They make fun of my "nerd man armies."

Warhammer 40k Inquisitor model

There comes that time when people outside of your gaming friends discover your "hobby." This pending event can give some gamers stress and once it happens, it can be the source of tremendous grief.

I have three families you could say and each one has reacted to the hobby in different ways. My real family, my online family and my work family.

My real family supports me... since I make money
I kid, they support me either way. It's something I do at home to keep myself off the streets and out of trouble.
My real family knows how important it is that I have an outlet for my energy that has nothing to do with real-world work. The fact that I make money doing commission work only gives me a little bit of ground to stand on when I say I should be painting models instead of cutting the grass right now.

I will say that my extended family doesn't really understand what I do with the hobby to include the painting and sculpting and blogging. They look at it all as though it was "art" and that it's just a hobby of mine. Like reading books would be a hobby for someone.

My online family supports me... at least most of them do.
That's you guys in case you didn't know. To say you all have been anything less than completely supportive would be a lie. From comments to emails and everything in between, 99.999 percent of it is positive and it's the reason I keep doing what I'm doing.

That being said, there is a small percentage out there (in any aspect of life though) that will never be happy with what you're doing and will always have something negative to say. The larger or more well known you become, the more vocal those folks seem to become sometimes. It's something you learn to work around.

My work family sees this as source of endless grief.
And then one day my work family found out about my hobby. And it's been an endless source of entertainment for them ever since. Some of them don't understand it all and never will (miniature wargaming) and some of them are interested but don't want to appear like they are.

Sure, I've tried to explain it the best I could to those who could sit still for longer than 3 seconds and have an attention span longer than 2 year old child, but in the end, it made no difference. They act like they don't get it... they can't figure out why someone would spend their free time and money on something like this.

Obviously it hasn't stopped me from staying involved in the hobby. If anything, it's had the opposite effect. Some people will get it, others won't and it doesn't matter what you say or do.

So what's a gamer to do?
Don't worry about it. Simple as that. You certainly shouldn't be ashamed of your hobby. There are far worse things you could be involved in. I don't hide the fact that I play "little nerd man armies" as my work family calls it or "little men" as my real family does. It's how they understand it.

As for me, I simply enjoy the time I have doing it. It's a creative outlet for me that allows me to temporarily disconnect from the stress and reality of the real world and do something with my time that I enjoy doing.

I hope you can get to or are already at this point too.

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. The best man's speech at my wedding ripped fun out of me and my "hobby".

    Many of the people in the room already knew but to a few it was a revelation.

    It wasn't done with any malice and it did have people in stitches!

  2. I think this is best summed up in Clay Shirkey's recent book Cognitive Surplus. While some people choose to do productive/creative/inspiring things during their spare time some people choose to... watch TV. The Internet has made it possible for hobbyists to share their interests more openly which has recruited more new hobbyists and this rate won't decline in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile those who watch TV can continue to make fun of people with hobbies while they continue to pursue the lowest form of social contribution - and largely become irrelevant.

  3. My real family are in this hobby also (wife and son are much better painters than I am)

    Being a software engineer, I work with a bunch of nerds anyhow. Of course the fact that most folks know that my other hobby is training in and teaching martial arts tends to temper most people's remarks :)

  4. For the most part people who have 'found out' about my hobby are interested and supportive, but there have been a few who for some reason viewed it with scorn. In those cases, whenever I hear someone say "boy, somebody has too much free time on their hands" what I really hear is "I'm sad because I don't know what passion or creativity feels like."

  5. I never sweat it because everyone has a stupid hobby of some sort or another. Football, comics, minis: they're all objectively goofy things that people enjoy and That's Okay.

    That said, I don't really talk about my hobby much. I've got a little elevator speech about "toy soldiers" if someone asks, but I don't go much past that unless pressed. It's not that I'm embarrassed: it's because I know that the other person probably doesn't care at all.

    In the TT RPG world, there's the trope of the socially awkward person who insists on recounting, in detail, the exploits of his/her character to anyone and everyone. The sad thing about the trope isn't the character or the person's excitement about their game; it's the tone-deaf assumption that the listener/victim cares more than basic politeness requires.

