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Gamers of a Certain Age

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 Falling Star 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.

Post categories: Feature, Free, Timmy


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Robby Rothe Jr

Robby Rothe Jr. is currently one of the only players to have read the Revised rule book to learn how to play. After he attacked with an 11/21 Kird Ape, believing it received +1/+2 for each forest in play, he has never looked back. Robby has been writing about Magic for the past three years on his design/humor/culture blog MTGColorPie.com as well its Elder Dragon Highlander cousin blog 99EDHProblems.com. Since then he has branched out and is currently writing a weekly EDH column for ManaNation.com as well. As a “Not quite a casual/not quite a professional” player, he knows that there’s a larger group out there that fits into that same mold. Believing that Magic is more than decklists and who made the Top 8, Robby focuses on what makes the game tick; from the cards to the people. Even though he lives with his wife in the Seattle area near WotC headquarters, you can always find Robby on Twitter at @mtgcolorpie.

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18 thoughts on “Gamers of a Certain Age

  1. you sir are 100% incorrect.

    i work full time, and am married with two children. we are buying our first home(a very modest one).i have no college education,and have held full time work since i was 18.(im 34).i didnt even start playing magic until maybe5 or 6 years ago,but have fallen deeper in love with it every day.it doesnt take away from my life in any way . i read an hour or two daliy and hit 2 out of 3 fnm's.played in 3 ptgs in the last 3 years and have finished a little better each time(40 out of 325 players this year) my point is you dont seem like the kind of person who should be writing articals for people who love play and collect magi the gathering cards.

    you do seem overwhelmed with your life,i mean you have time to write this very negative theorie but have to walk out of an fnm with your nose in the air cause your so busy?gimme a break

    go play friday, have a great time ,go home and give it to your woman and make breakfast for your fam on saturday youll feel better about yourself and your woman will respect you more for being yousel . the dude she wanted in the first place ,unless you put up a fake front ,then it will fail anyway.

    regardless dont trash magic as for the twenty something low level job holding single guys cause you r WRONG!

    1. @Dredge- Aside from Robby's use of the term "growing up," I didn't preceive an attack on the age demographic that -in general- is most at liberty to devote a substantial part of their life to a hobby or pastime, so I'm not sure why you're taking umbrage. But both you and the author make valid central points:

      Robby: Priorities have a way of changing as you get older, and entertainment takes a backseat to responsibility

      Dredge: If gaming is a part of your life, the mate you choose should accept that part of you and support it

      For my part, I'm 36 years old, and am finding both to be true. Not only does my wife have two kids from a prior, but we just had ourselves a baby of our own six weeks ago.

      Remembering that compromise is not a four letter word, I've sacrificed going to FNM's because that would leave my wife at home with Liam alone (and she already takes overnight duty to let me sleep for work). Worse, it would keep me away from my son for hours on end, and I want every chance I have to hold him and spend time with him. So where I once had dreams of becoming a regionally competitive player, I've mothballed them.

      But you find things to have in return, and if done well you're more the richer for them. For me, it's been teaching my 12-year-old stepdaughter to play, and she's absolutely mad about the game now. My wife plays as well, and between the two I can have a fun, casual game almost at the asking. And with their generous help and (above all) support, I've managed to start a website that might well be more of a success than *I* would have been on the pro tour. 😀

      I, too, am 'that guy' that leaves once the games begin, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

    2. I believe you misunderstood what I was writing about. In no way was I talking about giving up the game or shelving it, because that's just silly. I know that sometimes as you do gain more responsibilities you have to juggle your personal free time with other activities.

      There are a ton of younger players in my area who don't have such attachment and play Magic every weekend. I'm fortunate to live in an area (Seattle) that has tournaments on a regular basis. There are Legacy, PTQs, drafts and Standard tournaments going on all the time. And for the players who do have that kind of time to go to these, they don't realize the effort that an older person who has attachments has to do to get to these events all of the time. And if they're constructed events, playtesting matchups takes a great deal of time to do, especially if you're serious about trying to finish high in the rankings. The regular players in my local game store have now gotten to the point of slowly understanding that I do more than just try and play Competitive Magic. It was a choice I made and soon one they will make themselves whether they know it or not.

