A little while back, I mused on what exactly is valued and why do we value it? Value is mostly a matter of perception. Putting aside obvious things like food and shelter (though even those things can have disputable value once we get into specifics), value is found in valuing something. This is such a broad and obvious definition that it isn’t very useful.
I’ve known people who hate using quarter-fed air machines because “air is free.” Although, really, you’re not paying for the air itself, but the machine that pumps the air. Trying to inflate a tire by pushing air by hand into it isn’t productive.
My recent return to my Skylanders passion is another perplexing conundrum of value. To the outsider, it might appear patently ridiculous that I should spend hundreds of dollars on a single game. The argument goes, not entirely unjustified, that the video game comes with all its goodies locked away and the only way to get them is to pay more money. Intellectually, I see where that’s coming from, but when I tweak and analyze it, I find I don’t care.
I suppose it’s because from my own perspective, I’m not only buying the figures for their ability to unlock elements in the video game. I’m also buying them because I like the figures very much. Granted, I wouldn’t buy them on their own, but if you give me a little push like making them cool figures that are useful to a video game I also like then it becomes something I can totally get behind. Skylanders give me license to collect toys that I would have no reason to ever buy. Not because I didn’t like them, but because I’d have a hard time talking myself into buying figures just to display.
But people do buy things just to display them. So from my perspective, the only difference is that my things to display actually are useful for a video game I also like. Viewed from that angle, I find these toys completely worth buying, and as collectible hobbies go, it seems no more silly or indulgent than so many out there.
When I used to play Magic: The Gathering, I probably ended up spending hundreds of dollars over the year buying cards. A lot of those cards were useless to me because I never used them. I was never a big M:TG player. Never played in any big tournaments. Never did more than build my decks, play in small local events or with friends. But I never felt as if that money and time were wasted.
As an avid tabletop game player, I have hundreds of board and card games. I have some games I’ve barely played, not because they’re bad, but because there’s only so much time in the day. I tend to give away games I don’t end up liking, but still, I have a lot of games, accumulated over the years, many with only a handful of plays. In comparison, my Skylanders hobby is remarkably fiscally responsible.
I’m not saying it’s not an indulgence. It is. But it is one that is relatively cheap compared to so many hobbies, fills my free time with fun, and makes me happy. I’m a grown man who pays his bills, and if I want to spend my money on little figures of funny characters that just happen to be useful for a video game too, well, I have a hard time seeing that as a negative. Emotional trumps intellectual, and if something makes you happy (and you aren’t being irresponsible) who really cares?
That’s value. It is a singular judgment, and I think that’s worth remembering. I know people who want expensive cars and love eating at the “best” restaurants. I know others who spend thousands on home entertainment systems or are very much into fashion. Those aren’t my things. Those don’t do much for me. To buy them for me would be a waste of time, but we’re all different. And above all, we should always remember that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to level up Tree Rex. Somebody’s gotta save the world, and I can’t think of anyone better than a giant tree monster that shoots lasers.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,