As I have alluded to in several posts (here, here, and here)there is a growing trend towards the small and micro in the hobbies that I participate in: model railroading, and board gaming. I think this worth noticing. The fact of the matter is, we Americans are pretty excessive in a lot of ways. We have big cars/trucks, big houses, eat big meals, excessive amounts of meat, etc. This big mindset also carries into our hobbies too. We have big model railroad layouts that take up entire basements, small barns, whole living areas, etc. On the gaming side, we have the massive game closets with hundreds upon hundreds of games that we will likely never play, or we focus on the big ticket games with lots of pieces and the big sticker price to go with it.
We like things big. However, I am not convinced that that mindset is entirely sustainable or wise. After all, we have finite time and resources, and it seems to me, no matter how wonderful the hobby, that it is a bit of a waste when we get too excessive with how we enjoy our hobbies. Now to be sure, each person’s standard of excessiveness varies, in part to income and time available. I am not trying to point fingers at anyone in particular or draw a line at what is excessive. I am merely suggesting that perhaps we spend too much and invest too much in our hobbies.
Perhaps this is more visible to me because of my frugality, and frugal constraints. I have some time to spend, but little money. So I am more conscious of what I put into my hobbies.This is why I craft games and why I keep myself limited in my layout, and intend to scratch build everything on the layout. I have card stock, a printer, tools, glues, and bits of plastic details, etc. I don’t have money budgeted to my hobbies. So I build everything cheaply, frugally. I keep my scope limited in keeping with my limited resources.
And, I limit my time. While I have lots of time thanks to the way my job is structured, I have other obligations too. (as I discussed in this post) My family needs to come first. While I don’t always get my priorities straight, I do my best to not let my hobbies squeeze out my family and my other commitments.
This is why I am a proponent of this micro movement I have alluded to. They are smaller, less excessive, and more manageable. In the gaming world, they are less work to craft, require less extra pieces, and the main highlights: play quickly. For someone with few game times and limited times in those gaming evenings, it is nice to have a little game that gives you the same feel of a much bigger game in a much smaller footprint and play time.
Publishers and PnP designers are noticing, and there is fast becoming a plethora of good little games to buy or build. I think the investment going into this is laudable. Not only are these games much more affordable (which here at the Frugal Hobbyist is a very good thing), they are just as much fun. I have reviewed 2 micro games so far, and hope to do more. (If you are a designer or publisher with a micro game you want reviewed, let me know! =) )
On the model railroad side, focusing on the small and micro is rewarding too. There is a whole website devoted to layouts in minimalist spaces with many innovative designs, and the majority of them are smaller than 4 square feet! Even if you don’t want to confine yourself to a layout that small, the ideas and techniques used to build these small masterpieces are certainly applicable.
So why confine yourself to such a small area? Several reasons come to mind. First, a small project is manageable. By that I mean both in time spent, and money spent. Typically, the smaller the layout, the less you spend, which I think is a good thing. Secondly, a micro or small layout can be just as much fun to operate. Granted you can’t host the massive operating sessions with a small army of people, but if you are like me, it is not like you have a group of people to do that with anyways. And, likely, you don’t have 3-4 hours to spend just running trains. A small layout can be interesting to operate, even realistically, and while it could be an enjoyable chunk of time, it wouldn’t monopolize your evening.
Also, because the layout is small, you can focus more on the detail. If you want, you could scratchbuild everything (a route I am going down, in part because it is cheaper, and in part because it is fun, and I can make a unique model). Plus the layout doesn’t take up as much valuable space in the house, and in some cases, give space back. My 40″ x 60″ layout sits in our study, and also serves as a storage area for all my stuff, which helps cut down the clutter. Plus it doesn’t overwhelm the room.
These small, micro trends certainly seem like they are here to stay and I think they are worth paying attention to. Do we really need to spend as much as we do, and take up as much space as we do? I don’t think we do. To be sure, some folks love the way they enjoy their hobbies, and I can’t fault them for that. It is, after all, a hobby, and there is plenty of room for different viewpoints. But, I think a case can be strongly made that small is good too. Now, if you excuse me, I have some small projects to work on!
Please feel free to comment below. What are your thoughts on smaller versus bigger?