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Embracing Sci Fi and Gunpla


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Our hobby is strong but changing.  I recently went to a great show in Alabama.  It had almost 500 entries.  A large turnout by any means.  The thing that caught my eye was that were probably 100 or so entries in the Sci Fi categories.  There was only 3 planned categories for all of Sci Fi.  The club made some quick decisions and made a bunch of splits.   I am planning on attending another show in the same region in a couple of months and they only have 1 planned category for Sci Fi.  The vast majority of us cut our teeth on a jet or a tank.  Many of us were ecstatic when our first candle apple paint job turned out on our first roadster.  I just don't see why we are having such a hard time embracing the new categories on the block.  You will not find a show with less than a half a dozen pre determined armor, aircraft and car categories. 

We always talk about growing the hobby.  About embracing the next generation.  We have to understand that the next generation may be more interested in building a Gundam than a Panzer.  The shows that we put on are for fellowship and some light hearted competition.  I think that we might just be ignoring a section of builders that are waiting to join us.  I bet I could drag most of you into a room full of armor aircraft or cars and ask you to quickly split them up into logical categories.  But if you were looking at 50 Gundam or Mechs, would you know where to start?

How to do guys feel that the Sci Fi community is being represented?  What can we do to encourage participation from modelers from the non traditional subjects?

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SciFi & Gundams are covered in the National Rules & Categories

VI Space & SciFi  

605 - StarTrek & StarWars

606 - Gundams (from kits)

607 - Mecha

608 - Other Vehicles/Vessels

609 - Scratchbuilt & Conversions

The Rules specifically discuss the categories: "Category Definitions: ● Star Trek & Star Wars subjects (Category 605): Only spaceships and vehicles from Star Trek and Star Wars media. ● Gundam subjects (Category 606): Only characters and vehicles from the Gundam media multiverse. ● Mecha subjects (Category 607): Powered sci-fi robots, armor or machines, with limbed features or humanoid construct. Such models may contain or display an operator figure as long as it is not the dominant part of the model; mechanical features should predominate. Otherwise an entry will go in the appropriate Fantasy or Sci-Fi Figures category."

Now, how closely a local or regional contest hews to the National Rules and Categories is always up for discussion.     In the face of "new" genre arriving on the local scene it may be advisable to follow the NCC's lead. The organizing committee may be overwhelmed by new categories one year to be met by a famine the next.  Try the new categories for a few years and see how they are accepted.

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As Ed so eloquently stated, the sci-fi categories are well represented IMHO as a starting point.  FYI, all the head category judges are supposed to observe the entry numbers in their respective categories each year.  IF an increase is observed in a specific or new category, it's the HCJ's responsibility to propose a new split or category to the NCC as a test for three consecutive years to see how the new numbers increase or decrease.  IF at the end of three consecutive years, the HCJ can petition the Chief Judge for a vote by the NCC to accept the new split/category as permanent.  Of coarse, the opposite NCC procedure applies if categories/splits have declined in popularity as well.

The long and short of it is; nothing categorywise happens overnight in IPMS/USA and sci-fi categories are no different.  The category will grow over time as popularity designates.

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IPMSUSA is caught in a sort of chicken/egg scenario.....

The Gundam builders are saying "if you give us proper categories, we will come".....and IPMSUSA is saying "if you come, we'll be able to give you proper categories"....

IPMS's reputation as the IP(Militarist)S is well deserved, but it is NOT the group that used to turn their nose up at Sci-Fi decades ago. Any perusal of the Journal, or our contests, including the BIG winners at the Nats will show that other genres are well respected and well rewarded.

That said, (and I DO understand the NCC's position on how they decide whether or not to expand categories), I think it's time for IPMSUSA to reach out and MAKE AN EFFORT to draw these Gundam (and other genres) into the fold.

The number of categories has ALWAYS been linked to the number of awards being bought...that's to say IPMS would NOT spend money for awards for categories that essentially had few to no entries on the horizon. That is generally the reasoning behind the current rule....FIRST you show IPMS that there's a need to create a new category and THEN they'll add it and spend the money on it.

I believe that IPMSUSA can afford the cost of adding 10 categories/splits at the Nats. Those 30 awards shouldn't cost more than $500-$1000 dollars. While that's not chump change, it IS in fact a tenth or less than the average profit most Nats have been making over the last decade or so. IPMSUSA could consider it an investment in showing that we welcome Gundams, and whatever other genre's might feel slighted (more Sci-fi cats in general?) and that IPMSUSA wants to reach out to. Do it for 5yrs....and THEN if the Gundam people still haven't shown up, go back to where it is now.

