David Lockhart (IPMS USA President) has caused a bit of a stir in the latest volume of the IPMS journal and just when I was searching for a new topic to write about in my blog post…
For those of you that have not read the article, President Lockhart describes people that attend IPMS Club Meetings / Shows without being paid members of IPMS USA as ‘freeloaders’. So I guess if you didn’t read the article because you aren’t a paid member of the IPMS USA… well that makes you a freeloader too?
So what’s my spicy hot take? Are you ready for some extra sriracha on the side?
President Lockhart isn’t entirely wrong. His method of expression in the article (aside from the use of the word ‘freeloader’ which was maybe ill advised) was fairly moderate and reasonable. The thing is, IPMS chapters are struggling for membership across the country. Even our club sees a lot of regular attending members who don’t actually pay dues to the local chapter. At a national level I think membership is even more of an issue. The President’s point about insurance in particular cannot be underestimated – our own club has needed event insurance twice so far this year alone (for the auction and again for the club show). There is NO WAY we could have made those events happen if hadn’t been for the existence of the national organization to provide that support. And yet, every time we, as a club, need to re-up our membership – it’s a struggle to find enough members to meet the minimum basic requirements for the club to renew. And this is despite our club being relatively healthy and seeing a surge of new interest. There is a clear downward trend to membership levels in IPMS and we need to confront that situation.
The thing is… the whole argument neglects a key element – this past time as a whole is dying… or at least the way it’s envisioned by many long time IPMS members is dying. The ‘classic’ plastic model kits just aren’t of interest to younger generations, tastes change, where once a beautifully painted M4 Sherman was sex on… tracks? – these days new members, by and large, are going to be much more interested in the latest reissue of an RX-78-2 or Sicarian Battle Tank. So IPMS at both the local and national level need to change their approaches if they want the organizations to continue beyond the next 10-15 years.
This is not a new topic to anyone that has really spoken to me about the hobby for any length of time (and I touched on it a little in a previous post). Tastes change with time, maybe there are fewer folks interested in historical subjects these days, but does it really matter? The process, the techniques are largely transferable, and maybe the most important – the appreciation of the skill is 100% transferable! Sci Fi and Fantasy subjects may not engender the same ‘historical research’ but as anyone who has seen the Tested YouTube channel knows, there is plenty of opportunity to practice those research skills in movie accuracy, sourcing the actual parts used in some cases, accurate gundam markings (especially for mechs from later shows).
We need to welcome and encourage a much wider segment of the hobby than we have traditionally. Wargamers? Sure, Gunpla builders? Absolutely! 3D Printers should be welcome too. There should be space for everyone and we should all share in and encourage this hobby. And who knows? Over time, new comers may also learn to appreciate some of the historical subjects as well!
And whilst I genuinely believe this to be the biggest issue for IPMS (especially at the national level). There is no hiding the fact that there are many folks showing up to regular meetings without paying dues to IPMS USA (or even the local chapter in some cases) and that is something I encourage them to reconsider. These clubs run on a lot of passion but they need financial support as well at both the local and national level.