Heady Hobbies: A Look at the World’s Most Nuanced Pastimes

A Look at the World’s Most Nuanced Pastimes

There’s no better way to learn about people than to understand their hobbies. In fact, regardless of where a person lives, what language they speak, and their cultural norms, they might find that they have friends around the world thanks to a shared hobby.

Video gaming, for example, is probably one of the best examples. Players who enjoy Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) like League of Legends and Arena of Valor are united by their shared interest in the game, its characters, and its mechanics. Regardless of their lifestyle and background, a shared love of MOBA games is enough for strangers to forge lifelong friendships.

But video gaming is an easy example. Not all hobbies are forms of global entertainment. In fact, the closer you look at some of the world’s most niche hobbies, the more nuanced they become in terms of specialized knowledge and interests. Keep reading for a quick dive into some of the world’s headiest hobbies, including poker, perfumery, and PC building. (And no, we weren’t looking for hobbies that start with the letter ‘P’.)

Poker, Hand Rankings, & the Art of the Bluff

Poker may be on par with video gaming in terms of global recognition. Back in the 1970s and 80s, the World Series of Poker helped popularize the game worldwide. By the early 2000s, poker had moved online—and millions started trying their hand at classics like Texas Hold’em.

But poker isn’t a hobby for just anyone. Though now an international staple, even studying the rankings of top hands requires mental skills like memorization and probabilities. (What happens in the event of a tie? Is a straight flush or royal flush better?) On top of memorizing hand rankings and rules, players must also contend with a series of unknowns.

The greatest unknown in poker is what cards other players have. In many variations, players can bluff their way toward the final round of play—and possibly take home the pot. But to do that, they’ll have to use facial expressions and other ticks to convince opponents that they’ve got an unbeatable hand. And this act is not nearly as simple as memorizing rules and rankings.

Perfumery, Identifying Scents, & the Art of Memory

Poker players likely have an over-active mind that needs exercise. Perfumers, on the other hand, have overactive olfactory systems. In other words, they’ve got a nose like a bloodhound, and they use this skill to identify highly unique scents. The best of the best become professional perfumers, but many also enjoy perfumery as a hobby.

Here’s why it’s not like any other hobby, like shopping, sports, or art. To become a top ‘nose’, as they’re called in French (‘nez’), a perfumer must be able to sort through hundreds—if not thousands—of unique ingredients and base scents. Essential oils count into the hundreds, while synthetic scents number well over 1,500.

So, how do they do this? Along with being born with an innately powerful olfactory system, perfumers and hobbyist noses use memory to catalog hundreds of unique smells. Most rely on the first time they smelled that particular scent, bolstering the memory with a few mnemonic devices. In fact, this may be the true secret of perfumers—not a superior sense of smell, necessarily, but the drive to understand the world, nostrils first.

Look at the World’s Most Nuanced Pastimes

PC Building, At-Home Laboratories, & the Art of Gaming

When computers first started to shift toward home usage in the 1980s and 90s, some techies decided to craft their own PCs. Using hardware from various companies, these hobbyists would set up CPUs, GPUs, motherboards, PSUs, and even systems for cooling their devices.

Today, PC builders are usually gamers. PC gamers prefer to craft their own setup so they know that it’s running faster and more accurately than other store-bought items. However, not all PC builders are interested in gaming.

Some simply like to curate their own at-home laboratories. It might simply be cheaper given the supplies they already have, or it might be to craft their own upgrades. Regardless of why they’re building their PC, hobbyists have to understand all the equipment listed above, as well as have solid mechanical skills and an understanding of hardware infrastructure.


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