    My brother-in-law plays rugby. It's probably one of the most important things in his life. It's gotten him into shape, a network of friends, and an activity that he enjoys dedicating most of his life to. That's great. He needs to learn that that's about all he needs to share about it, though: hours of relegating minutae about the wild and crazy folks he plays with becomes interesting to only one person in the conversation pretty quickly.

    So, I've got no shame: but I totally get that most people just don't care and I respect that.

  6. Try going through High School playing 40k... ugh now that's an experience I don't want to repeat in a hurry.
    I still remember the time when I was inside my FLGS, when a kid from my school walked past. What was initially shock turned into glee and from that moment onwards, I knew my reputation was gone....

    Then another one of my friends who was into the hobby used to buy things for me, as I would have to travel for around 30 minutes to get to the store, being much easier to just give him the money, purchases which he would carry throughout the entire school and multiple classes to present me box sets like the old Daemonettes in public view... It didn't help that it was an all boys school either.

    Ahhh, the days of high school, how I don't miss them.
    Uni was far better as the Wargaming club didn't get much negative attention, mostly being directed at the Sci Fi club, who were in the process of building a scale model of the TARDIS, ironically, an impossible task for any of you Dr. Who fans out there; I'm sure I'm not the only one!

  7. Like a few other's I work in IT so I'm supposed to be a nerd already. I ahve had a few people poke fun, but I've found that a wry smile and a comment about no emails for the next week or so makes people leave you alone.

    For me I'm confertable with my hobby and if people think its funny its upto them. I know if I sit for 10 seconds I could rip into elements of there life I think is funny :D

  8. I feel blessed that most people in my life accept and even support my hobby/hobbies. Then again, I've always been a bit odd, so collecting minis and painting them is one of the more normal things I do.

    Even better, my girlfriend has seen my "little army guys" and wants to paint a few minis along with me!

    As for my 'work family'... "meh"? I don't give them crap about their odd hobbies, so I don't take any crap about mine. If they don't like it, they can bugger off.

  9. I've gotten more grief from people wandering into a GW store while I was there than anywhere else.

    Overall, I'd say Rushputin above stole my thoughts eloquently. I will add that most people who go beyond a simple, "wow I can't believe that is something you do, I never knew" quickly begin to start making themselves a lesser person.

  10. I think that, as long as you're not ashamed of the fact that you 'play with toy soldiers', then people won't bother trying to embarass you with it - unless it's in fun, as DarkTemplar's best man did. People will only try to make fun of you if they can get a reaction.

    Plus, Winston Churchill was a wargamer, and he was badass.

  11. My family call them "my little smurfs" and on my last work I was so lucky to actually have two other fellow wargamers so we usually had quite interesting discussions around 40K, Historical Wargames etc.

    But usually I have a harder time to get people to understand that I still play RPG's. "Hey, my 12-year old nephew does that to" is the usual comment.

  12. A couple of my work buddies know what I do and it is a mixed bag.

    Some consider me and my "little men" hobby to be Uber-nerdy which is fine with me. One of them though has decided my "boy dollies" are a source of endless ridicule for me.

    Either way I could care less, my hobby entertaiins me and is a source of stress relief I do not get anywhere else. Cest la vie.

  13. On initial discovery of the game, my immediate family hated it (aside from Grandma), seeing them as 'toys' and calling them such. I agreed with that moniker & they had a 'well that didn't work' moment (though they kept at it for some time).

    Eventually it changed to begrudging acceptance that it wasn't going away Indeed, they actually bought me a landraider for Christmas once, my much valued paint box, and even my cordless dremel so that the cord wouldn't knock over my 'little men'.

    Once they found out I was selling minis on ebay and either recouping some of my money, an often making money, their attitude definitely changed towards the positive light.

    And finally after tackling the project of painting a life size cast of a triceratops skeleton @ a museum in which I volunteer (drybrushing for the win!), and that ultimately it was painting minis that put me in place to handle that project, there are no longer any complaints, period. :-)

    As for friends outside of the hobby, coworkers & extended family, etc., opinions have always been (and will probably always be) all across the board. However no one is surprised by it anymore. Whether seeing minis @ home, or photos of them on my screen saver @ work.

