***NOTE: I’ve seen a few comments around the interwebs accusing me of being a European troll or something. LOL. Talk about a failure of reading comprehension. But, to set the record straight, I’m an American. And I’m a Texan, which makes me, like, a Super American.***
Recently, Jon over at The Combat Workshop tossed up a post about his experience at the MosquitoCon IPMS convention in New Jersey. It’s an excellent post about the lack of risk-taking, and I highly recommend giving it a look.
But something in the post spurred some additional thinking. While discussing the “sea of uniformity” at what has to be one of the larger IPMS events in the United States, Jon drew a comparison to the ingenuity and creativity often seen in shows across Europe.
This touched off some discussion among myself and my fellow Scale Modelers Critique Group admins, Will Pattison and Jim DiCesare. Jim asked if we felt that, taken as a whole, European modelers were better than American modelers.
We both answered yes.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of fantastic US-based modelers. Nobody is saying that. Rather that, when you pan out and look at the forest instead of the individual trees, when you look at what shows up on contest tables, when you look at what gets passed around like celebrity sex tapes on various modeling sites and groups, American modeling lags in ingenuity and risk-taking.
If you want to get even more geographically specific, Central and Eastern Europe (and parts of Asia) in particular seem to be taking things to another more frequently.
Of course this is also true for kit and aftermarket production. When’s the last time and awesome and innovative new kit came out of the US? I can only think of two or maybe three resin players in North America that I’d put on a level with the rest of the world. Most of the others seem stuck at a quality level dating to the 80s. But there are economic factors at play there that (I hope) most of us can at least understand at a surface level.
In terms of modeling, though, it’s also evident. I mean…how many still worship at the altar of Shep Paine? Or seem to live in the past, when Monogram kits were the greatest things ever?
When’s the last time an American had a significant impact on the hobby? I would say after Shep Paine, the next big step forward came from Francois Verlinden, whose weathering techniques and development of resin as a viable material through the 80s and early 90s laid a lot of the groundwork for modern modeling. Oh, wait, he was from Belgium.
Now, yes, Verlinden Productions did move the US in the mid-90s. And stagnated. I mean, when’s the last time Verlinden made a splash?
Anyway, it seems to me that the US – again taken as a whole – lags other parts of the world when it comes to contributing to the hobby – whether in the form of kits and aftermarket, or in terms of what we do with those things.
I have a few half-assed theories.
It’s Cultural, Stupid. Here in the US, we have a bad habit of just assuming whatever we’re doing is the best thing ever. We call our baseball championship the World Series when its anything but. Most of our citizens don’t even have a surface-level understanding of how the governments and economies of other countries are organized. So it stands to reason that, in terms of modeling, that same kind of navel-gazing holds (again at that broad level). I mean, in terms of modeling publications we have, what, FSM? Pfft.
That’s the US side. As for what’s maybe spurring more ingenuity in, say, Eastern Europe? Being an ignorant American, I’m hesitant to even guess what, say, the lingering effects of being under the Iron Curtain might have had. Perhaps modeling is one of those things that is innocuous enough that passionate discussion can be poured into it without stirring larger pots? Perhaps there is a greater threshold for critique? Again – I can only guess.
Late-Adopter Advantage. During the last half of the 20th century, America was first in a ton of things. Phone networks and credit card adoption and cell phone adoption and going to the moon and embracing TVs and PCs. But in a lot of these things, once we got there, we stagnated.
Meanwhile, other parts of the world didn’t embrace a lot of these technologies until a bit later. And when they did, the technologies themselves had advanced. Look at credit cards. The US is still firmly entrenched in magnetic stripe readers, even with the mandate last year to move to chip readers and more secure, encrypted transactions. Europe, meanwhile, adopted credit cards later, and almost uniformly uses chip-and-pin POS systems. The US is left flailing, unable to get past the baggage of its legacy systems.
The same holds for telecommunications. Particularly in Europe and Asia, much of the infrastructure doesn’t support laying lines willy nilly, so wireless was embraced to a far greater degree, and the US is still lagging. Or air conditioners – again the US pioneered central HVAC, but it’s extremely hard to retrofit ducted AC systems into buildings that aren’t built with them, and so in much of the rest of the world more space and energy-efficient ductless AC systems have been adopted.
Could the same hold true for modeling? Has modeling come later to some of these places? Without the legacy baggage of stale manufacturers and stale distribution systems that plague the US? Does not being beholden so much to “the way things was” open up room for that ingenuity and risk-taking?
I’m curious. I genuinely am.
What do you think? Does the US lag much of the rest of the world in terms of the overall quality of modeling? Why?