      While I applaud you for going to 2 out of every 3 FNMS (which is a pretty good average for any player), by going to 3 PTQs in 3 years, that's around how much I average as well (about 1 or 2 a year). You and I aren't so different. I make time for Competitive Magic (Since I'm a Johnny/Spike), but I can't make all of the time. And I know that there's a huge population of players that are like that. This was partly for them (saying that it's alright if you don't play all of the time) and partly for the young players who don't understand about some of the other joys of life with those responsibilities. Dylan is right: while this could have been almost anything that one can "binge" on, this is about Magic. You need to find the right balance.

      As for myself, ever since I've gotten married I have gotten more involved in Magic, especially in the online community aspect. My wife has been very accepting of my "second love" and I don't think I would be with her if she didn't understand it. I'm like Jay, I've become more "successful" with Magic after I gave up trying to get on the Pro Tour. I've learned to embrace other formats such as EDH as Andera is learning to do (it's ok, go with it!). I've had more fun playing Magic now then I did when I was in that little responsibility age because I've learned to appreciate it more.

      As for if I'm the kind of person who should be writing about Magic, everyone has their own opinion. Not everyone will like my work, and I completely understand that. There are some Magic writers who work I don't like and I don't think they're good for the game (All names withheld (But no one on QS)). I do hope you give me one more chance with my next piece; I promise I won't appear to be so negative.

  2. Yo dedgre demon did you ever learn the expression "learn to disagree"?

    The man shared his point of view and I for instances understand him as I too shared a similar perspective.

  3. Robby (or Rob?),

    This was a fantastic read 🙂 Thank you! I didn't find it to be a negative tone at all. I'm a 24-year old in a bit of an in-between stage, having gotten past the college dorm days and into home ownership, but not yet starting a family. I have to imagine it all comes down to balance. As superficially satisfying as "binging" on anything can be (food, MTGO, anything really), keeping perspective really helps you enjoy everything, and life itself, much more IMO!

    Plus, women really are soft and smell nice 🙂

    Dylan

  4. This is precisely where I find myself, with the downside being that I actually stopped playing during what should have been my golden age. I came back just as I was settling down and am literally traveling around the country every week or two.

    Like you, nobody asks anymore when I leave after 20-45 minutes. I might pick up a GPT or random constructed win every month or two, and might even get to travel to a GP on occasion. But my practice time is limited to random MODO matches from hotel rooms on the road.

    I've found that the most I can contribute consistently is through providing cards and decklists strategy updates to the younger (somehow less connected?!) crowd. This leads to people thinking that I don't like to play(!!), but nothing is further from the truth.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this piece, it's exactly where I am in my now-young-again magic career. Just when I can finally afford to play, I can't afford to play…

  5. I too can identify with this article. I played revised through college then gave it up. I came back at 34 for the Alara block and now love the game again, but my fiance does not. For her it is just time I am away from the house. It took me a while to learn how to balance home, work and fit in a bit of time for MTG. Tonight will be the first FNM I have played in months. It may be the last for a while, but I need to keep my girls at home happy too.

  6. I am debating asking my wife tonight if she minds that I go to FNM. She always says yes, but there's always a twinge of regret, in the "Go, and I want you to have a good time! But you could be spending that time with me" edge to it.

    My wife and I spend so much time during the week dealing with work, school, keeping up with the house, taking care of pets, spending time with family, etc. that there is really very little time we are able to devote to each other! Taking away one of those nights for me to go to my local FNM seems selfish, and as a result, I self-limit the amount of time I play Magic.

    However, I think it *is* very possible for those without my circumstances to understand why I cannot devote more time to playing our favorite game. Being dismissive and saying "It’s like Vietnam; you won’t understand because you weren’t there." really is flippant. This is the same to me as parents saying "You don't have kids, you just don't understand" to someone without kids — I think you CAN have an understanding and appreciation for someone else's circumstances without having lived them yourself.

    Do I envy those who have the luxury of being able to make Magic a higher priority? Sure I do. But I'm sure that there are aspects of my life that others would find just as enviable. And they don't have to live my life to understand those benefits.

    1. I feel bad for you if every time you ask your wife to go to FNM she always has to put that "twinge of regret" edge on it. If you're already self-limiting the amount of time you play Magic, then your FNM requests should be reasonable.

      I've been married for four years to a non-gamer, so I understand the inherent potential conflict in choosing to spend time away from your wife, but if you're really aggressively working to spend time together, you should be able to do something on your own if you want to. I've found that in relationships it's important for each partner to be solid and happy on their own, as it helps them to be solid and happy when together.

      On to the article: I was a little confused by what the point of it was, as I think dredge demon was. I think the tone and word choice got in the way of the message. If I'm reading it correctly, Robby is just trying to explain to people why he (and others in his position) sometimes have to pass on participating in events.