  14. Hahaha, great topic Ron!

    Until I broke my neck at the start of 2010 I was an elite level racing cyclist and rock climber, competing nationally and looking to push my level by moving to Europe. I'm also into turbo Japanese sports cars and do a bit of tuning and motorsport, being a large athletic dude with a pretty girlfriend and I guess more of a jock demeanor (without he douchebaggery, I just love sports) it really shocks the shit out of people that I paint for lack of a better word, toy soldiers, in my spare hours.

    People have a really hard time getting their heads around it, especially my sports and motors let's friends. My family think it's great and it has actually been a great opportunity for me to bond with my girlfriends son who is 11 and has just started playing and painting.

    My friends or my girl's friends who don't game and do find out about it cn usually understand the fact that I do paint for pleasure, but when the bag gets opened out and it turns out I have several thousand dollars worth of stuff for the game, a room pretty much solely dedicated to gaming and hobbying AND I dedicate my Wednesday nits to a gaming group consisting of mates from high school, they really have a hard time understanding and not openly taking the piss.

    I don't mind though, at the end of the day Charles Feduke summed it up beautifully in the second post. I could be sitting on the couch watching TV every night, or I could be utilising a whole heap of different technical skill sets to tackle the problems and make improvements in my gaming/hobby activities and generally improving the rest of my life in the process.

    P.s. I'm very lucky, neck is good now, 18 months on and I am finally cleared to train again post complications due to the hospital time and despite hoping to go back to being a semi-pro athlete I know I will still be in his miniature Wargaming scene for a good many years to come.

  15. At my last job, I was on break one day in the computer lab sitting next to a guy I worked with who was also my friend.

    While we were talking he noticed that I was browsing Warhammer stuff on Ebay, and in a hushed voice he asked, "Do you play 40K?" I took a look around the room to make sure no one was listening, and I looked back at him and nodded my head.

    We had both been playing since we were teenagers but it had never come up before because both of us had learned to not really talk about it in public. We still joke about that day.

    It was great, though, because we ended up going to a couple Games Days together.

  16. I may have a different experience, working in a call center, I'm surrounded by a lot of nerds, but most of the people's reactions to my hobby have been,"they're how small? and you paint that? how? I couldn't do that."

    The best reaction was nonverbal, though. I keep a space marine on my desk and one day I came in to find a note slipped underneath him stating "Space Marnies suck, Orks rule! WAAAAAGGHHH!!!"

  17. I think most well rounded adults can take a bit of mockery about the hobby, I certainly waist no time in ribbing my workmates to the best of my abilities!

    I kept it quiet but like on an early post at my bro's wedding (also a gamer) the best man (not a gamer!) spilled the beans so my whole family and work mates found out!! But working in a design agency they now help me mock new colour schemes and such.(but yes I get my legged pulled about it!)

    I think its harder for the young'ens trying to fit in and if their peers latch on to the fact its nerdy is where you will have most problems. And that depends on the confidence on the kid.

    I take the pee out of my own hobby, I dont care I love doing it, most people can see the point, its more when you tell them its how much they cost! Then its WTF? are you insane? How much? And even then when I tell them prices I knock them down a bit so I dont look like a total loser! ;)

  18. I started playing Warhammer in the late 90's when I was in high school and since that time comic books, sci-fi and video games have become much more mainstream. Back when I was a teenager if you wore a Star Wars or Batman shirt you basically put on a bulls-eye for being ostracized , but now there's racks upon racks of that stuff for sale at Target and Hot Topic and you sees teens wearing it everywhere. With this change over the years I've noticed that the reactions I get about my wargaming are much less negative.

    I also think people who are unfamiliar with the hobby get a better first impression and have a better reaction when they see something that's painted decently. Not that I'm an elite painter, but I've gotten a lot of "wow, you painted those yourself?" when people see my display case in my spare room.

  19. Haha, when I worked at a construction place my co-workers treated the hobby like the plague too.

  20. Have to agree 100% Ron - although the majority of the work family are yet to find out...

  21. My friends were always accepting of it, and I introduced some of them to the addiction of gaming. We're all geeks though, so that works just fine.

