Students' unique hobbies prove pricey


By Cole Altmayer, entertainment editor
Many hobbies seem interesting, fun and accessible… until you read the price tag. Despite this, students at Prospect such as Jake Murray and Jacob Herriges are willing to pay any and all expenses for hobbies and games they are passionate about, even if it leaves their wallets thin in the long run.
Senior Jake Murray’s torrid love affair with the Rubik’s Cube, also known as a twisty puzzle, began when he stumbled upon an old one in his grandparent’s house when he was in seventh grade. He found himself fascinated by the puzzle, but all good things come to an end, of course; his parents had to drag him away from the thing just to get him home.
Thus, there was a new objective on Murray’s to-do list: get his own cube, and explore the addictive puzzle further on his own accord.
This was the first mission of many. Murray’s current collection of cubes tops off at 21, including all different shapes and sizes, from the standard 3×3 puzzle to a 7×7, which is about the size of a softball. His collection hasn’t stopped growing either; Murray estimates he spends $25 on a new puzzle every six weeks or so, unless a groundbreaking new Rubik’s product that catches his eye comes out in the meantime.
“I get one, and I spend time with it,” Murray said. “And then either something new comes out, or I just get bored.”
Complexity and uniqueness what make these puzzles so expensive in the first place according to Murray. A normal Rubik’s Cube costs no more than $10, but normal doesn’t cut it for collectors and speed-solvers like Murray. Other designs focus more on the speed aspect, using more complex springs or magnetic parts to achieve faster solving times.
These designs, due to their unique quirks and higher sense of quality, fetch higher prices that hobbyists are willing to pay. Some other products, however, focus on another aspect of the puzzle; the sheer size of the cube. Murray specifically notes the 11×11 Rubik’s Cube, which has a price range that can dip into the triple digits.
“[An 11×11 is] huge, and it’s completely unnecessary,” said Murray. “They can start selling it for obscene amounts of money because it just costs so much to make it.”
However, new unique challenges brought forth by such designs make the price worth paying. One of Murray’s favorites is the 3x3x9: three Rubik’s Cubes stacked on one another.
“There’s a lot of other processes [you have to consider when solving it], and the process for that one changes a lot,” said Murray. “It takes a lot longer … it’s just a lot more fun to solve.”
These aren’t the only challenges that Rubik’s Cubes present to Murray; there’s also managing the costs of an addicting hobby. While his parents aren’t exactly ecstatic when Murray spends a small fortune, he manages to pay for it via several jobs around his neighborhood, whether that be pet sitting or walking dogs.
Despite the price tag, Murray recommends the hobby to anyone with a bit of patience and a love for problem solving.
“A lot of people assume you have to be very [math-focused to enjoy it], but it’s really not that way,” Murray said. “You just need the time and patience to learn and understand it.”
Very few video games or hobbies have as an intense of a community as Counter Strike: Global Offensive, an online first-person shooter that was released on the gaming platform Steam in 2012. This intensity drew sophomore Jacob Herriges into the game back in December 2014.
But recently, this intensity has overstayed its welcome for Herriges. It has also worn down his wallet. While he was a fan of the fast-paced gameplay, he also found himself wrapped up in the pricey trading community that has formed between Counter Strike’s 9 million players.
On websites such as CS:GO Stash and OP Skins, players can buy and sell in-game items known as skins. Skins are recolors for in-game weapons the player can use, like guns or knives. They serve no practical gameplay purpose other than changing how your weapon looks, but they can still fetch high prices nonetheless; some skins cost less than a dollar, others cost hundreds of dollars.
Herriges initially found the idea of skins appealing. From his start back in 2012 to his retirement of the game last August, Herriges estimates he spent over $400 on skins alone.
Looking back on his spending, Herriges feels a bit of regret.
“Getting skins in a video game, basically just colorful camouflages [for virtual weapons], doesn’t seem realistic or useful,” Herriges said.
However, among the player base of Counter Strike, having expensive or rare skins is a badge of honor. Players tend not to notice the players with the default weaponry, but having something rare grants them a “degree of respect”. The most valuable skin Herriges ever bought was a M9 Bayonet Blue Steel, a knife with the hefty price tag of $130.
“A lot of people have more expensive items than [the Blue Steel], but I still like it a lot,” Herriges said. “Even though I don’t play [anymore], I still prize it.”
This pride wasn’t enough to keep Herriges playing the game, and he eventually decided to drop the hobby entirely. He felt that his money should be going to more practical things, like his future education.
His decision to quit the game wasn’t particularly influenced by his parents. While they didn’t approve of the great amount of time he spent playing the game, the money aspect wasn’t a particular issue for them. According to Herriges, most of the money he spent on Counter Strike was from money he had saved up over the years, and a lot of it was from Steam gift cards he had received during Christmas or on his birthday.
While he had great passion for the game, the competitive scene, and trading skins, it just didn’t end up being worth all the investment.
“It’s a very good hobby, especially when you begin to take [the competition aspect] seriously,” Herriges said. “But it’s never good to invest that much time into the game to the point where you’re missing out on other parts of your life.”