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A High School Secret

Space Marines
(James H.)– I had one great fear in high school, something I kept locked away from everyone, terrified that if they ever found out, they’d never treat me the same way. It was a secret I was completely ashamed of, something I was convinced made me unlovable. I hid my secret deep in desk drawers, in magazines under my mattress, in deleted internet histories.

Yes, you guessed correctly. In high school I was terrified that people would find out how much I loved the tabletop miniature war-game, Warhammer 40,000.

Sure, everyone has some “nerdy” hobby. Some of us are really into anime. Others, knitting. A select few, masturbating wildly onto Organic Chemistry lecture slides. But Warhammer isn’t like that. It’s not your typical nerdy hobby. It’s a fucking nerd supernova. And like a supernova, Warhammer 40,000 obliterates everything in its path (your social life).

It’s not a board game. You don’t buy a premade box of figures and just get to playing around the kitchen table on family game night. No. Warhammer 40,000 is a lifestyle. You buy boxes of unassembled warriors. You build them. You paint them. You fabricate an elaborate backstory for your army – my Eldar (space elves) hailed from the floating craftworld of Iyanden, ravaged by the constant threat of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Kraken. I was particularly proud of my Fire Dragon Aspect Warriors, and when my older brother told me that my paint job sucked, I stole a private moment on the balcony to have myself a little cry. This is the same brother who once publically described my army as “homosexuals in space.” Again, barely suppressed tears. I was that emotionally invested.

But don’t worry, it’s not like this is an expensive hobby. Oh wait, these aren’t toy soldiers. They’re “tabletop miniatures.” AKA they are probably the reason we had to sell our house. Putting a complete army together – glue, paints, clippers, scenery, supplemental rulebooks, “HQ,” “elite,” “troop”, “fast attack,” and “heavy support” figures – costs literally hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

But finally, all your hard work pays off. You get your mom to surreptitiously drop you off at the local hobby shop so you can spend a Saturday afternoon engaged in an elaborate dick measuring ritual with fellow males aged twelve to forty-five. On a good day your greatest triumph is watching a human child emotionally self-destruct when their Space Marine Land Raider suffers a “Vehicle Destroyed” dice roll by a Tau XV88 Battlesuit’s Twin-linked Railgun system. But what’s the point of revealing all of this? (I mean, aside from my clear desire never to have sex again).

Recently I’ve been thinking about having useless, nerdy hobbies – things that exist in a world totally separate from our normal academic, extracurricular, and even social lives. I wish for the life of me that instead of dicking around on Facebook for two hours, or trying to force myself to do something “intellectually stimulating” in lieu of Netflix, that I could just sit at my desk and build some Warhammer guys again. If I had hundreds of dollars of disposable income, maybe I would.

Robbie's Text

Addiction is still a daily struggle for my older brother.

I guess what I’m saying is that a lot of us could benefit from having some productive, but ultimately unimportant hobbies. Like learning origami, or whittling, or building little toy soldiers. I’m tired of responding to the inevitable “what to do you like to do in your free time?” question with the same jumble of pathetic non-responses. I get bored listening to myself at Japanese language table every week. “Do you have weekend plans Hildebrand-san? Yes, sensei, I plan to sleep lololol! Oh Hildebrand-san you are just too much to handle, girlfriend!”

It’s so easy to get caught up performing the part of Amherst overachiever. You work your ass off all week and spend the weekends plowing through application after paper after email, only to baptize yourself in Keystone for the week to come. Give yourself a work-free, extracurricular-free, sub-free, internet-free Saturday, and what would you do? For my part, I don’t know if I can answer that anymore. I like to read, but I don’t really feel like I have anything that makes me particularly interesting these days. Like so many of us, I use my class year, my major, and my extracurriculars to present myself to other people, but what good is that? Really, who cares?

I’m ready for a paradigm shift. I’m ready to start conversations without saying I’m a sophomore or that I’m pre-med or that I super duper can’t wait to study abroad.  These days, I’d much rather talk about protecting the galaxy from the forces of Chaos.

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17 comments on “A High School Secret

  1. Anonymous
    April 22, 2013

    James, man to man: marry me. I play Necrons btw.

  2. chrismusgrave
    April 23, 2013

    Great post! Also very funny and something most of us can relate to! Without going into a ton of crap in my past, if people ask me these days what I do, I simply say that I do a bit painting. If you haven’t already, check out the books the Black Library publish, or the video games (so good). A simple way to get a bit of a ‘warhams’ fix without the crazy cost.

