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Starting Magic: The Gathering


At Gen Con I had the awesome opportunity to meet up with some of the folks at Wizards of the Coast. As many of you may recognize already, I write at a videogame-centric website called Destructoid. When I took the appointment to see the people behind Magic: The Gathering, I was a little apprehensive. I knew exactly nothing about the game. I didn’t know how it was played, what the cards looked like, or even if I could fancy up a conversation worth having.

Instead of talking about the intricacies of the game, we found ourselves talking about the biggest problem that every game faces. We talked about accessibility. Accessibility is an issue that most developers face in my industry, especially with Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGS.) When players first boot up a popular title like Dungeons and Dragons Online, they’re introduced to a world that seems to be limitless. It’s the “fear factor.” Players are forced to ask themselves questions they really shouldn’t about how to play, what to do, or even whom to talk to. The human element in MMORPGS can serve to assuage fears, but guilds, teams, or even the culture of the game is oftentimes largely segmented.

Much like the first time you booted up Silicon Knight’s Too Human or Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragon’s Online, Magic: The Gathering can seem like a seriously daunting game. In fact, I’m still not sure if it isn’t daunting. My observations of Magic in action have been minimal at best. As cliché as it can be, my first real experience with the game was in the basement of my university. I had an appointment that I had to make and I nearly knocked over a table of six-to-eight people eagerly playing across from each other. They were all dressed in darker garb but possessed a look of intensity. Perhaps their intense stare was a result of me knocking over their cards, but I like to think it was the result of strategic thinking.

I remember apologizing and running to the room I needed to be in and thinking how silly the game was. It seemed like the natural thought progression for someone as trendy as I try to be. After the appointment I found myself back at their table, staring at the players again. As a videogame enthusiast I was captured by their unique choice of game. In my world of visual stimuli I was surprised to find that people still found a fantasy outlet without a TV or PC monitor.

Of course, it would be unfair for me to say that I never had an interest in learning about the game. I love all games. When I was younger and not hooked on Pitfall or Super Mario Bros., I was captivated by games in general. Essentially, I’m saying that Monopoly still holds up in my book. Why not Magic, then? I’m still not quite sure.

Regardless, the conversation at Gen Con went surprisingly well after I mentioned that I didn’t know how to play. That interest that I have in all games finally erupted into a full-fledged desire to check out Magic: The Gathering. I was told that Wizards of the Coast had trotted out a new two-player package, designed to teach the basics of the game. Last night I bit the bullet and purchased it.

From here on I’m going to begin posting about my experience with the game. How I begin to learn, where I stumble, what I think can improve and how poorly I perform. In the interest of full disclosure, my partner will be my girlfriend who is willing to try to have fun with it, but doesn’t have the same passion for games that I have. I’ll let you know how she does as well considering that I still haven’t exactly sold her on the idea yet.

Next time we’ll talk the beginning of my play experience, the resources I’ve attempted to gather, and the failures that I will inevitably (but hopefully won’t) have.
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About Brad Nicholsonone of us since 10:27 PM on 06.13.2008

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.