The Lone Magic Player
Welcome to another one of my articles. Last time I ranted about how Wizards of the Coast has done nothing to stop the incessant flow of sets into the card pool. I am talking about the 500+ cards a year that keep the rich richer and the poor poorer, so to speak. This time around I am going to focus on an effect rather than a cause. The effect that I am talking about is the reduction in the number of Magic players out there. The result being how difficult it can be for the tournament-turned-casual player like myself to find a game. The following is a timeline of my Magic career.
1995: I started playing Magic in when a friend showed me the game. I was instantly hooked. Dozens of people traded the cards all over the halls of Scarsdale Middle School every day and it was the hottest thing. Being in 8th grade, I was just starting out and learning about game play tactics and card values. I had very little knowledge of the game. It was fun learning about all the new cards, but what made the game so fun was the number of people available to duel against. Most everyone in my percussion class played Magic. Many people in my study hall did, too. During lunch and recess it was even hotter! After school I could go over to a friend's house and catch a few games. Not only the friends I already had that played, but new friends which I made through the game. At Dragon's Den, my local card store, there were tournaments every week that attracted dozens of players, filling up the place. It was exciting. You could to go to play, to trade, to compete. Any or all of the above were fair game.
1996. Magic flooded the library of Scarsdale High School every day during lunch. There were ample people to play and trade with, and socialize. What better way to meet new people! It was the epitome of the social aspect of Magic. People playing an intellectually stimulating game and having a good time, to boot. I started playing in a few local tournaments, and an occasional Gray Matter event. I was having the time of my life, with many new friends. I was taxing my brain to its fullest capacity, and enjoying it at the same time. What other game could claim to utilize my critical thinking skills in such an entertaining way? I was grateful to have such a decent following with this game, and enjoyed it all the time. I had started an online magazine, Library of Leng, which quickly grew to a couple hundred subscribers, mostly on AOL, though. I was working with other people in writing articles, doing polls, and putting together an informative magazine that really hit home. I was really having a blast.
1997. I make a few new Magic friends in White Plains, the city next door. They all become better players by playing with me. I've been doing quite well at Dragon's Den lately. Not winning all the time, but doing pretty well and still having a good time. Anyway, that's what's important. Every day during the summer a few of us got together and played, traded, and had a great time. We went to tournaments every week at Comic Book Heaven, a more local place. I met even more people and was really building up a great network of players. I was looking forward to the next summer when I'd be able to drive, so we could play some more and go to more tournaments. All the while though, things have died down. My high school has banned Magic, and not as many high schoolers are interested in the game any more. They are saying that the new cards are ruining the old cards. I disagree but that doesn't stop them from packing up. I try and start a club for the few players who are left, but it doesn't get off the ground.
1998. The Magic club starts up at my high school. About 20 people come to the first meeting, in an attempt to give the game a second chance. Attendance starts to dwindle after a couple months, though, with about 7 or 8 regulars. The year goes by and only 4 people are showing up anymore. Comic Book Heaven stops having Magic tournaments. I get my driver's license, finally, but only one of the 6 or 7 people I knew from last summer are still playing the game. To my dismay, I no longer have as diverse of a crowd to work with. I still have my band for awhile, but soon enough that goes down the hole, too. Without anyone to play with locally, I travel to Dragon's Den often to catch a few games. There are still a dozen or so players there and we have a good time. Sometimes they can be obnoxious, but not too bad. I learn to live with it.
1999. Attendance at the Magic club goes to absolute zero. Dragon's Den attendance dwindles. They stop having tournaments, eventually. Zev qualifies for the JSS and then playtests with me so I qualify, too. We go to the JSS and meet up with many other players. I go 1-3 drop. He goes 0-3 drop. Oh well, I take a break from tournament Magic. A big break it is. Pokemon takes over, and all the little kids fueling the Magic engine start playing Pokemon instead. WotC goes into big biness. (That's not a typo, if you say it really fast.) Hasbro! Enough said. Lots of bannings. More bannings occur. Things go to an all time low. I arrive at college and can't find any players at all. I take a three-month vacation from the game. I then go to PTQ Harrisburg for the ride and start writing some rants.
What's happened? So many people have stopped playing. There used to be the sharks, the fish, and the guppies. The guppies have quit, the fish have migrated, and only the sharks are left, for the most part. The level of respect in Magic seems to be degrading, but maybe that's because the only people left are the sharks. The only Magic I see is "pro" Magic. Having been out of the game for three months, it's too much of a task to get back in. I want to so badly but I have been consumed in other work. Yet I would give so much to go back to the days when a group of friends and I could just sit around all day flipping cards. When none of us were the best, but when everyone played and a game was easy to find. Sort of like the Magic hippie era. Now what's left? Me with an 800-count box of assorted Mercadian Masques cards. The Lone Magic Player of Stony Brook.