  3. Bob Wilson
    April 24, 2013

    I love your writing style. Your contributions are fantastic. Please keep it up.

  4. Jay B
    April 25, 2013

    I stopped playing when I was 15. Ten years later I got back into 40k because I really liked the hobby and nothing else really took my fancy. I have never had so much fun :D.

    Look I know the shame sucks, 40k is not going to get you laid (or at least in a way anyone would want), but after a while you just have to ask yourself “If I like this and I decide how I spend my time… why not play it?”

    29 wargamer here, no regrets!

  5. Hunter Talbot
    April 25, 2013

    Hot Warhams in progress…. mmmmm War Ham

  6. Morten Heath
    April 25, 2013

    Hallelujah! Lately the only thing I find myself thinking of, when at my first part-time job, or second part-time job, or preparing for my classes as a teaching assistent in arabic is: when will I have time to finish my newely aguired Dark Angels from the dark vengeance box?! Or magnetizie the razorback/rhino I bought!? For the Emperor ;)

  7. Come to Adepticon next year or the Nova Open and revel, my brother!

  8. Pete
    April 25, 2013

    Warhammer is no more useless than sitting on the couch watching a football game and cheering for your favorite team, memorizing their stats, and arguing with your friends and family about this player or that player.

    It’s fun, you play with friends (hopefully) and if you get into the hobby enough you even learn painting, modeling, and sculpting skills.

    Don’t let non-nerds convince you that just because you’re playing with toy soldiers in an imaginary sci-fi universe that your passion somehow should make you more embarrassed in yourself from someone who watches the Kardashians or has a fantasy football team.

  9. Anonymous
    April 25, 2013

    M.ed here. I get you. Orks. WWWAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHH!

  10. Bryan Monesson-Olson
    April 25, 2013

    I dug this article, then I noticed we are both at Amherst! I too had Warhammer shame, but I know believe in Warhammer pride. People are generally more curious than put off.

  11. Anonymous
    April 27, 2013

    Had a tabletop club in Highschool :)

  12. Zero
    April 29, 2013

    Shared on my 40k blog. Thanks for the laughs.

  13. AlphaPapa
    May 7, 2013

    There are enthusiasts in any and every hobby that exists. Don’t be ashamed of it, there is nothing wrong with. I had a girlfriend all through highschool, several girlfriends all throughout after highschoool even with all my hobbies(D&D, Magic, Warhammer, etc.).

    And now, married and 2 kids. I still play Warhammer Fantasy, 40k, Super Dungeon Explore, Magic, etc. In fact, my wife plays some of the games with me and has realized just how much fun it actually is.

    In fact, my wife has noted that my hobbies are much more productive than say wasting my time going to a strip bar or doing drugs. We all have things we like to do, why worry about what others think? My life is filled with so much more than killing little toy soldiers on a gaming board(lifting weights, running, reading, photography, etc..) but it is definitely a gret part of what type of person I am.

  14. Farseer Saeralyhn
    May 10, 2013

    Love this piece!
    I just don’t agree with warhammer killing you social life (or chances to get laid), since my bf and I started setting up a hobby club at our local store my life has become much busier. and as for girls shying away from it… then you’ve met the wrong girls i guess (though i know we’re a minority in the wargaming world)… perhaps you could try to lure girls in through the lore (probably black library books)?

    Anyway, i love this piece, and hope you find the money for starting your new army soon!

    Farseer Saeralyhn

  15. nitherimo
    August 18, 2013

    Awesome article! I’m starting Uni in a month and I’m not quite sure how people would react to seeing my desk littered with half-painted orks.

    I didn’t get into my first choice Uni, which is a shame because they had an actual organised Warhammer club that was even advertised on the University website, I’m pretty sure they even had their own gaming room on campus as some of the lecturers played as well. Thinking about it that my have been a large contributing factor to why I wanted to go there :L Screw my law degree, burning heretics and purging planets is where it’s at!

  16. Pingback: Happy Birthday ACV! A year in numbers | AC VOICE

  17. Eric
    October 6, 2013

    Loved this article! I am a senior in high school and have been playing the hobby since 5th grade. The “Warhammer shame” is so relatable. Fortunately, my friends and I decided to come out of the “warhammer closet” a couple years ago and since, have added members to our “group”. I’ve found that the people who discover your obsession with tabletop miniatures and accept you for who you are, are the people who are worth being friends with. (I like to view it as a filtering system to weed out the good ones). Stay strong brothers and long live the Lizardmen!

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2013 by in Media and tagged , , , .

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