Finding a sense of nerd balance, and making tough choices.
My wife tells me that I have “expensive tastes.” This is coming from a woman who, if presented with a group of random shoes and asked which ones she likes the most, will always—without question—choose the most expensive pair. She has similar reactions to bedding, furniture, and clothing, generally. But this isn’t a competition. The fact is, she’s right. The things I like to buy aren’t cheap, and that does cause problems for me, as I’ve long considered myself frugal. I worry about money, but then I go out and drop a wad of cash on a PlayStation Vita. This coming November, I’ll be throwing a bucket load of scrilla at the Wii U. I know for a fact I’ll be buying two more girlie figures before the end of the year, and I’ve always got my eye out for a new paleontology symposium or art book. None of these things are cheap, so I guess I do have expensive tastes. The trick is to balance it out.
Let’s go over my hobbies first.
Gaming’s obviously a big one. Working at Nintendo World Report helps a little, since I get certain Nintendo-centric games for review. Unless Atlus forgets we exist, for example, I should be getting the review copy of Code of Princess, and because nobody else on staff gives a shit about that game (except Daan), I’ll probably wind up with the Wii U version of Darksiders II. So that’s nice. However, I also have “non-tendo” systems, like a Vita, PS3, and Xbox 360. Now, I learned a long time ago that I never play my 360. The only thing I used that big black system for is XBLA games, and I’ve long since bought all the ones I want to play (except Penny Arcade Adventures 3). I went through a lengthy Super Meat Boy phase and I turned the thing on again when I bought all the Tomb Raider: Underworld DLC. Most recently, I buckled down and finally bought Shadow Complex, which is fun, but has some issues.
The Vita is a wash, not because the games are too expensive, but because games just aren’t coming out for it. I recently copied FFVII to my Vita just so I’d have something to play! The bigger issue is my PS3, which sees more play time these days than any other console I own. Thankfully, I usually don’t have a problem waiting for a sale (like Lollipop Chainsaw) or a general price drop (God of War: Origins) before I pick up a game for it. Special editions are harder to ignore, though: I’ll be picking up the DoA5 collector’s edition on September 25. Other times, new games are just priced very well—I nabbed the Ratchet & Clank HD collection, new, for $30. (I’m not sure why the ICO/Shadow of the Colossus collection is priced $10 higher. I bought that particular game on sale for half its normal price.)
So gaming is an expense, but not as horrible as you’d think since I’m often willing to wait to play most games. I also took considerable advantage of Best Buy’s recent blowout sales. Any game I didn’t fall in love with got flipped for store credit at a local comic shop—I ultimately came out with more store credit than I paid for the games in real money. And that store credit will go to my next love...
Girlie figures. I can hear most of you groaning. “Oh, you’re that guy.” Yup, it’s true; the sickness began probably seven years ago and has only increased in virulence ever since. The problem with figure collecting is that it’s technically more expensive than video gaming. The cheapest figure I own is this small Kasumi sculpt ($20). She’s responsible for starting me down this path.
The most expensive figure I own is Bridget, who—before applying my Amazon gift cards—would have cost $250 including shipping. Fortunately, I don’t take that sort of plunge often. The average works out to $70 a figure, and I try very hard to limit myself to one a month—or perhaps more accurately, one per credit card cycle. My first attempt at pre-ordering a figure from a Japanese import proxy site ended in a bit of a disaster, as I miscalculated the shipping fee. I ended up spending $40 in shipping on a $100 figure. I definitely had some buyer’s remorse after that, but it’s all but forgotten now; she’s not even arriving on my porch until sometime in February. I’ve figured out how to more cheaply buy figures, though: it’s a bit like my PS3 strategy. I’ve stopped using the secondary market (Amazon, eBay) and I just buy figures straight from other collectors. They usually don’t sell at a markup, and very often at a minor loss, so I come out ahead, assuming I’m willing to wait for a desired girl to show up on the marketplace...which I almost always am.
So my girls are probably the most expensive thing I routinely buy. Totally worth it, though!
The things I collect the least of, but tend to be proportionately the most expensive, are comic, art, and dinosaur books. These things are always hardcover. I’m currently stocking up on IDW’s excellent, annotated collections of the original TMNT comics. They’re on the third volume, which I have yet to pick up. I also like comic artist art collections. I have several of Frank Cho’s books, one from Bruce Timm, a very cool Amanda Conner book, and lots of pin-up art books (and some photography). I wish J. Scott Campbell would publish a similar kind of art collection, but my Danger Girl Deluxe collection serves that desire for now. Dinosaur books are a special kind of evil: the ones I buy are not for a popular audience. These are collections of papers that were usually originally presented at a symposium. They are large, hardcover, and have low print runs. The gigantic New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs, which clocks in at 656 pages and includes a CD with more papers on it, retails for $110.00. I had to have it. Luckily, I was able to take advantage of an incredible 60 percent off pre-orders sale and it ended up costing me much less.
Had I any interest in The Complete Dinosaur: Second Edition, I’d be shelling out $100 or close to it. Luckily, I already have The Dinosauria: Second Edition, so there’s really no reason to buy the other one except that it’s a little bit more up-to-date. Thankfully, I keep up on the literature, so a general overview isn’t all that helpful to me. But most symposiums are more modestly priced, somewhere in the $50-$60 range. The unfortunate thing is that the majority aren’t available at places like Barnes & Nobel, so you can’t really flip through them first. I buy most of these books on good faith, and I’ve been burned a few times. Biology of the Sauropod Dinosaurs was a particular disappointment, as it dealt almost exclusively with diet, metabolism, and physiology—topics I couldn’t give two craps about, because I have 20 other papers dealing with those subjects. Similarly, I thought Forerunners of Mammals would be about the animals themselves. Instead, it may as well have been called We Hope You Like Bone Histology, because that’s all it was.
My wife might contend that I collect Blu-Ray movies, too, but I would correct her by pointing out that I only buy Blu-ray movies when they’re on sale, generally at Target. I’ve got a bad habit of replacing my DVDs. On the other hand, I no longer buy DVDs (except TV shows)—only Blu-rays, and only when they’re on sale. For example, today I picked up Aliens for $10 and Advent Children: Complete for $8. I will likely give my DVD copies to some friends.
So how do I balance out these relatively expensive hobbies? Well, although I’ve been collecting girls for about seven years, it’s only been the last two that I’ve taken the hobby seriously—that is, buying more than one or two in a year. It’s relatively easy to keep that hobby in check, since I really don’t like spending a lot of money in a month if I don’t have to. Lately I’ve been on a “one-a-month” kick. Thankfully, my “wish list” is getting shorter so that trend won’t continue much longer. As for games, I really don’t buy them that often. The last game I bought was Theatrhythm, and that was on sale. I’m going to get Dead or Alive 5 this coming week, and that will be the first game I’ve paid full price for in as long as I can remember. The dinosaur books are incredibly easy to ignore, because they come out so bloody rarely. That horned dinosaur book was continually delayed for almost two years, so you get some idea of how long they take from announcement to actual publication. The next dinosaur book I want isn’t even out yet, but it’s about paleoart, and it’s on my birthday list. I can wait!
So there you have it, folks: my nerd hobbies and how I try to keep them in equilibrium. How about you, dear readers? What are you nerd hobbies, and how do you keep from blowing all your money on them?