Of course the REAL answer is simply to go to GSB...where there ARE no categories and every model is simply judged on its merits wherever it sits in the room (usually grouped together for ease of placement and aesthetic reasons), and it doesn't matter how many other "like" models there are. :tongue:


GIL :cool:

Edited by ghodges
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I may be wrong, and I do not want to put words in James' mouth, but I don't think he was asking or referring to IPMS Nats where it seems those categories are fairly well covered.  I think he is more referring to local contests which may be more entrenched in traditional genres, such as planes, ships, tanks, etc. At our local chapter, IPMS Patriot Chapter, we have many modelers that are either into wargaming (fantasy or historic), Gundum, Star Trek or other sci-fi, or have a crossover interest along with their traditional modelling. At first only a couple, but as word spread amongst their fellow modelers outside of our club we then saw more at the meetings which lead to a large uptick with these models in our monthly show and tell. As a result we added several categories to our yearly contest, Patcon, for wargaming, Gundum, etc. The first year we added these categories we were astonished at the turnout!  Not so much with war gaming figures, but the Gundum filled nearly a whole row of tables. We had to scramble to fit everything in. The youngsters, casual visitors, and a few old hippies in the club loved them (I think it's the colors!). We didn't need to expand or split categories as we judge figures, dioramas and vignettes using the G-S-B method and, since these were added to that segment of the contest, we had plenty of awards on hand. I think that we started a trend as several other clubs in the area also added categories for these. We haven't had a contest in the last 2 years, so I can't say for sure which way these categories are trending, but if I had to guess I'd say they are here to stay. 

Having said the above, I am myself a more traditional modeler with my own very parochial likes and I personally dismiss all else (one reason I am not a club officer or judge anything but armor). But the club is not all about me (although I have been working on that for the last 40 years!), so we welcome all and as long as I have a place at the table I'm happy. However, not all clubs are the same, different demographics, likes, etc., so each club is free to determine their on path. There may come a day when the tide turns against my interests and I no longer fit in, but hey, I was modelling long before I ever heard of IPMS Patriot, so that's life.


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I was talking more about what we can do at local levels.  I understand that Nationals is the pinnacle of our organization and that nothing happens quickly.  I actually agree with the approach we have about adding for categories at the Nats.  The thing is that the Nats have a process for change.  It may seem slow but at least its in place.   I don't know if we have that on the local levels.  Your club had success by adding members by word of mouth.  I think that is great.  You obviously had members that were trying to recruit others. 

Other than by word of mouth how else can you guys see us being able to bring new people in?  I am actually curious about the different though processes and what people have seen as a success and as failures.  

Edited by James
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As an avid Gunpla builder, I think the sci-fi categories set by the national committee are fine as-is.  I am actually a dyed in the wool airplane & tank guy that crossed over into Gundam as an adult, so I can see the genre from both sides.

The question of getting Gunpla builders to join ranks with IPMS is a matter of perception from both sides.  On the IPMS side, I have seen hostility and ridicule towards people who “only build snap-tite action figures”.  I have mentioned before in another thread that I have been told to my face that plastic models should only be of historically significant types, and nothing else.  Really?  How would a first-timer react to that comment?

I have noticed an uptick in sci-fi modeling in recent years, not only in Gunpla, but sci-fi in general.  To dismiss the genre as non-serious would be an inaccurate generalization.  Some of the Star Trek guys are just as hard core as a Sherman modeler to get the details right.  Many of those who dislike sci-fi have no idea (and do not want to hear of) the depth of the rabbit hole - it could even be as deep as the 1/700 ship rabbit hole!  Okay maybe not, but it’s close.

So there are Gunpla builders who are content to snap their kits together and put on stickers.  But didn’t we all have a start somewhere?  We built our models with tube glue on newspaper set on the kitchen table, with only the minimum of paints in those little Testors or Pactra glass bottles.

Many who stay with the hobby make the progression to more sophisticated methods and eventually turn out better models.  The Gunpla guys are no different.  With weathering becoming so popular these days, I am sometimes shocked and a little intimidated when I see a Gundam type weathered to a standard equal to the best armor models.

One area where the Gunpla genre differs from “scale” modeling is that it allows great leeway in detailing and painting, but that is part of the fun.  Yes fun.  Remember those halcyon days with the tube glue?  But they have their own set of rules, and it can get pretty intense.

My opinion is, dial back the snark, and give them a place at the table.  They will be judged per IPMS rules like everyone else, so it’s all fair.

Edited by Neo
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Thank you for the support Michael.

I noticed there have been several seminars at the Nationals that talked about sci-fi and Gundam.  Although I have not been able to attend any of them (my problem is that it’s either shopping or looking at models…or trying desperately to finish my entry), I think that is a good start to get people interested.

What those seminars cover and their format is unknown to me, so perhaps others in the know could chime in and start a dialogue to see what works and what could be improved.

I would venture Step 1 is to not scare them away.  Besides, you never know if they might turn to the Scale Side - a friend who started off as a Gunpla builder did.  Our small group builds every kind of model, so when he expressed curiosity in aircraft and armor, we all jumped in and provided guidance, encouragement… and kits!  Now he enjoys 1/72 aircraft and 1/48 armor.  We like to call this phenomena “cross contamination.”

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