Sunday 11 October 2015

The importance of having a hobby

My knight is cool, but only has a passing relevance to this post.

This year I have started running a Warhammer club for students at the school in which I work. It seems to be taking off, however there has been a small quantity of agro sent my way from various students.

Sir, you play Warhammer, really, isn't that for children, (most children aged 12 or above don't apply the label child to themselves). It's so stupid. Why would anyone be interested in that? 
All very predictable and to be expected. However, it did get me to thinking.

Where does this desire to be 'normal', to limit ones potential hobbies an interests to a very narrow band, actually come from? And, crucially, why are some people not affected by it?

Nine times out of ten, this chain of thought would just terminate with, 'well that's freedom of choice in action. People don't have to account to me for their likes and dislikes.'

On the other hand, I am a teacher, and one of the things I believe is that no on really knows if they are going to like something unless they try it, that's why schools force students to learn a little bit about everything before they are allowed to specialise.

At this point I expect some people are thinking: 'That's all well and good, but playing Warhammer has less potential utility then say, learning French.'

Fair enough, playing Warhammer, by itself isn't as useful, but in general terms I believe having a hobby of some sort is just as important as many of the subjects we learn at school.

I have always held with the theory that it is vitally important to good mental health to have some sort of Third Place. I don't hold that it has to be a physical place that you visit, although that is helpful. I do think it is vitally important to have some third interest capable of occupying your thoughts and downtime outside of your home/family life and work/school life. It needs to be something one can actively engage in. Not something passive, like TV. Something with the capacity to get you to think about it, even when not actively engaged in it. Something you enjoy, but which is also a challenge.

No, it doesn't have to be some kind of nerdy activity like Warhammer. It could be sports or church, but schools can be very good at exposing children to these kinds of potential interests. Those sorts of things aren't for every single student. So, yeah, I think encouraging kids to try Warhammer is actually one of them more important things I do in a week.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. A couple of thoughts:
    1. What qualifies as active? I would argue I've put as much thought in to League of Legends between item builds and strategies as goes in to a Wargame, and if that qualifies can Call of Duty?
    2. Most activities like this cost money. How to get kids from lower income families a similar escape?

    I do think some "me time" of whatever kind is important, and that it is far more healthy for it to be something mentally active (and most physically active pursuits require a fair use of your brain, more than vegetating in front of a TV).

  2. Video games mostly count. I would definitely say Moba type games and MMO's tend to qualify as hobbies in their own right. You can also be a gamer in the wider sense as a hobby, and that's great too. I would stop short of saying all games, all the time though, because there are also a lot of popular games that are quite passive, which don't really engage the brain in the same way. Countless tablet clicking games, for example.

    Call of Duty? Absolutely it can. No worries there.

    Equality of opportunity is always going to be a problem. That's one of the best things about running clubs in schools. I've had donations from Games Workshop (Yes, really) donations from a local hobby store. Another member of staff who plays has donated a lot of kits and terrain, and I have donated a lot of dice, templates, clippers. Yes, the kids who bring there own stuff are probably going to get the most out of it - but we are able to do a fair bit with goodwill.