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  • Writer's pictureAlex Payne

Hobbying in a pandemic: YouTube, dice and quarantine

Updated: Aug 20, 2023

tau empire fire warriors, games workshop 200s

It’s 2020. The gift of Nurgle was at its height, having shut down much of the western world, and I was very, very bored in my government-sanctioned isolation.

In order to stave off the weirdness and quiet of solo homeworking, I had turned to a near endless stream of YouTube and Spotify content on in the background, from traditional podcasts to news, views and gaming channels. Anything to save myself screaming at the walls, and to keep my mind off the world at large, if you catch my drift.

One of those channels was the YouTube monolith that is WhatCulture, which I enjoyed predominately for the honest-seeming bonhomie between it's presenters. I especially like the gaming channel; their nostalgia bits to camera, more than the clickbaity lists, really spoke to me. One particular video concerned a “last presenter standing” type quiz. This all seemed pretty innocuous, until a comment was made about most embarrassing facts about each presenter and one - Jules Gill - admitted to a crippling addiction to plastic cocaine. He also mentioned having recently started a YouTube channel dedicated to it.

"One presenter admitted to a crippling addiction to plastic cocaine."

My ears pricked up.

To be clear, this is more a story of a return than a true origin. I’ll definitely write another time about the importance to the worlds of Warhammer when I was growing up, the friendships

it helped me forge, and the heights and pitfalls of trying to understand the hobby as a youngster, though this is not quite that time. Suffice to say, like so many others, I simply fell out of the hobby around university. It was expensive, and I - fool that I was - didn’t

yet have the confidence to balance what I saw as a hilariously nerdy pass time with more acceptable pursuits such as going to the pub, watching football and failing in various social escapades.In the decade or so since, I’ve dabbled occasionally, scanning the Games Workshop site in confused wonder at all of the shiny new goodies. But aside from wondering vaguely at what a “Stormcast Eternal” was, and what Sigmar had done to deserve his own age, my interest was never really hooked.

Josef Bugman art

"I didn’t yet have the confidence to balance what I saw as a hilariously nerdy pass time with more acceptable pursuits such as going to the pub."

This time, it was different.

It wasn’t immediate; I watched the video, and got on with my slightly dull work day. But the earworm was there, and a few days later, while on “holiday”

(still stuck in my flat) I looked up the YouTube channel referenced by Jules - Live and Let’s Dice. On the channel were a few different battle reports, including one for a skirmish game I wasn’t aware of, called Warhammer Underworlds.

Neat, I thought. I wondered what that’s about.

A few hours later, I’d binged multiple battle reports on the channel - for Age of Sigmar, 40k and Warcry, and was on the hunt for more. (I was also intrigued by the D&D streams, but that was a slightly slower burn - more on that in another post, perhaps). Before too long, I’d fallen head first down the rabbit hole of battle reports, community posts and lore. I was sold, back on the plastic sauce hook, line and sinker. It still took me a little while to pluck up the courage to actually pick up a paintbrush for the first time in some 13 years, but sure as sure, I got there, and finally made a start on the T’au army , all accompanied by an endless stream of bat reps, hobby podcasts and lore treatises. And it’s been beyond great.

Pile of warhammer sprues

I’ll definitely talk in more detail about some of my favourite hobby heroes I’ve discovered in my time back in the hobby. Who knows? It might even become a regular feature here on Death by D6… Watch this space.

But for now, honest to god, thank you Jules. Thank you Mikey and Lawson for keeping me company during the initial period of lockdown and beyond. And thank you for giving me the push to explore the lost worlds of my youth. They’ve changed a lot - and I have too - but I’ll remain forever grateful to a random call out in a random video that lit that spark for me. It proved that doing something you love is never worth worrying about what others think. That was something I realise I really wanted to hear, and am so glad I did.

Where to conclude this slightly soppy little ramble? I think my sister put it most succinctly recently, when the topic of my painting revival came up with some cousins. It had been remarked upon that I had spent much of my lockdown time over the last near year hunched over some little plastic men, trying in vain to improve my edge highlighting. This resulted in some bemused looks from wider family. My sister shrugged, though, and said:

“I think it’s nice you’ve got your hobby back.”

Damn right.


Until next time, may your plasma be cool and your explosions wild.


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