This is a show about a game my son loves that I don’t understand. At all. It’s called Magic: The Gathering, and it’s a card game that’s sort of a cross between Dungeons and Dragons and chess. It involves spells and enchantments and creatures and math and strategy. The game was born in 1993, and millions of people play it around the world.
And even though I don’t understand the game, I appreciate that it happens between real people, in person. Hugely enthusiastic players, ranging in age from around seven to forty-five, get together and battle it out, trade cards, and talk about creature powers. I’ve been taking my son to a Friday night game in Montpelier, Vermont–held at the Book Garden. Last time we went, instead of sitting in a foldout chair for 3 hours, I recorded interviews with some of the players.
This show won’t explain the game. That is a task far beyond my skill. Instead, it will introduce you to some of the culture around this game, and the passion of its players. Game. ON.
Big thanks to the Book Garden in Montpelier, and to Keith McCusker for setting me up in a comfortable room to do some interviews. And thanks to all the generous players who shared their stories with me.
Possibly Related Episodes
|The Book Garden Facebook Page|
|Geek Mtn. State...Roundup of games in VT|
|Quarterstaff Games, Burlington|
|Clapping Music||Steve Reich|
|Glass Harmonica Music||Johann Julius Sontag von Holt Sombach|
I’ve been playing this game since I was 16 and I’m now 27. I also remember a store owner sitting me down and coaching me after a big failure night. It meant a lot to me that he would take the time to do that, and I think that’s a big reason I got into the game. It’s a really great group of people with a huge mutual interest. Everyone’s welcome, any age. I think when I was 16, I really needed a group of people I could be with where I could be myself.
I played Magic when I was younger, and have since picked up similar card games in recent years. While there are tiers of skill and being the newcomer to a whole pastime of jargon can be intimidating, I’ve also come to appreciate that having a common language can open up doors to new relationships and communities. That was the case when I got interested in tabletop games in general, and then into the nested communities that form around each game in particular.
The best thing Magic ever helped me do was convince my mother, who’d wanted to visit Alaska ever since she was a little girl, that it was time to go. There’s an annual cruise for Magic: The Gathering fans where tournaments happen on the “at-sea” days. Most years it goes to the Caribbean, but in 2012 it went to Alaska.
It gave me the opportunity to pick up the phone and tell my mom, “No more excuses. You’re going.”
We went. She cruised up the Inside Passage, saw Mendenhall Glacier, and watched whales feed. It was state #49 for her, and now we’re planning Hawaii, state #50.
It’s just one of the many reasons why I feel blessed to have the game as part of my life.
With John’s permission, I’m posting a link to the full story about his Alaska trip. It’s called:
Cruise, Interrupted: Half A Magic Cruise Story
And it’s great.
Thanks for sending this in John!
Impenetrable game to me.
Intrigued (and a bit concerned) that so many “Get it” when I simply can’t.
There a million overlapping worlds in this world. Thanks for giving me a peek into this one.
Great production quality, by the way.
I picked up Magic in high school more than 20 years ago. Now at 40, I still play and go to large tournaments and occasionally even the Book Garden. For me it is a family game (my father, girlfriend, nieces and nephews all play). It is also a way to feel comfortable around people in ways that I otherwise can’t. For example, a couple years back I took my girlfriend to Las Vegas for her first large tournament. Turns out it was also the largest tournament in history with nearly 10,000 people! I never have felt comfortable in large groups, but to be in a room with 10,000 plus other people with whom I could interact, with whom I share an interest, and to truly feel that sense of community is unlike any other feeling. Magic is not only a fun and strategic game, but a way for people to get together, make new friends, share ideas, and laugh. Magic is now 25 years old and shows no signs of going away. For any who don’t play, find your local FNM (that’s Friday Night Magic) and give it a try. Most folks are friendly and will be glad to answer questions and help you get started.
Local FNMs can be found at Quarterstaff Games (in Burlington), Tinker and Smithy (Middlebury), Black Moon Games (Rutland and in Lebanon, NH), The Book Garden (in Montpelier of course), Pixel and Bricks (Randolph), Dark Tower Games (St. Johnsbury) and I’m sure there’s others that I can’t think of.