    My immediate family didn't have any problems with it and supported me. They saw it as a creative outlet.

    Doesn't usually come up at work, though one guy at my last job played the 40k computer games, and my odd mess of tools and fine work comes in handy sometimes. Other times it would be me telling my boss, "Don't throw that out, it's coming home with me." He's an astrology geek though and understands "geek" hobbies to a certain extent from it, so he never though the junk I brought home was unusual.

  22. Excellent article Ron. I've never lied about my 'little men', but am not 100% open about it with my non-gamer-buddies. If they don't ask, I don't tell. They're the type of people that will never get it... or maybe never be bothered to get it is more like it.

    I think embarrassment took me away from the hobby 10 or so years ago. It won't again. Weirdly I also say 'it keeps me off the streets causing trouble'.

  23. Careful posting this stuff Ron- I know it sounds funny, but you wouldn't believe the number of times I've heard a story about somebody posting something that humorously ripped on a coworker (usually it's on Facebook) and they got nailed for it.

    That said- I think this article is great. I'm in college and people definitely judge me. I paint in my dorm room and I hide everything if I have a lady over haha.

  24. Interesting article.

    Having recently gotten back into it after about 10 years break, I just looked at it as what it was - a creative out let for me to use some of my down time - that had no leash or ties.

    My family - well my father appreciates the art side of things, and oddly enough takes an active interest in it. My brother is a massive geek, and was the reason I ever knew about GW. Hell he even bought warmachine for himself (and subsquently asked me to paint it for him).

    Outside of that - I am certainly don't ask don't tell, but those that have encountered with it, I quite calmly explain its something that I feel I can outlet a creative channel into, and being an incredibly un-artistic person I feel quite proud when I get positive comments about my models (just recently won best painted single model at a tourney for UK bloggers!) not bad for a guy that can barely draw a stick man.

    Funny thing about secret hobbies though. One of my close friends was at a wedding with my brother, they walked past GW (I wasnt there) - and my brother knew I did it, glanced at it, then our friend looked in and went inside - picked up some paint brushes - saying "ahh I need these, got a couple of models ..." turns out not only he does it, one guy we'd never have pegged as a GW geek is massivily into the fiction and loves space hulk etc (we play a game and he'll write a narrative afterwards and email it to us!). Funny thing about secret hobbies eh?

    Anyway - its not as bad as world of warcraft, which nearly ruined my degree, friendships and health! Though I did make thousands of pounds out of that game :/

    Anyway - enough of my pointless rambling.

  25. It's almost like you were reading my mind, Ron. Except for the part about making money from it, you're echoing what I experience and how others see what I do. And I deal with it in the same way. I actually make no secret of it - sort of Hobby Pride and talk about it a lot.

    My long suffering wife calls them my Polly Pockets, and occasionally asks me "How many soldiers do you need?" to which I reply "How long's a piece of string?". It's not a need. It's a want. It's a desire (I always internally vocalise that word like Don LeFontaine). It's better than drinking and cheaper than smoking.
    I have about 8000 points of Dark Angels and about 3000 points of nids. I'm buying my son an Ork army for Christmas - this weekend - and will be working on that as a surprise for him. I have no idea what her reaction will be lol

  26. I think its funny that there is a stigma attached to playing Wargames.

    I mean of course we all get it, but most consider it a nerd or little kid thing. Most civilians introduction to miniatures is related to D&D and role playing games, which oddly enough has little to do with miniatures or wargaming.

    I even call it Nerdhammer to take the tease away from whoever I am talking to.

    If pressed for details I explain it like a science fiction version of chess on a bigger table with models you have to paint.

    No one makes fun of chess players, or tank model builders.

    Also if this nerdy hobby is you greatest vice, I think you are doing pretty good. Sure its expensive, but so is drinking and smoking, and what do you have to show for after that? Or how about a boat or jet ski, talk about a waste of money.

    I also think that you have to be of a certain intelligence and of at least some artistic talent and exercising your mind has been proven to help us out when we get old and our brains start falling apart, so we may very well have the last laugh.

