Does a ‘true’ Transformers fan ever fall out of love with the franchise or toy collecting? Do they let other hobbies take precedence once in a while as interests shift, or do ‘true fans’ always exhibit a full and passionate affinity? Circumstances under which the Transformers hobby may be viewed with a different perspective can be when things become difficult in real life for people, whether it’s health, family, money or work-related.
Sometimes fans will look to their hobby as a source of strength, grounding them in a reality they understand to get them through the tough times; a few people I have met cited Optimus Prime as a father figure during their childhood. With some, the hobby may pale into a state of insignificance as people focus on what needs fixing or dealing with outside of such leisure activities. I imagine there are also a fair number of people in the fandom for which life carries on regardless and their perspective on the hobby doesn’t really change through tougher times.
In the past, I’ve noticed my enthusiasm for Transformers as a hobby has come and gone in cycles. Between 2003 and 2008 there were periods where I was into it and periods where I wasn’t, and then from 2008 to 2011 I was entirely consumed by a simulation racing hobby that relegated Transformers into relative hibernation. I must admit I feel this happening again now to some degree as I spend less time on Transformers-related social media accounts and forums, buying less TFs than before and doing less photography. I’ve had the sim racing itch again for the last year and with the opening of a dedicated racing centre here in Iceland, as well as the release of Forza Horizon 4, that’s where my interest has migrated for the time being. Although, Santiago Jones’ incredible Transformers and Diaclone-based liveries for my Forza race cars has helped keep the connection alive!
But shifting enthusiasm between hobbies is not necessarily what I’m getting at with regards to gaining perspective on the hobby, however fleeting and circumstantial that change in perspective may be. I have seen in my own behaviour that when things have gotten a little sticky financially down the years, I’ve viewed the hobby very much as a luxury as opposed to a necessity. Toys have been re-evaluated as surplus where once particular figures – or whole toy lines – may have been classed as essential in my collection.
In the face of a few years without a proper family holiday, I’ve twice decided that either one treasured item of great rarity, or an entire selection of modern toy lines could be sacrificed. Under those circumstances I’ve used my own hierarchy of priorities to decide how important toys were in the grand scheme of things compared to making memories and doing something amazing together as a family. There are no regrets associated with either of those decisions where I’ve viewed items in my collection as a way to enjoy something we would otherwise not have been able to afford with ease at those junctures.
Thankfully, I can’t say that I have found myself in a position where employment, health or family issues have forced me into an extremely tight fix for an extended period of time. However, I know that should the occasion arise that requires long-term focus on those issues, past history suggests that I’ll fall into the category of collector who no longer affords themselves the luxury of a hobby like Transformers. At least to begin with. On those occasions where life has looked like it would lead to a difficult situation, I know I’ve not found myself with much time or enthusiasm for the hobby.
Does that mean I can’t call myself a ‘true’ fan? I really don’t believe that to be the case. Relationships with hobbies vary from one person to another. It also depends on where it fits into one’s life; I certainly feel like I take Transformers more seriously than many folks I know take their hobbies. For the longest time, any free hours I have found myself with have been dedicated to Transformers, be it photography, writing, socialising or researching within the hobby. It’s not had to play second fiddle or share *any* time with TV, movies, games or sport when free time has surfaced for me. Having less of a social life here in Iceland has certainly not changed that, until just recently as outlined towards the start of this article.
Moving home also gave me a different perspective on my Transformers collection. The last move involved more wrapping up and transporting of toys than ever before – more even than between the UK and Iceland – and the degree of hassle and complication it created coupled with the sales it necessitated made my collection feel like a proper burden. Some sections more than others, certainly. My collection had, during that period, not been something I was proud of or could justify compared to the trouble it was creating.
It doesn’t all have to be a negative perspective, though. I said at the start that for some, their Transformers hobby can be a rock during the hard times. I’d say my Transformers hobby was exactly that when I first moved away from the UK and was missing home while getting used to a hardcore winter in Iceland. Putting my toys out, receiving new ones and staying in touch with my mates from the UK who were into Transformers all helped connect the old life to the new life, a much needed string of consistency in a situation where everything was new. It can also be something as simple as using some creative Transformers output for a different purpose entirely, such as a little fun I had with my old Masterpiece Transformers photos; I used them to make number problems in order to support reading and mathematics development for my daughter alongside her Icelandic education.
There are others for whom the hobby shines bright in the darkest of times, and the ending of IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye/Lost Light series this week is as fine an example as exists anywhere in the hobby’s history. For many fans of the series, the adventures of the Lost Light crew gave them strength, helped them learn about themselves and provided much-needed representation in a medium and franchise that has not always given them characters with which to identify. It has given more people in the fandom visibility, and they understandably have a very positive perspective on what the Transformers hobby can bring to life.
All of that said, I still believe it is perfectly normal to have that perspective shift at different points in one’s life and circumstances, and it should be no reflection on whether someone is considered a ‘true fan’ or not. A true fan need be nothing more intense or complex than someone who is truthful about acknowledging their love for Transformers, whatever shape it takes.
All the best