I enjoy contesting, but it's a legacy that isn't going to successfully
compete for attention among anything beyond a very small percentage of
today's youth. Most of the young ops at Field Day or contest stations
are only there because of some family connection, and most of those
don't last. Even the great majority of new hams the ARRL likes to tout
as evidence of a growing base don't stick with the hobby ... if they
did, we wouldn't be having these discussions. I do think that
contesting is drawing a growing percentage of hams, but the base is
getting old fast, and from my perspective here are some of the reasons:
1. Ham radio is expensive, especially of you actually want to be
competitive instead of just participating. Rigs and antennas cost far
more than a decent computer or smart phone, both of which offer far more
effective communication and opportunities for competition.
2. Ham radio requires antennas. They are physically obtrusive and
often create conflict with neighbors. Hardly anybody has to fight to
get connected to the internet.
3. Ham radio is real time and unreliable, subject to the vagaries of
propagation and activity on the other end. Applications like Twitter,
Facebook, and online forums (like this one) are precise, dependable, and
"sticky" (you can read and answer at your convenience). Online game
competition against real opponents from around the world is available
around the clock every day with virtually no waiting.
4. Ham radio requires a license, one which many of us perceive as
relatively easy to get but which isn't needed at all for any other
pursuit. It's a roadblock with no particular advantage to the user ...
it's not like it keeps LIDs off the air.
5. Almost any video game out there is more immediate with more intense
real time competition than ham radio contesting has. You compete
directly against opponents who can counter your moves almost instantly,
and you see the result of that interaction immediately. The breadth of
"weapons", each with their own effects and deficiencies, is probably an
order of magnitude greater than available to a contest operator. The
required strategies for success vary with every match and every
opponent, and often change significantly on the fly. Radiosport has
nothing that even comes close to it (and if you try to tell me that
breaking a pileup qualifies you are really out of touch).
I honestly hope that radiosport hangs around for a while ... it's fun
for me and I have a lot of money invested in it. But it needs to change
if it's actually going to draw new people to the game. I've tried to
come up with the idea of a contest format that would capture some of the
real time features of a video game, particularly the ability to directly
and immediately counter (either by action or by score) the actions of
another contester, but so far I haven't come up with anything. But if
you think something like that isn't relevant, picture how attractive a
video game or smart phone app would be if you simply sent messages to a
bunch of other users with no effect on what they did and you had to wait
days, weeks, or months before you saw whether or not you sent more than
Ham radio simply doesn't have the fascination for anybody today that it
did for us ... and if we were young again in today's world it wouldn't
for us either. If we want to change the demographics of our hobby, our
hobby is going to have to change. It's as simple as that.
On 3/23/2016 7:17 AM, George via CQ-Contest wrote:
Kudos to Stan, K5GO, for going public on the "youth in contesting"
issue with his conversation with editor, Brian, N9ADG, in the ARRL
Contest Update, March 23, 2016 issue. Stan is a member of the CAC
subcommittee, along with W1UE, W0GJ, K4ZA, and NA0N, studying the
"Youth in Contesting" issue.
Check out Stan's article in the CONVERSATION Section, "Contesting
needs you...to share your station with new contesters!" In this
piece, Stan spells out some interesting ideas and methods for getting
"potential new contesters" involved in a contest at your station.
As part of the CAC subcommittee's work, they are collecting any leads
about how and where "youth" are involved in contesting, so if you know
of any, please let Stan or any of the subcommittee members know.
73, George, K5KG
CQ-Contest mailing list