I’ve had the honor of being an officer in two niche clubs in my two years at CSU and I’ve had the chance to watch them grow through good and bad. The most recent club I’ve been a part of that has exploded in popularity is the CSU League of Legends group, written about by the paper yesterday.
While the growth process has been gradual over the course of the year, it has seen a steady increase to become one of, if not the largest, club at CSU. Not many people would think offhand that a club that revolves around a single video game could become this big, but there’s a few thing about niche clubs that increase their popularity and will continue to have an effect on which clubs become popular in the coming years.
The first major aspect of niche clubs like CSULoL that pulls in so many people is that they are extremely open to any member. The club encompasses all kinds of people who play the game and want to bond with others. Its members include people of all races, sexes, majors and opinions. The club pulls in members from the foreign exchange program, some who can’t even fully understand English and brings them together with the CSU community on a platform that everyone can understand and enjoy.
That’s not to say that many clubs aren’t all inclusive, but many clubs can be very limited in the scope of the people they attract. When compared to something that is simply done for fun, it’s hard for things like language clubs or ethnic clubs to pull such a wide appeal.
The next major aspect that niche hobby clubs fill is that they exist purely for the entertainment of the members. There’s no push to do any extra service for the club, a member can focus entirely on their studies and when they have the time or the urge to have fun. They can come to the events, or in the case of CSULoL invite some friends to play a game with them. It takes the feeling of obligation completely out of the picture when it comes to extracurricular activities and makes it much easier to just have fun.
For some clubs, extra work put in to the club translates to some amazing campus events like the concerts put on by ASCSU and the World Unity Fair put on by all of the foreign languages. While the community can benefit from these kind of events on a larger scales, it’s easier to see why there is a much stronger appeal to engage in a personal hobby with others in one’s free time rather than use large amounts of time preparing to run events, go to meetings, and other obligations.
The final thing that we’re seeing many niche hobby clubs take advantage of is the fact that many can pulled from online communities that have already been established. In the case of CSULoL, the game has been released almost four years. For three years that community had been developing online before the CSULoL club even existed, allowing for many small friend groups to join up and become part of a larger community of collegiate students interested in the same game.
Due to the fact that the whole community was already connected through online means, making a massive Facebook group was nothing but a second thought. When all you need is to take an already established screen name and add it to friends list, creating large communities becomes seamless.
The club itself has grown by a rough estimate of almost 50 members a month, some with varying levels of of time and dedication to club activities, but everyone with a clear idea of what they would be doing when they joined.
Clubs like CSULOL may be changing how clubs are viewed and developed in the coming years in Universities everywhere. Now that such a strong model for building a lively and active community has been established, many clubs may soon be forced to change their recruitment methods to try to keep up with juggernaut hobby clubs that are beginning to pop up more frequently.
Love them or hate them, hobby clubs are here, and they’re here to stay.
Brian Fosdick is a senior JTC major with a minor in political science and enjoys when you send all of his hate mail/love confessions to email@example.com