    H.G.Wells played wargames and even wrote one of the oldest rules sets; Little Wars.

    Robin Williams, Will Smith, Jay and Silent Bob all play Warhammer, as well as many more folks who we will never know about.

    I don't get any real trouble about my nerdy hobby, if you ever met me you might guess why. I dont get much trouble about anything really.

    Sadly I have heard of kids getting picked on and even beat up and having their models destroyed right outside of GW stores, and I have even seen a kid run into a GW store for safety after being chased down by bigger teen aged kids in a mall.

    There is a special place in hell for bullies like that, and god help them if this old man gets a hold of them, they will have a quick lesson in Ogre justice.( please read as appropriate force to detain until law enforcement arrives.)

    Finally it is of little importance to me for others to understand or support my hobby, I find all the support I need from friends and fellow bloggers. Normally I am happy to downplay and nerdify it to civilians, I find that a simple "oh you don't want to hear about all that" will at times have the reverse effect and leave them wondering a bit.

    Santa Cruz Warhammer

  27. Holy cow! Thanks for the insight into your lives guys. It's so interesting to see that others are right in the same boat.

    I didn't think this would generate such a cool discussion about the hobby/real world.

  28. Oh Yeah, Ron, tell your work buddies that you and your silly nerdman army buddies raised over $16,000 for charity last year.

    There was big article in the local paper and on TV about the local merchants taking donations for Japan relief raising $980. while this is great, I couldn't help thinking that 40 or so local businesses averaged 24 bucks or so each over a week.

    Makes me proud to be a nerd.

    Santa Cruz Warhammer

  29. Wow, a lot of people here have had awful experiences!

    While considered a bit nerdy here, I've never experienced the animosity or disapproving glares of society at large like some have. Wisconsin has been fairly open to these kinds of things, being the home of Dungeons and Dragons creation (Lake Geneva, WI).

    My family has been supportive of my hobby (even if some don't really 'get it'), and are usually quite impressed with either the models I have painted or what I have been building from cheap materials. My friends have been gamers for years and I've always surrounded myself with other gamers of one type or another. I'm sure once I get my degree the people I work with will think it silly, but I won't worry much about what they think.

    Hobbies are meant to be enjoyed and I can't imagine a world where people would want to cause me grief for enjoying pushing a model across a table and throwing some dice.

  30. My three gold crowns:

    Crown one: first comment here. Do appreciate it. (I'm kidding of course, glad to be here, this is a fantastic little piece of The Web).

    Crown two: I'm with most of the people here. What's left of my real family treats my hobby as something between harmless (if costly) quirk and part of what makes me a me. My work colleagues... well, I could not care less, to be honest. Some of my friends poke good-natured fun at me and my toy soldiers, but it's all laughs. So still fun.

    Crown three: almost a year ago my engagement ended suddenly and without warning after seven years of being together. I don't want it to sound the wrong way, but after I got myself together I threw myself into the hobby work and that was what truly got me back on my feet, I think.

  31. I have never really have had to endure the social stigma that others here have. I tend to be open about my "dollies" , a term my daughter three at the time coined, my general approach is to describe the game as toy soldiers with a 100 page rule book and leave it at that. While most of my coworkers and neighbors clearly don't get it, I don't catch flack for it either.

    If I had any advice to give it would be don't be ashamed of your hobby but also realize that most people don't care about your plastic men.

  32. Part of the problem is that the media (in its various forms) perpetuates stereotypes which the public buys into, often in defiance of what they see before their eyes. It doesn't matter how your co-workers or friends (if they're not into the hobby or identify through other forms of geekery) view you, once they learn you're into a geeky hobby, the sterotyped gets applied to you like a wash, blurring the details of your identity.

    I actually find it worst when people get confused when you clearly don't conform to the stereotype, then you inevitably get the "But I only thought such and such a person was into X hobby." Almost as if you HAVE to possess a set of characteristics generally perceived as undesirable by the general public/media in order to enjoy a particular hobby. It also gets frustrating when friends or acquaintances are clearly impressed by your paitning, but this is still accompanied by confusion as to why you are doing it.

