They did for me, for several years....I would buy, then sell off, was spending all my time testing and tweaking, rather than playing. I sold a bunch of stuff earlier this year, only to buy a bunch of pedals again...I looked last week, saw 40 pedals sitting on the shelves, decided if it wasn't being played, it was going, and I've purged all but two of them as of today. All that remains is what's been put on a board I've been piecing together for months, stuff that I mindfully purchased to use, rather than just mindlessly purchased on a whim. I took a bit of the proceeds to buy a nice amp and a couple items to finish that board, but the rest went to paying off a couple small bills...it felt pretty nice.
I'm 58, who knows how many more years I'll be active musically...I hope it's a long time, but I've decided that I want to be playing guitar, not shuffling stuff in and out the door all the time. Wish me luck in staying on that path!
I've bought a bunch of pedals but I do a lot of writing and recording so I get a chance to mess with different combinations. I spend far more time playing and experimenting with pedals than just buying/collecting them. I do love the way my display case looks stack with all them pretty boxes though.
I love new gadgets and gizmos. I watch way too many pedal demos. I also finally found that most of that drive is better spent learning what I already have and getting a guitar in my hands. So not as much a hobby as a distraction. I still Like to see what's the new shiny, but aside from some far out effects I see if that sound isn't already in my board/amp/fingers first. Usually it is. Or I stumble into something I like better on the way.
They were for me something terrible. I had more pedals than talent and it took me a long time to realize that. TGP is great but I found it as a relatively new guitarist and kept chasing thinking I could make it sound like the demos.
I have stepped away and haven't bought any new pedals in quite sometime and concentrated on playing and technique. YMMV
I definitely spend more time BUILDING pedals than playing. Spent almost all day yesterday ironing PCBs (press-n-peel) onto copper board, etching/cleaning them, and marking/drilling vero board.
Seriously, about 15-18 circuits' worth. All will be built out enough for testing, but typically only a few make it to a pedal enclosure.
It's a monkey on my back, but I don't see a need to defend it. It's not like I'm doing anything non-productive. It's just a constant search for the right tool or the right color; painstaking and tedious, but anything less is a compromise.
I have a pedalboard with specific effect-types that I need for doing my work, but I've accepted that the specific pedal in those places will change because I find enjoyment out of it. Get to mix my hobby with my job. It's a win win!
Edit: I wouldn't say they're overtaking guitar-playing, I just see it as a different hobby.
They are separate hobbies with overlap. You can collect and appreciate effects without much guitar playing; you can play guitar without effects. Think how many people restore cars and go to car shows, yet drive these fancy vehicles maybe five nice days out of the year. Collecting pedals can be its own hobby, and there is nothing wrong with that. If I had the money, I would have a pile of vintage effects and still prefer actually playing through modern builds.
I build a pedalboard, then sell most of it off to get different pedals, and because of this state of unrest, I don't feel content with my gear enough to practice. I need to get over it... I think I'm recovering. I think...
I think we are definitely in the pedal boom. I think it could be bubble. Eventually it will burst. Perhaps digital multi-effects (I'm talking higher end, like Fractal) will be a part of that. The digital tech is only getting better and better, although I'm not personally ready to cross over yet.
It's also worth noting that generally, pedals are cheaper than guitars and amps. That means the average player has way more pedals than guitars, and way more things to discuss. Pedals are highly modular. You can swap them out (whereas with guitars you might swap out pickups or different strings), so that's going to generate discussion.
Personally, pedals are a fun hobby, but I buy what I want to make certain sounds, to open possibility. Playing and making music is the goal, not buying or selling pedals. If I didn't like playing music, I wouldn't care about pedals at all.
I started out with a few pedals...then it escalated to 24 pedals on my board.......now, a few years later, I am back to like 3 pedals.....and im here to stay....and play. i guess its something I had to get out of my syste. (and wallet). the hobby really was a waste of time though. Strangely enough within these years ive made the best music of my career, but anyway. I used to try looking for the "best" flanger, best reverb etc. In the end, they all sound the same on stage.