Viewpoint – March 2017

So much of what we do is about perception. We are reliant on the information that others provide and all too often we base our opinions on the information that is provided for us, rather than making any real effort to find things out for ourselves.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw a conversation on one of the online forums I frequent. The thing that shocked me most was that the arguments were old ones; they were resurfacing and reinforcing old perceptions, old prejudices, old assumptions about our importance in the world order.

It’s no secret that my preferred modelling scale these days is 1/48; often referred to as ‘quarter scale’ because a quarter of an inch equates to one foot, or more arrogantly by some as TOTS – ‘the one true scale’. The reality is that my preferred scale is a minority one in armour terms. It’s a niche interest in a far broader hobby. I’m comfortable with that. In a perverse sort of way I actually enjoy following the path less travelled, appreciating the greater challenge of working within a more limited market with fewer specialist providers and having to find solutions for myself rather than having them delivered on a plate.

There is only one mainstream manufacturer regularly releasing 1/48 scale plastic armoured vehicle kits these days. Others have dipped their toe in the water and decided that the scale isn’t for them. Sales aren’t high enough to warrant pursuing any more releases. You’d think that this would be self-evident to the committed modeller who has a broad knowledge of the market but it seems not to be the case. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen variations of the argument of ‘if only manufacturer X released a model of subject Y they’d sell trillions of them. Really?

Everyone has their personal ‘wants’ list and that’s not an issue. It’s fun to dream but let’s inject a degree of sanity and not translate that dream into an unrealistic belief that what you want will be equally popular  with the broader modelling fraternity and therefore commercially viable. I have my personal wish-list, just like everyone else. I always have and I always will do. The weird thing is that even if something on that list gets released, I may not buy it. All of a sudden I don’t want something that everyone else can have too.

It’s probably why I find 1/48 scale so challenging and rewarding. I further limit (or perhaps ‘torment’ would be a better term) myself by preferring modern armour subjects over the most commonly available WWII German subjects. That forces me to look outside the normal market but I find the reward so much greater when I can complete a model that few others have, or are willing to countenance. My current project is a 1/48 scale Ferret Scout car. It’s resin; it’s a wargames kit; it’s good, but not perfect and best of all it’s not a kit that many others will have come across.

It suits my ego to be ‘different’, I make no bones about that, but I also genuinely believe that we need to keep our eyes open to new opportunities; to try new techniques, to explore new markets and to avoid becoming slaves of the current fashions and fads within our hobby. Fashions change, but I’ve been in the hobby long enough to see them come around again – re-named, re-formulated and promoted as new and different, but fundamentally unchanged from techniques I was using 20 years ago (and still do). Call me a dinosaur, but there really aren’t that many new ways of doing the same thing to achieve the same results.

I’ve watched the aftermarket scene grow from it’s infancy to the well-established machine that it is today. It’s astounding what you can get these days to enhance or finish your model. Many of those products are genuinely useful but the popular perception these days seems to be that no model is complete unless you’ve thrown at least one aftermarket product at it (and preferably several of them). Will it really make that much difference to the finished model or are you buying it just because you’ve been told you need to? Have you taken the time to independently confirm that it’s needed? Would it actually be quicker, cheaper and more satisfying to make the alterations and additions yourself?

I accept that I’m unlikely to persuade many of you to my way of thinking but that isn’t my goal. This hobby of ours needs to be diverse, to be inclusive, to be outward-looking rather than introspective. It needs new input but it also needs depth and understanding. We should not be beholden to particular fashions or perceptions, just because everyone else seems to be using something doesn’t always mean it’s the right solution – that’s often just the result of successful marketing, directly or indirectly.

So next time you read something that suggests you should only be using this method or that, take a moment to step back  and consider whether you need to follow the herd, or whether you’re brave enough to develop your own style, rather than following convention.

John Tapsell

Copyright IPMS(UK)

First published in Scale Military Modeller International magazine