    I'm fortunate that most of my friends share common interests or, because they are friends, like me for who I am rather than my interests. My other half, while not really interested in painting little men herself (although she's not half bad at it), at least seems impressed by what I do.

  33. I've always liked the quote "Nobody can insult you without your permission". Seems to fit the mood here.

  34. I don't hide my hobby as a matter of fact I only receive my stuff at my office. so far even it is nit everyone favorite subject it is true that almost every one wonders how I manage to paint them and express the is an interesting hobby. About my family my wife always threaten me with acts of faith but she preferences that I invest my time in a vice that is positive.
    in ALL I Fell as a lucky man.

  35. Great article. I remember when my addiction came out at the office. I had referred my best friend to a position on the team I am on ( I am a software engineer as well) my boss asked him at the end of the interview "Tell us one thing we don't know about Falconator" (quite literally using that name, as he is the one who first came up with it). My buddy says "He paints dolls."

    So I get this random email from my boss asking about my doll painting cc'd to our entire team. I replied with a picture of a space marine and a link to my website. I get the occasional wise crack now and then, but our group is much like a family so its all well and good.

    Keep up the awesome.

    P.S. I know far more socially awkward chess players than wargamers...( and dangit chess is not a difficult or "smart" game - personal rant)

  36. Wow Ron! Seriously good topic, as others have said.

    I'm in the military, so you can imagine the potential for getting grief from my co-workers. Usually, when someone asks what I do with my free time, I explain it as "scale military models." Surprisingly, that usually gets a "That's cool" from males or "Oooh..." from females. And without lying, I just explain that it's a creative outlet for me, and I really enjoy painting.

    If I ever have to explain 40K, I usually equate it to chess. "Imagine a game of chess where you get to pick all the pieces on your side. Exchange 3 pawns for an additional knight. And the board you're playing on has three dimensional features..." That usually explains the game with enough detail to convey why I might spend all this time bothering myself with it.

    Rushputin really hit the nail on the head though. Having worked in a video game store, I've seen all too often the nerd that thinks that just because he loves something, everyone else does or should. Having to stomach someone rambling on and on about their favorite game, which I actually detest, and just smile and nod was always painful. I learned right then that I should only talk about my hobbies (war gaming or otherwise) to the extent that the listener cares. That is determined by their questions.

    Other than all that, I usually take the following stance on sharing my hobby: I love it, it makes me happy. I try not to judge other peoples' past times ("Magic is better than Yu-Gi-Oh!" etc...). And if someone IS interested in what I do, great. Almost everyone has something they do that they care about. If they don't, I just kinda feel bad for them.

    Anyways... I went way too long with this comment. Sorry.

  37. All kidding aside, thank you everyone who has shared their personal experiences. I think the comments are far better than the article itself here.

  38. A lot of my friends either are or were involved in the hobby as well, and of those that aren't most of them know about it and don't give me any stick, apart from the occasional toy soldiers comment said in jest.

    My family are totally cool with it and listen to me when I go on about it, but my wife and her family (or at least her and her mum) don't really approve and refuse to buy it for me for birthdays or christmas. That's fine to me and I don't mention it around them really, instead preferring to keep it to myself.

    I am not going to stop this hobby anytime soon, as I have been doing it on and off (but mostly on) for the best part of 18 years and have loved every single minute of it. I have most likely spent thousands on it over the years, but hey it's gotta be better than spending the same money on getting out of your skull on booze or drugs right? At least this way I have something to show for it afterwards!!

  39. Very well said Ron. I think most of the previous comments have covered all the various events that have occurred with me and mentioning my hobby to others.

    I've always been forthcoming with my hobby, and seem to have generally positive feedback, or a lack of negative (if that's right?). I have learned though it's not something to go into detail about unless questioned. Keep it short, sweet and to the point and most people don't really bother.

    If they do give me trouble (and it is rarely, and usually from the female gender) I generally ask them what they do with their spare time (and money), and proceed to then either question them on their reasons for it or just rip it out of them depending on their level of annoyance.

    But truly I don't care what others think. My hobby makes me happy and that's what counts!


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