It happens almost every Friday night when I go to my local card shop: around six o’clock, when the tournament organizer’s giving his last call for sign ups for the Draft and Standard tournaments, I start to pack my stuff up and go home. As everyone’s taking their seats around the table I wish everyone goodbye and good luck.
The regulars have stopped asking the question; they already know the answer. Every once in a while one of the newer players asks that question:
“You’re not playing tonight?”
I shake my head no.
It’s always funny to see the looks these players give me. I come to the game store for about 45 minutes, and then leave when all the fun is going to start. “Why?” they wonder aloud. Players who aren’t in this situation really don’t understand.
I have more going on in my life than Magic.
Shocking, I know. Doesn’t mean I love Magic any less, it just means my life is winning out over cards at that particular moment. And some players, especially the younger ones that visit the FNMs, really don’t get this concept.
There’s a huge reason why you don’t see many older players on Pro Tours. Most of the players are in their late teens, in their twenties, or early thirties. Magic’s not like professional sports where you have to have muscle reflexes and strength to play Magic (ever since they banned Archon of Falling Stars and Chaos Orb at least). To play at that high quality of Magic there has to be knowledge and experience, something older players would certainly have. But that’s the double edge sword.
It’s all about time, responsibilities, and priorities.
It’s about growing up.
Since Peter Pan and Never Never Land isn’t real (Warning: Spoiler) there’s no way for us to stop aging. And while the youth of today might be taking a lead from the Baby Boomers and try not to grow up, we all do. And with growing up comes more responsibilities. While we might not all take the same path to adulthood and to other cultural checkpoints of our society the general rule is that the older we get the more we have to do.
We don’t expect toddlers to mow lawns and take out the trash as much as we don’t expect teenagers to earn jobs to pay for a mortgage. It’s believed that the older you getthe more you can handle and contribute to society. But there’s an age group that has the ability to do almost what it wants without the stress of societal norms of said responsibility.
Late teens to mid-twenties.
And that’s pretty much the age group of most of the people who play “serious constructed” Magic. Look around at the next FNM or PTQ and consider the ages of players there. There’s going to be a bell curve of the younger and older players but they won’t be the ones making up the majority.
It’s the players who have part-time jobs, or lower level entry, and are most likely still living with their parents, are in college, or share an apartment with a friend or two. None of these are bad things; I went though all of these phases as well. But these are the people with the lower threshold for responsibility in our society, which means they can devote more time into playing Magic. They’re the ones who have the time to playtest matchups, and work on draft pick orders. Available funds go into buying cards and paying for gas for car trips. Weekends are free for those PTQs and grinders and the travel to go to those places.
This is not a slam against these people. Without them we don’t have our next generation competing in future Pro Tours, or our next writers for web sites, or our new innovators for deck ideas. Magic can take up time in one’s life, which is why that age group can afford to use their responsibility free time to focus on it. These are the same people who if they weren’t playing Magic would be backpacking around Europe, or going to the clubs every night, or making cheap movies with their friends. They’re enjoying their time of lesser-responsibility in a way that they enjoy. And everyone is secretly jealous of this age group.
But this isn’t about them.
This is about the people who’ve passed beyond this phase. While not all of them are older (though a majority of them are) it’s about the people who have those responsibilities and priorities that don’t allow them to play Magic whenever they want. When you get the older gamers in a room with the responsibility-free crowd, then explain you have to go, they don’t understand. They think it’s funny that you have to ask your wife if it’s alright to go play cards.
It’s like Vietnam; you won’t understand because you weren’t there.
Let’s say you’ve found someone who’s interested in you as more than just friends (And since I am a straight male this is my prescriptive, your millage with the pronouns may very). In order to build and cultivate a meaningful relationship you have to spend time together. Unfortunately for you, most women don’t believe sitting around watching you play cards for the whole day Saturday is very exciting or romantic. While you might get her to pick up a Magic card every once in a while, not every female will want to play the game meaning that card playing time is not “together time.” She wants you to talk to her, pay attention to her, and compliment her hair. Sometimes that means going out with her Friday nights to go see a romantic comedy, or dinner (or most likely both). It involves meeting her family and her meeting yours.
