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Magic, Social Skills, and Awkwardness

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In response to Jason's article yesterday, a comment posed a question I'd been thinking about just a few hours before.

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If we look past the rhetorical sarcasm, this is actually a really good question. I think you can make the case that playing Magic develops one's social skills in a way that many non-Magic players don't have a chance to experience.

Magic players are stereotyped as asocial nerds, but if you've attended any number of tournaments at any level, you know that's but a fraction of the playerbase. Magic attracts people from all walks of life. It transcends race and gender and even language.

At FNMs, I've played both kids half my age that are twice as good as me and guys who have played since 1993 but still don't understand the concept of a mana curve. I've played elderly retirees looking for a hobby and young professionals who travel to big events every weekend. I've played against frat bros and hippies, sorority sisters and punk rock girls, clean-cut guys in suits and guys who haven't bathed in weeks. I've played against women who are only there because of their boyfriends and women whose boyfriends are only there because of them. I've played against opponents with Pro Tour top eights and opponents who don't see anything wrong with Shocking my face on turn one of a Draft match.

As Magic players, we play against all types of opponents. And if you're playing in tournaments, then you are forced by the very nature of MTG events to have a one-on-one interaction with another random human being several times in a row in quick succession. Nothing says you have to have a full conversation with the other player, and many times you won't say much at all, but the life experience gained from learning to socialize with such a wide array of personality types should not be overlooked. To intensify the experience, most matches end with a winner and a loser. Learning to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat is not a skill everyone develops, but we all know the best opponents are the ones who have reached that point.

Some people are awkward. Some of them are Magic players. Some of them will stay that way their whole lives. But you know what? You're going to have deal with awkward people in your life. Be it coworkers or teachers or customer service people or whatever, they're all over the place. If you fancy yourself a socially adept person, turn your matches against peculiar opponents into a learning experience. See if you can draw them out of their shells, show some kindness, and make the match pleasurable for you both. I'm not saying you have to engage every opponent in a personal conversation, but if you just shut down because your opponent is a little weird, maybe we should ask: who exactly is the one making the match awkward?

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Danny Brown

Danny is a Cube enthusiast and the Director of Content for Quiet Speculation.

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2 thoughts on “Magic, Social Skills, and Awkwardness

  1. Didn’t expect this respons.
    I like it!
    You’re right.
    As a judge, you can clearly see what’s the importance of social skills.

    There are many introvert people playing this game. Magic gives them a comfortzone to express their social skills.
    It’s easy to think that introvert people lack social skills, which is not true, it’s just on another level, and mostly more empathic in my experience.

    I’m sometimes surprised to see magic players in another context. I know them as social people, and seeing them in another context as very shy people can be awkward.
    Maybe you’ve had that already, you meet someone in another context, but you can’t talk with him like you’re used to.
    The other way around too. I met someone I knew in the LGS, he was clearly ashamed that I saw him playing magic there, untill I said that I play the game too.

    And yeah, I don’t know that Ari guy, so can’t say much about it, but from what I’ve read, he should try to be more empathic, just a little bit.
    Ooh, and the internet too of course. 😉

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