If only... Modelling and kit building isn't dead though. Check out what the customizing community does with modern era toys. Some of the conversion of hasbro's toys that people have done are simply fantastic. Not to mention folks who can take a sheet of plastic styrene and build anything they want out of it!
Also, with the advances in 3d printing people have begun printing their own kits through sources like shapeways.... if you really want to build models there are still plenty of options, you just have to be more crafty!
The model scene is alive and still kicking but its not really "cool" enough for the new generation of kids to take up. See this site aircraftresourcecenter.com there are some really amazing models that practically look real. It also has some good photo references for doing drawings.
Models now are either excessively complex and have far too many steps, or just don't fit together anymore. I stopped making models becuase I got so frustrated with the fact that I had to bend peices to make them fit at times... or even shave them down.
Oi. My mom has owned a hobby store since I was a kid, we had models there, and needless to say, that was one of my hobbies. *grins* Some brands are crappier than others. I've always had the best luck with the japanese and italian companies, myself. Some american brands are made poorly, and you do have to heat up and bend the plastic to get them to fit right, and use rubber bands and.. gah, it's just a mess.
True, model kit quality is all over the place, and every company is guilty of some poor products. Japan still makes beautiful kits (along with a few turkeys), Italy same.
Now Russia and the Eastern Bloc are competing with Japan and producing some amazing kits!
There was a time when no company besides Airfix (UK) could match Monogram and Revell (US), but those days are gone.
Revell had interesting models, just not the greatest quality in keeping the sizes consistent. I think I have really only put together one or two Japanese models, but I don't remember them very well. Been too long since I made a model of something, lol.
I have to agree... my love of model building as a kid brought me to my two parallel careers. I always loved the art on the model kit boxes, and often copied/studied the art... which helped me become a freelance artist. And building model airplanes brought me to working on aircraft as an adult... including an obvious inspiration for the X-wing, the F/A-18 Hornet.
It's too bad I don't seem to have time (or space) for those subtle joys of childhood anymore.