking that constant stream of information. By the time we’re 20 we’re used to multitasking so much we’re addicted. We need a TV in the background we don’t watch, a computer turned on with several tabs open in our browser, and our phone with which we’re texting someone or checking whatever social media is the norm currently. You know when a topic doesn’t interest you that much you alt-tab from that window anyway, so imagine trying to do that while holding a brush in your hand. Not as easy to go back after you’ve finished with your distraction since by that time the paint might be dry, or the cat might have made a mess, or something else.
The current times have made us both addicted and utterly dependent on our electrical devices to the point that even our entertainment has to be instantly gratifying, if for no other reason than so that we can switch to another form of entertainment. Old types of entertainment don’t survive long in this environment. Books tend to be left unread and replaced by short articles, then by short videos, then by even shorter videos (Vine anyone?). After a few years of like that it becomes expected of someone to not be able to hold their attention on even a 5 minute video, let alone on a 200 page book. Or gods forbid a model that needs assembly. Yet some forms of hobby and art still survive, and suffer less than my chosen hobby. Now why is that? I already mentioned before that with so many elements of this hobby it’s difficult to grasp why would we get bored much more often than other hobbyists with something we love so much.
For some it’s just too much.
It’s because for us, we have to do it all. Our hobby is so much encompassing that it’s actually several hobbies together. And it’s expected of you to enjoy every part of your hobby. To assemble your miniatures, to paint them yourself, to research the background stories for them, and to game with them. For most, that’s 4 different hobbies at a minimum. To do it proper we have to organise ourselves, and that’s the first nail in the coffin. Organising ourselves around our hobby solidifies the definition in our brain of it being more of a chore than a fun part, just because our workloads have slowly but steadily stopped being 9-5 but “from when you get up until you pass out” in most cases and countries. Then when we do organize ourselves, what to do first? Do we assemble that new set of models we bought, or finish painting the three already on our desks? Or should I call my mate over and organise a game? Maybe go to the club and game there? Or read the book about them that I bought? The ADD part kicks hard there, since none of
those aspects can be done in 15-30 minutes, they need to get an entire evening dedicated to them usually. Other hobbyists don’t have this issue in this extent. It’s easy to organise a game night for a boardgame, mostly because it’s going to be then and then who knows when again. Our hobby is continual.
And as the last nail in the coffin, it definitely stops being an activity done for enjoyment when you your spouses, family, significant others, friends don’t provide support of any kind, or worse the whole community or even country disapproves of the concept. You already have a unique hobby, and sadly it’s a hobby still being targeted by many as a waste of time. Lacking support from loved ones, being drained at work, your brain being wired to switch tasks fast, no wonder many opt for consoles instead of a relaxing time listening to music while assembling their plastic army.
What to do?
The sad reality is such a burnout is more related to it being a psychological issue than it being related to the hobby. If something stops giving you pleasure, you stop doing it, it should be that simple. If you can’t find time for something, you adjust your timetable. People often don’t do that, not realising that there lies the problem and not within the hobby itself. True, our hobby is more prone to the burnout, but it doesn’t have a specific cure for it. You have to find one yourselves, adapt your hobby to the modern times. How exactly to adapt it is up to you. I am not a therapist, though I can offer a shoulder to cry on if needed. Usually these burnouts happen because the strain of other issues start nailing the aforementioned nails harder onto our hobby coffin, not because you really got oversaturated with the hobby itself. Too much work? Then your hobby mood becomes irked the moment you even sense that it sounds like work. Social issues? The mere thought of gaming with another can also bring that knee jerk. All those are usually fixed by us enjoying our hobby, but sometimes we need help from other sources as well.
In conclusion I would like to address the name we gave to this syndrome, the Hobby Wobble Syndrome. Many have noticed it’s a pun to the “wobbly model syndrome” we sometimes get during our gaming times, where a miniature model won’t stand upright due to the board being angled or skewed somehow. To provide perhaps a fitting analogy for finding a cure for your lack of enthusiasm: when a wobbly model syndrome occurs often, one should not fidget with all his miniatures constantly, but perhaps fix the entire board.
My name is Predrag Vasiljevic, and I’m a hobbyist. If you want to find a way to relax, forget about your daily life issues, find new wondrous worlds, or just chat about nonsense, you can find me on twitter (Follow @PVasiljevic), reporting about the hobbies we enjoy.
Banner picture: view of the Guest Room by LeVermenarque, if you want to book it one day you can find me on social media or just summon me here.
« Genestealer activist movement » picture courtesy of Predrag Vasiljevic.