I'm Brad Nicholson. I've been around, but Destructoid is where my dawgs at. You can see my work here, at MTV, at Giant Bomb or other great places around the Internet. I also run a podcast called The Electric Hydra and work out a lot in my spare time. Yeah. I keep busy.
There’s something great about Magic, and it isn’t talked about that much. Last week, I had the opportunity to play against my friend’s niece. She’s a 7th grader and is really into the game. I didn’t know that she played until a conversation with her grandmother revealed her interest. Initially, I found her interest into the game odd – but then I really started to think about it. Aside from the fun that can be had with the game, there is some especially valuable stuff for a young person to learn while playing a game.
Let me just say that our game went pretty well for me. Obviously, my goal wasn’t to crush her with my amazing Magic skills. While I have the competitive spirit, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She was utilizing a green deck that she built herself (a feat that I will try to accomplish soon) and I was utilizing a DarkSteel deck that I bought from my local Magic store. She couldn’t handle my flury of spells, so she crumpled pretty soon. As a consolation prize, I gave her a few of my cards anyway.
What’s more important is what this little girl is learning. First of all, she has to interpret the text on the body of the cards. Each card has a special ability, and even a bit of an explanation of what it does within the Magic universe. Not only does she have to read the card, but she also has to draw up the ideal scenario in which to use it. We take these things for granted as Magic players, but for her, it’s a higher order skill.
Of course, she has to know the rules of the game. While not wildly complex, there are certainly guidelines to uphold. She was aware of what counters did, how aerial creatures attack, blocking schemes, and even the proper times to toss down Instants and Sorceries. It was awesome to see her at work. Within the rules, comes strategy. She knew the proper strategic times of when to place down cards, etc. This is the real kicker, and it was a joy to see her exercising her brain in such a way. Magic is stimulating, and unlike the television, requires some extra thought. For us, it would be like Braid. Puzzles require logical thought and so does the placement of cards.
There’s also a bunch of little things that go into the game. Young players have to learn to evaluate the value of cards when they build their own decks. They also have to use their imaginations. The world of Magic is fairly vibrant in its visual depictions on the cards, but more goes into an attack for a young person. They’re visualizing the battle – you know, monsters popping out of the cards. I could see her constructing a wonderful fight between our opposing creatures, and I even bet that when she goes home she dreams of the fantasy worlds that the game has incorporated with it.
It also gives her the opportunity to learn about proper competition and follow some social norms. We all know that when we log onto Xbox Live, it’s a risky experience when it comes to the conduct of younger individuals. All to often, in popular titles like Halo, we’re assaulted with racial slurs and general name-calling throughout matches and after games. With Magic, everything is so personal. The person you’re playing against is literally in front of you. You have to learn some social norms in both defeat and victory. It’s a great experience. She took her loss like a champ and extended her hand. It was a great moment.
A little bit ago, the guys at Wizards sent me some pretty hip stuff to help with this learning experience. My next column will be about the two-player starter pack. I’ll dissect it for you and hopefully find out a few ways to convince others that Magic isn’t the leper collector that most think it is.