The Cost of a Hobby

A hobby….any hobby has a cost factor associated to it.  Each hobby I know of (and certainly those I’m involved with) have a cost which I like to call the introductory cost.  By introductory cost I’m talking about the cost which you must pay to even participate.  Now some people may not think of flight simulation as a hobby.  I’m sure if you went to the streets and asked random individuals how to classify flight simulation using Microsoft Flight Simulator or X-Plane, the results would probably lean towards it being considered just a game.  Perhaps to some of us that is all it is.  But to many others (and probably if you are reading this) it means a lot more.

Please allow me to step away from the topic of flight simulation for a moment.  I’ll get back on track in just a moment.  I have many hobbies in my life.  I’m a licensed amateur radio operator, I love photography and I enjoy the game of golf.  Each of these hobbies include an inductory cost which I talked about just a moment ago.  If you play golf you probably own your clubs and in order to play a round you have costs associated with that (green fees and cart rental).  If you enjoy photography and consider that a hobby, then you probably own a camera, a collection of lenses and other accessories.  Back in the day you had costs to even determine if the photos you had captured on film even looked half-way decent.  Of course today with digital you can view either on camera or on a computer before you decide to print the photo.  If amateur radio is your hobby, then you have costs associated with earning your license and then you have costs associated with the purchase of transceivers, antennas and power supplies. 

Now in each of the three hobbies I mentioned above, excluding the introductory costs, you have varying levels of costs associated.  In golf you can choose to buy your clubs second hand or select a less expensive set.  Of course you can also go for the very best and use the same set of clubs the pros use.  In photography you can also use a second hand camera and lenses or you can purhase any number of brands and models….the sky is the limit.  With regards to amateur radio….the same applies.  Used versus new and also depending on your interests of wanting to talk to people across town, across the state or around the world.  The costs associated with those all range from the low end to $$$$$.  By the way, if you want to learn more about the hobby of amateur radio please visit my blog and/or podcast website.

Now before I come full circle and get back on topic.  Let me just make this one statement.  With ANY hobby, what you get from that hobby is a direct reflection of what you are willing to put into it.  Now….this doesn’t always mean money.   The best golfers in the world can play with just about any club and make it work.  Some pretty darn good photographs have been made with a pin hole camera and I’ve talked around the world on my ham radio with a very small and inexpensive antenna.  But in each of these examples, it takes time….it takes patience and it takes a commitment.  I believe the commitment actually comes from accepting something (anything) as a hobby. 

OK….let’s get back on track.  I hope you  are still with me.  Now you might be wondering why I’m blogging about the topic “The Cost of a Hobby”.  What got me thinking about this?  Well….if you’ve read my introduction blog post here you know that I’m a long-time flight simmer who has been flying computer simulators for over 25 years.  You also know that I stepped away from the hobby about 5 years ago and now getting back onboard.  In the past month I’ve spent a few dollars building a new PC which I’ve dedicated to flight simulation.  You can read that blog posthere.  

Last night I was using Google to find more blogs and other online resources about our hobby and stumbled on the 10 Minute Taxi YouTube channel.  Each segment ArcHammer (Shane) discusses topics related to the hobby of flight simulation and typically does all this in a short 10 minute segment.  Recently he discussed the cost of various flight sim add-ons with a guest host (Vance from Sonic Solutions).  You can view that episode here.  Specifically they discuss the issue of some flight sim add-ons actually costing more than the base software (MS Flight Simulator) does.   In addition, they talk about the demographics of those participating in our hobby.  We have a strong user/customer base and the point the host tries to drive home is it shouldn’t cost as much as it does for certain add-ons.  Please take a few minutes to watch this episode.

In my own opinion, I would have to agree with the point Shane and Vance are trying to make.  However, I also subscribe to the philosophy that there is nothing free in life.   The good thing about the Flight Sim hobby and community is there are a lot of low to no-cost accessories (panels, sounds, aircraft etc.) to help keep us entertained and help to add more realism into our hobby.  The one take-away from that episode of 10 Minute Taxi was just how much these online stores charge the developers.  Vance mentioned the on-line stores will take between 20 and 30%.   Again, in my opinion that is a lot of money especially when you look at the volume some of these on-line retailers are selling.  But I also understand these guys have costs associated with their on-line presence. 

At this point, I don’t really have any answers.  After all I’ve been away from the hobby for almost 5 years.  I guess the business is sustaining itself.  I mean, the on-line retailers are charging the developers 20-30% and the developers are successful at moving their product.  I suppose us consumers are in the drivers seat in this.  Meaning we either continue to pay the prices which will continue to allow these costs to be justified or we don’t.  This is all a very fine line. 

The last comment I’ll make about the 10 Minute Taxi episode, is I’m glad I fit smack dab in the middle of the demographics Shane discussed. I’ll turn 44 in a few weeks, I have a successful career which allows me the opportunity to do the things I want to do with regards to the flight simulation hobby (or any hobby for that matter).  I’m also glad to know I’m among “like individuals”.  While this hobby needs youth participation to continue to grow…it also needs those of us in the older crowd.  I call this balance and it’s good.

So is there a take-away to this blog entry?  Sure…if you’re reading this and not currently involved in the hobby of flight sim…don’t let the glossy pages of Computer Pilot Magazine (I’ll blog about this magazing soon) and the $$$$ for computer hardware and such scare you away.  While you will need a computer and you’ll need a version of Microsoft Flight Simulator and you’ll need at a minimum a joystick of some sort….that’s it.  That’s really all you need to get started.  This…and only this can be considered your cost of getting started in the hobby.  There is a ton of fun to be had just in this basic setup.   How you continue to grow and experience the hobby is all in your control from that point forward.

Until next time,

J


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