The Stigma of playing Magic
by Bruce Gray -Casual Encounters
If you are anything like me you have fond memories of the Original Super Nintendo. What a classic gem that was! It was easy to play, had cheesy graphics, terrible music…and some truly iconic games of the video gaming era. I still maintain that Super Mario Brothers 3 was by far and away the best video game ever made as it found a healthy balance between challenging levels and fun interactions. You are free to disagree, but SNES was and will forever be an amazing way to play video games.
However, since the days of the SNES things have changed. Gaming is no longer a thing for children. No, it is full on adults at play who game…and game lots. Now, I have no problem with gaming and I’m in fact quite glad that people still enjoy these products. I think everyone deserves some time to relax and wind down and if sitting down and playing at your favorite game console does it for you, then by all means enjoy it. No, the issue is that some people take it to excess…but that happens with EVERYTHING. Moderation is grand, but excess is problematic.
In the 20 years or more since the SNES was all the gaming rage something has happened. Yes, it is no longer for kids…but it has also exploded into the mainstream as a 100% legitimate form of entertainment. That’s actually very remarkable to have seen this societal trend to allow something like video games into the realm of the totally acceptable forms of diversion. No longer do you need to hide your console, tuck away your controllers, and stuff those games in that sock drawer…no, they are all displayed neatly, but with a high degree of prominence in a TV room. My, how things have changed.
What does playing video games have to do with playing Magic you ask? Quite simply this. If gaming can move from the shadows of societies acceptable activities to being a totally legitimate acceptable form of diversion, why is it that Magic players still been a degree of shame for THEIR diversion? Oh, you don’t believe me that Magic players feel shame? Ask around a local high school, college or place of employment and see if anyone openly admits to actually playing Magic. The answer is likely no…but if you pry a little deeper, you might be surprised to see who actually plays or has played in the past. However, without fail most of these people admit to such things discreetly because they don’t want other people to know about their “dirty little secret”.
First off, there is nothing dirty about playing Magic, and frankly, being the father of a young child, I would rather see my child play Magic instead of taking up video games. Why you ask? Here’s why. I am a teacher by trade and routinely overhear my students talking about their latest video game exploits. My students range in age from 7 to 10 years old and yet they are discussing matters such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, or Assassins Creed. I am not one to critique the parenting choices of some families, but I know that personally I am not a fan of letting my young child see shooting, killing and the generally more risqué material of these games until they are older. No, I would rather have my son play with cards and use his imagination to try and visualize the sequence of events rather than blowing up a car full of zombies in the latest video game. The distinction may be minor to some, but to me the lack of actual violence and relying on fantasy and adventure to spark the imagination of my son seems far more appealing to me than any video game I have seen.
Now, there are some people who don’t like the idea of fantasy and adventure that can be found in Magic, and I totally understand that point of view. It is difficult to believe that in a world far away that dragons, vampires, and other creatures roam the wilds and occasionally do battle with each other. That can be a stretch for the old grey matter for sure. However, in the next breath hundreds of millions of people attended the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Harry Potter is among the most celebrated young adolescent book series ever, and Bella, Jacob, and Edward won international acclaim for their books and movies. No, people are prepared and generally able to accept that such things exist, or at least willing to suspend their disbelief long enough to enjoy such things. A little imagination never hurt anyone.
Then there are people out there in society that don’t much care for card games. They find games like Bridge, Rummy, and Euchre difficult to understand, hard to play, and largely boring. These are also the same people who love to play Poker…not for the cards, but for the gamesmanship and the thrill of betting. However, let me remind you, playing cards in an age old social activity that gathers people together to enjoy in a mutual experience. Whether you play card games like Bridge or Euchre or Magic you are continuing that age old tradition of meeting with friends and playing a game to relax. At its core Magic is simply that. It is a social convention used to relax. To those who want to play for the thrill and gamesmanship, all that is built in to Magic already WITHOUT the huge gambling issue. Besides, many of the top players in Magic are also top Poker players and not without coincidence.
As you can see, there is no good reason for anyone trying to disguise their interest in playing Magic, and in fact it is a healthy and perfectly acceptable form of diversion and mental relaxation. It has subject material that can be perfectly acceptable for a younger audience, slides into a segment of society that is already hotly sought after if recent movie releases are any indication, and can genuinely allow for an honest social experience with friends as you share a common interest. Of course, moderation is the key for most of us. Very few players will ever achieve the status of Luis Scott Vargas, Brian Kibler, or Patrick Chapin who are among the most recognizable names and faces on the Pro Tour, and that is just fine. We can still enjoy our interest and past time without and enjoy the benefits afforded from the game so long as we don’t let the game become bigger than it ought to be.
Currently it is estimated that there are roughly 12 million people who play Magic worldwide. My first impression was “wow…that seems very high!”. But then I stopped and thought about it. That’s actually far lower than to really ought to be. If video gaming can somehow have hundreds of millions of players worldwide, and movies like the Hobbit can have several hundreds of millions of people pay to come and watch it, and Poker can somehow manage to find primetime on ESPN and the like, then surely Magic can carve out a larger niche. I wager that there are actually more than 12 million players, but there are a certain number that don’t like to admit to what they perceive is a Stigma attached to playing Magic. Others quit years ago for fear of that same Stigma. However, my point today is that stigma, whether it is real or just perceived, should not actually be something we worry about as Magic players. We occupy the same space as video games, movies, and poker…all of which are perfectly acceptable activities…and by consequence Magic is just as acceptable.
Am I suggesting that you go and make a banner claiming for all to see that “I PLAY MAGIC!”? No, but there is no good reason why the average person should feel any shame or stigma attached to their hobby of choice, namely playing Magic. I bet that many of you reading this have already come to grips with this, but there are players out there…somewhere…that miss out on the experience, the enjoyment, and the diversion of playing Magic. There are potential players who don’t ever crack a pack because they are worried what “others” are going to think of them . There are casual playgroups that fall apart for lack of players simply because we don’t know that they are out there…despite the fact that they may be around the corner or live in the house next door. This is why the Stigma needs to be something that the players who are already tied to the community should be working to dispel. You are no less of a student, employee, mother, father, friend, or anything else in society because you opt to play Magic as a diversion. That stigma needs to go…and once it does we will all be much better off for it.
Well, there we have it. If you have your own thoughts on the “stigma” of playing Magic, I’d love to hear about it. Maybe I’m way of base. Perhaps the Stigma is even larger than I perceived. Whatever the case, I’d be happy to hear what you have to say. Shoot me a tweet and let me know your thoughts.
Thanks for reading again this week…and remember keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.