      I actually find Robby's reaction interesting because I also run into that question ("you're not playing?"), which is a completely reasonable question to ask when someone who is obviously a Magic player is there but not playing or there and about to leave once the event starts. Let's face it, sticking around to play in the event would seem to be the thing that makes sense to most people, right? So why wouldn't someone ask why you're leaving? I certainly would.

      Saying "Players who aren't in this situation just don't understand" is somewhat unfair and certainly inaccurate. Most Magic players are people who have other interests and other things they choose over Magic when there's a conflict. Just because they aren't in your particular situation doesn't mean they don't understand wanting to do something besides Magic.

    2. @Lackey- My piece of (unsolicited) advice is to get a certain amount of these times agreed to beforehand, and you'll likely have a lot better luck in not only being able to go, but also (just as importantly) feeling better about it.

      Perhaps something like, "honey, my hobby is very important to me, but of course so are you. I'd like to attend my FNM every other Friday, so that way we'll have the other Fridays together, as well as any other nights we have plans." That's cheesy, but it gets the idea across. Setting permissions ahead of time makes all the difference.

      As a postscript, I'm not too big on dismissing circumstances as incomprehensible by those who haven't had those direct experiences- generally as thinking creatures we can extrapolate or approximate by drawing upon similar experiences we *have* had. That said, I used to hate the expression "you don't have kids, you don't understand," because it always seemed to be a cop-out.

      Six weeks ago, I had my first child. And now I believe it. 😀

      1. @Marc Aquino, @Jay Kirkman,

        Thank you both for the advice. I already try to incorporate this level of mutual understanding, in both activities she wishes to do away from me, and in my activities (Magic included, but not Magic exclusively).

        Did I ask if she'd mind if I go to FNM on Friday? Yup. Did she have any issue? Well — yes, but a legitimate one. As we not only had company coming the next day, but we're prepping our home for a holiday party in 2 weeks, and every night we get something prepped for it, the more smoothly it'll go.

        So I stayed home Friday night and cleaned house, instead of going to FNM. Did I mind? Nope. There will (hopefully) always be more FNMs. And even if now I won't have a chance to play in an FNM again until January (the likely scenario), I'm ok with that.

        It's also likely I would have gone 2-3 with a janky combo deck, because I lock the Johnny in me away and build a decent deck for once.

        Marriage is give and take, respect and trust. Right now, this month, my desires get pushed to the back burner. And that's fine with me, there are other priorities that take precedence.

        1. @Lackey: I hear you on the busy weekend and holiday schedule. I'm actually probably pretty lucky as far as scheduling things with my non-gamer wife goes:

          – One "advantage" I have is that as a nurse, she works one weekend a month so if the stars align properly, she's working during a Magic event and I get to avoid the potential conflict.
          – The FNM at my local store usually ends just an hour or two after she would get back from work, so if she's working, FNM is not really that big a deal.
          – She likes my Magic friends so I probably get a little leeway there.
          – And finally, as long as I don't do it every night of the week or at times when the house is "a mess," I can pretty much have people over to play whenever.

          Boy, my wife rocks! B^)

          @Jay Kirkman and @Lackey: The schedule thing is GREAT. We have a running calendar of upcoming events and I've already made sure to put the Mirrodin Besieged prerelease and release tournaments on there, as well as all the major nearby Star City and Grand Prix events on it. I may not actually attend them all, but we can plan ahead accordingly.

  7. im sorry,

    i overreacted completely.its just that i feel magic has this stigma on it as childish from the nonmagic community,and i thought someone from the magic community was telling me it couldnt be as important to me now that im older without neglecting my family and it struck a nerve.i tell people im going to play cards and they asume poker ,i dont correct them because they are fine with poker and i dont want to hear there judgemental shit about a trading card game.magic is for any type of person at any age in their life i hope im at a sanctioned tourney when im 65 and i hope its even more fun than when i was 28.

    again i appalogize to you ,my rage about age just kind of slipped out . you are a great writer and i look forward to reading future articals from you. this is one of my favorite sites and i was the one who was WRONG .

    just do me one favor?

    someday , even if its five years from now stay and play one of those fnms.do it for us old heads out there lol

    much respect

  8. Ha, we are at very similar places in life from the sounds of it.

    I have some friends who play magic, I don’t know if they will ever get to the place you describe.

    EDH is definitely the format for the married with kids and job bracket I’ve found.

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