A guest blog entry by Chris Menconi (student, world citizen)
An explosion! Fire! Lightning! A horde of elves!
Just a typical day in the Multiverse, the setting of the world’s premiere Trading Card Game, Magic: The Gathering. Players use all manner of spells and creatures to essentially bash the face of their opponents in (it’s all pretend, don’t worry!). I won’t get into the details of how it’s played, for that is both irrelevant and far too long.
Today I’m going to draw upon my experience in both casual and competitive play to recount the average community of this game and perhaps analyze it to make some sense out of it. I promise to not get into the game’s details too hard and bring it to you in layman’s terms as best I can.
Let us start with casual play, as there is not much to tell but is required to contrast tournament play. Casual is the best way to start the game with a bunch of friends, mainly because you’re not restricted by lists of banned cards (unless you want to do that, casual is really up to you) and house rules, fudging the rules of the game a tad based on personal interpretation of the card texts. Now this can result in a dilemma, a.k.a. your rich friend that buys expensive, rare, and really good cards thinking it makes him or her good at the game. This problem is usually solved really by defeating them in the game.
You know, take ’em down a notch.
Now we come to competitive and public play. The data I have collected comes from my experience going to Friday Night Magic (a weekly event) and other Magic related events at the store Gamer’s World off at Yorktown Mall. I shall not give names as they are rather irrelevant, should individuals be presented.
For a start, let’s take a look at the type of people that attend such events. Since the game is more in the lines of “nerdy”, predictably most of the people present are white males, from their 20s to maybe 30s or 40s. There’s guys that have been playing for 15+ years, and the game is complex enough to keep people interested. While it may seem homogenous and potentially smelly, I have run into many women and people of races other than Caucasian, but they aren’t exactly always easy to come by.
For the most part, I haven’t seen any mistreatment of women or things along the lines of segregation. Consequently, I go under the deduction that the people themselves aren’t important, and they would rather let the cards do the talking. In a sense, it’s almost egalitarian. Of course, don’t quote me on that, after all I don’t go to EVERY event so I can’t see what happens then.
But there’s really no indication that foul treatment of people based on race, gender, or sexual orientation takes place, so that’s a plus.
Now, not all of these people are the same, even if it may seem that way. There are many formats of competitive play, the most prominent are Standard, Draft, Modern, Legacy, and Commander. People have preferences on what format they prefer, for example the people that have been playing since the game’s release tend to do Legacy so that they can use their precious cards. Legacy allows you to use almost every card printed, which gets expensive since some cards have been out of print for 15+ years. Younger people tend to stick with Standard and Draft, though older people have done those formats as well.
The formats they play is a good way to categorize them, but an interesting look at individuals is their play style and what they generally have as the focus of their decks. It’s pretty funny when the personality of the individual doesn’t match the deck. For example, I’m a gentle soul totally opposed to killing especially of people, yet in Magic I’m obsessed with killing things then bringing them back to life to fight for me.
Weird contrast, huh?
I think the type of deck can be impacted by how the person started playing. If you started with an aggressive play style, there’s a big chance you’ll usually play those types of decks (of course, this is not always the case).
An interesting phenomena is the concept commonly referred to as “Net Decking”, the act of creating a deck based on a deck someone else on the internet created and posted. Now, what makes it worthy of note is that while the concept of “Net Decking” is generally shunned by many people, most people do it.
That, or they use the general idea created by it, all of these with names like “Living End” or “Red Deck Wins”, which fall under a pattern even if not copied verbatim by the individual. It’s interesting that while it holds a negative connotation, most people still do it.
It’s interesting to look at what a mere game has created in terms of a community. While most of the interaction is fictitious battles, it draws in people with similar tastes and even makes some friends, as you never can plan where you find those with common interests.