As with any endeavor there are trade offs. Yes, you’ll most likely start playing Magic a little less but you’ll be starting a complicated and passionate relationship with another human being that you can’t put a price on. Plus women are soft and they tend to smell good. There is the issue of the two of you not getting together to get married, but most likely you’re not going to win that PTQ either. Experience is what helps us grow and learn.
Most people who aren’t in those relationships don’t know that after a while it’s not “your” time: it’s “our” time. I don’t make the rules. This is just how it happens. If I’m living by myself I can decide after work to go play cards until two in the morning if I wish to. That doesn’t cut it when you’re living with your significant other. What are they going to do with that time? This is not a “Let’s spend every second together!” issue. You made a choice to be involved with someone and you need to spend time with them. It’s exactly like Magic: you made a conscious decision to try and make it big by playing cards you need to spend time with it.
The time you spend doing something is the time you can’t spend on something else.
While some might call it a prioritizing problem (and I know Kelly Reid is really into this right now), it’s not just that. You can’t do a million things and expect them to be done all the time. If you read Adam’s post on Monday (I hope you did) you saw that I’m going to be writing here at least once a month. A little odd, right? Well, since I already run two other Magic blogs and write about EDH for ManaNation (it’s all in my bio) I’m trying to give my best attention to everything I write. I personally feel that I can’t do that if I’m writing all of the time. Currently it feels as though I spend more time researching and writing about Magic than playing the game itself. Who does that benefit? Better time management skills do correlate with more interests but sometimes it all interweaves together. Not everything you want to do can be put in the blocks of time you have to plan with.
Let’s say you get married to this woman you’ve been dating. You buy a house together. You start a family together. Each of these things takes time to maintain. Keeping the house clean, mowing the lawn, raising a baby. Your wife’s friends don’t care if you’ve got that Legacy tournament when they scheduled brunch. Nature doesn’t care that the first non-raining day in weeks so you can get outside and clean up the lawn is the same day as your PTQ. Your crying baby doesn’t care that FNM is tonight and you can’t get your decklist together.
Don’t believe that it’s just relationships either. If you get a job that’s more than just minimum wage it’s very likely you might have to take other people’s shifts, or stay late at the office to work on a TPS report, or even travel to meet a client. You might be too tired after the week to think about if you want to play Blue White control or even the correct picks to draft. Mix this with everything else that you want to do in your life.
If you’re working a job AND you’re married AND you’ve got offspring?
Suddenly, life can get full.
It’s not that you don’t care about Magic; you just don’t have the time.
To avoid all of this you don’t have to get married, nor try to get a higher paying job, nor pursue anything else. That’s the impression that non-players have of Magic people; one of that non-responsible age group with a low level job, living at home in their parent’s basement, and most likely they’re dating no one. Don’t worry, that used to be the idea of bloggers and video game players as well but that idea has slowly shifted over time (though that is still the perception of WoW players – but that’s a different story).
You might think this is all doom and gloom but there is good news: wives will still let you go out and play Magic and your boss will have to let you leave work some time. It’s all about balance and compromise. If my local card shop is on my way home from work and I happen to stop in for just a little bit, Wife will let that slide. I’m not coming home at eleven at night and screwing up our date night so she doesn’t feel like Magic is “the other woman.” I know a ton of girlfriends and wives tend to believe that.
When I’m playing Magic it’s not more important that my wife; it’s the activity that I decide to do at that certain time. Sometimes I choose cards, sometimes the Wife. If I didn’t want to spend time with her, I wouldn’t have married her. The younger gamers at the store think that it’s a trick not to let me go play cards. Because they don’t have this experience and this knowledge, they just don’t understand.
Having Magic in your life when you’re growing up isn’t a fantasy, you just have to change your priorities of why you’re playing. You might not be able to qualify for the Pro Tour but you can still get friends together over at your house and sling cards. No one says that you have to give up cards when you get older. To paraphrase Lethal Weapon: you're not getting too old for this stuff. If you work it out right someday you’ll have a future child that you can show this wonderful game to. A bit later, you both can go to FNMs and pre-releases where the whole cycle starts over again.
Just make sure you give them sleeves. I hear chewing and drooling on your Jace, the Mind Sculptor may be bad beats – and I don’t have to go to Kelly for that advice.