I hear and read all the time about 40K players who say that unless you're building, painting and rolling dice, you aren't really engaged in the hobby. That you aren't "bringing the hobby back." What a load of crap.
It doesn't matter how you do it...just engage in the 40K universe and we all benefit. Seriously, are folks that play 40K board games not benefiting the hobby? What about PC or console games? What about those of us immersed in the backstory...prolific customers of Black Library? What if I build and paint, but don't play? Are people who have someone else build and paint their models somehow more engaged as long as they play on the table top? I want to briefly discuss each of these avenues of engagement and see if they benefit the hobby.
First, let's define the hobby. For the purposes of this discussion, I will define it as anyone who engages in an activity that is associated with the 40K universe. That being done, let's start with PC/console gamers. So someone bought Space Marine for their console. They have played it for several hours. Don't you think, even if they have never picked up a piece of plastic or resin, that they are engaged in the 40K universe? They have seen Space Marines, Orks, Guard, e.g. They understand some of the basic story line. Most importantly, they have become someone, for however short a period of time, has become immersed in our world. The same of PC games. There are several out there and more incoming, so this will engage even more folks in a venue in which they are comfortable. Does it matter that the console or PC game doesn't come with figs to build and paint? Of course not.
40K board and card games have been growing in popularity over the last several years, thanks in no small part to our friends at Fantasy Flight. Relic and Conquest come to mind right away. These games get folks engaged who may never have picked up a plastic mini, and certainly immerse them in the darkness and grim reality of the 41st millennium. Relic and Conquest are both played at the board game club at my high school. Several of these young people have gone on the read 40K novels. NONE of them engage in "the hobby." Despite this, they are contributing to a large group of people who have come to know and enjoy the Grimdark.
Black Library you say? Damn right! My friend Kevin and I, who have not played each other on the table top since last fall, can sit for hours talking about the Horus Heresy. Our favorite Primarchs, characters, chapters. We can discuss Eldar novels and stories of the Inquisition. I listen to audio much more than he does, but we still enjoy how much the back story adds to our enjoyment of our version of "the hobby." Sure, we talk rules and model building as well, but the story itself is what occupies the bulk of our time. If I never built another 40K model, I would still be patronizing Black Library on a regular basis.
What about those of us who build and paint, but have not played on the table top in a while? We have purchased new dexes and downloaded rules, made lists, and built models to fill those lists with actual plastic soldiers. Are we not part of "bringing the hobby back?" Will I eventually get enough stuff built to engage in casual games again (I am in the process of selling my rather large Nid army)? Sure, but in the meantime, I am as much a part of the hobby as anyone who rolls hundreds of dice during the course of an evening at a local FLGS. And what do I do as I'm building and painting? Listen to podcast and audio books. All in baby, all in!
So here a an interesting question for those who consider those who don't table top to not be part of "the hobby;" what about the folks out there who pay someone else to build and paint models for them, and just get right to gaming? IMO, who puts the glue and paint on the minis have nothing to do with hobby. I also play Infinity, and more than a couple of the folks in my local gaming group commission another member to paint their minis. They may not "hobby," but damn, they can play the game! The minis look great and I have a great time, whether getting my butt kicked or not. Building and painting is definitely a part of our community, but should not be a metric of whether or not someone is engaged.
Finally, there are those who actually play 40K. I think it is a good thing that folks take the time out of their busy lives to hang out with friends, consume adult beverages and throw down in battles of life and death in the 41st millennium. Is this the heart of 40K? Maybe 20 years ago. But today, 40K exists in so many forms, formats and venues. Each of these contributes to the overall success, and survival, of the Grimdark that we love.
The point is this: no matter how we engage this wonderful, make believe universe, we are all part of a larger community. We need to celebrate any time we find out that someone is involved in 40K, no matter the shape or form. Each gateway to the Grimdark that is added, the more ways we have to enjoy "the hobby."
How do you engage the Grimdark?