It's hard to say what my life would be like without Magic. I've been playing the game longer than I haven't since starting in '94. There are times I've looked back and wondered, what if I hadn't started playing? Maybe I would have delved more into other games, sports, work; who knows? Sure, that's all in the make-believe land of what-if, but from time to time I've also pondered on how being involved with the game has helped make me who I am today.
Totally Awesome Game, Dude!
To give a little context on how my involvement in Magic started, I'll share a little personal history. Being a child of the '80s, there weren't many options for what is now a more commonplace term: gamer. The main choice back then was TSR's juggernaut:
I played in a few D&D campaigns, and they were fun and all, but the potential length of play was a problem. Mainly due to never being able to get the same people together again. It never failed; we'd start one campaign, enjoy a multi-hour session, and never get back to it. The reasons were various, but after doing that a few times, I lost interest.
The other early gaming experience I had, and still enjoy to this day, was with gamebooks. For the uninitiated, these are D&D games in book form. Even though it's not a true gamebook, I included the Choose Your Own Adventure book for those in the US who might not be familiar with Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf, which honestly are worldwide juggernauts in their own right and maintain a huge following.
With these, I didn't need to coordinate with others, or plan out a large chunk of time. I could pick one up, start in, and put it down when needed. The only thing missing was friends. I enjoy hanging out with others, and even though these books scratched the gaming itch, something was still missing.
Fast forward to the fall of '94 and I'm in a small living room with my younger brother and two of our friends, trying to figure out how the mana pool works. Full disclosure: we thought you saved and built up your mana, so we kept track of it on separate sheets of paper. Fortunately, we figured out the correct process a little later... or maybe we were just ahead of our time?
No doubt, if you're a Magic player, it's probably given you many good memories, friends, and experiences. Now, with Magic's 30th Anniversary on the horizon, I figure I'd share a few ways this wonderful game has affected my life and maybe yours too.
1. Almost Eight Billion People, and I'm One of Them
According to the World Population Clock, we're on the cusp. So many people and so many Magic players. Last I heard, there are approximately 40 million of us. Sure, it's only 0.5% of the world's population, but still a ton of people I haven't had the pleasure of playing Magic with yet. I have gotten to know quite a few people through Magic and learned some things in the process.
Other than through my work, I've come across more people outside my sphere of influence through Magic than through any other. People from differing backgrounds, beliefs, ages, personalities, etc. I haven't gotten to know everyone intimately, but it has provided me with more insight into other players and what's important to them.
Sometimes it was subtle; other times, it was right there in front of me. By expanding my range, I've been able to engage in great discussions, make new friends, and even attend a wedding through Magic. You never know who you'll get to know.
Broadening My Worldview
Hand in hand with the meeting and greeting is how my worldview expanded. Every time I would play against or meet someone I wasn't sure of or didn't quite get, I'd think about it. Why don't I understand or fully appreciate this person?
I'd then work to resolve that within myself. Is it a difference in background? A language barrier? Even if I wouldn't be able to resolve it completely, I'd at the very least gain some understanding. I can respect that the world is much larger than I am and I'm still learning.
2. Seeing the World Through New Eyes
When I'm around others and gain some knowledge, I try to implement it. I work to put what I've learned into practice; to constantly improve myself in how I deal with those around me and hopefully help those around me improve as well.
You Know What They Say When You Assume...
Being self-aware of limitations leads to better decision-making, which leads to better experiences. For example, when I've sat across from a young player just starting out, it feels natural to assume the game is in the bag. That kind of cockiness can spell trouble mentally.
When you start to write someone off, just because they're young, or a girl, or old, like yours truly, or whatever, you actually lose out. You lose the strategic advantage, possibly lose an opportunity to make a friend, or overall lose the chance to enjoy the event.
It is human nature to assume facts not in evidence. To judge before you know the situation. It can prove a struggle, but I have found it rewarding to always try to leave room to be wrong and then learn from the experience.
Let's Agree to Disagree
My son, Jarod, enjoys discussing and at times debating various Magic topics. It's all in good fun, but we can get verbally heated about trying to prove we're right. Sometimes you just need to not worry about it. Now, Jarod and I are comfortable and familiar enough with each other to know that the discussion isn't that big of a deal. That familiarity is not always the case.
While interacting with people I'm not familiar with or people with different viewpoints, it helps to know when to let the discussion go before it becomes something it shouldn't. Sometimes it helps to step back and ask, "What's my purpose here?" Am I there to have fun playing a game, or just prove I'm right about something? For me, it tends to be the former.
3. "Oh Lord, It's Hard to Be Humble When You're Perfect in Every Way"
The picture above is of Mac Davis, a country singer with this section's title being one of his most popular songs. Mind you, I was ten back in 1980, but the song kind of sticks in your head. You can tell from the live version he's having a lot of fun with it. It does point out, in a humorous way, something that my long experience with the game has produced. Knowing that I am important, but not having to express it to everyone I meet.
I See You Know the Ways of Magic
I've been playing for 28 years and have a large collection, but I don't need to lord these facts over new players that don't. We all play, win, lose, and experience the game in our own way. My story is just that: mine. It's not more or less important than your story. Remembering that helps me enjoy the event more while interacting with my fellow players.
It's Like D&D, But with Cards
Nowadays, gaming in general is more accepted and understood. Fortunately, we don't have the same issues that were prevalent during the first couple decades of Magic. Still, don't fall into the same trap as those who don't understand what it's about. When someone is ignorant of what Magic really is, I've found that there are ways to help them to expand their understanding rather than perpetuate a stereotype.
4. What's this Left Brain / Right Brain stuff?
Almost everyone's heard of the Left Brain vs. Right Brain debate. Are you more analytical? You lean left. Creative? Right. To be honest, it's really not much of a debate, since it's been disproven for the most part. In simple terms, we actually use all of our brains, just different areas fire off at different times. It's still fun to use the imagery to describe how our brain appreciates different aspects of a thing... in this case, a thing called Magic!
Let's Get Creative!
As I expressed in a previous article, Magic has stoked my creativity. Not just through the cards themselves, but in ways outside of the game. Still, the best way to express yourself in Magic is through the cards. Whether through deck-building, using only cards from a specific artist, or collecting your favorite card like mine below, the creative outlets are endless.
Being Left is All-Right!
Magic is absolutely a mix of both our creative and analytical aspects. The game was designed by a mathematician, for heaven's sake. Casting cost, power, toughness, the phrase "math is for blockers!" Analyzing is right in Magic's wheelhouse.
I'm no math genius, but I do enjoy crunching numbers every now and then. When I can potentially generate an almost infinite number of coin flips to win a game, you bet we're having fun with math!
Another realization is that my vocabulary has improved from the game as well. Where else would you encounter these words in a real-life setting?
Are You Ready for More?
I hope some of what I've shared here helps provide a better understanding of your own gaming experience and love of Magic. Do you have any tales or related experiences to share? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. And until then, may you enjoy the 30 year celebration!