Monday, June 2nd, 2014

The Dangers of Playing 'Magic: The Gathering' in Public

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, PolicyMic writer Jared Keller tells us more about adults who like to spend time playing "Magic: The Gathering."

Jared! So what happened here?

I just started a new job a few blocks off Herald Square, and while strolling to catch the 1 downtown, I spotted two gentleman engaged in a highly intense game of "Magic: The Gathering" in a near-empty Subway. It was a sort of depressing scene, the kind of thing you’d maybe find if you Googled “geeks”: two guys of stocky, even portly build, with beards that looked like something a blind bird built, wrapped up in a fictional world, oblivious to the thousands of opportunities for social interaction swirling around them. It sort of reminds me of the time a friend spotted Jonah Lehrer buying bulk packages of frozen chicken at a Whole Foods a few days after his plagiarism scandal broke: a single snapshot of a sad, lonely life.

I kid: Plenty or normal, well-adjusted people play Magic (although maybe not in the middle of Herald Square on a warm Friday evening). I even know some of them.

Am I completely out of it for not knowing that adult-aged human beings are still playing "Magic: The Gathering" in New York City and elsewhere on planet Earth?

Maybe! I’m kidding, sort of, in my description above. I have close friends who are highly functional, wonderful people with excellent social skills who are also intensely good at Magic. They just don’t normally play in public because then they’d end up in tweets by jerks like me. But damn they’re good at it.

I’ll admit that I have a Magic deck, left over from my years working at a summer camp. I worked with 9-12 year olds and used to get stuck with a lot of, um, “indoor kids.” (This is likely because I lack hand-eye coordination, and ball-throwing and sport-catching are tricky.) Magic was a great way to get them focusing on something that wasn’t my face, so I could engage them in conversation and check up on them and make sure they were having a good time. (There’s some scientific research that shows people are more forthcoming in conversation when they’re not looking at each other, which is why baseball games and movies are great for first dates or parent-child bonding.) And, to be honest, I relished those games. Magic saved me as a young kid, gave me something to do that was social and engaging that I was good at, and gave me a safe place to hone my social skills so I could survive through middle school. I stopped playing in high school (girls and drinking got in the way), but it was a significant part of my life. I was (well, I work in media, so I guess I still am) a big fat geek, and Magic will remain part of who I am.

But it ain’t just for geeks! Or, at least, for overt, neck-beardy, fedora-wearing geeks. My close friend Kyle was an all-star soccer player in college, built like a brick shithouse and a total dreamboat with the ladies, but give him a Magic deck and he would dismantle people left and right. Everyone’s entitled to their guilty pleasures, and Magic is one of them for many people. Then again, those people may have been geeks like me back in the day. Some of them grow up and stay geeks, and some of them grow up and become super normal but have retained their geeky impulses, a leftover keepsake from their childhoods (ask me about the Justice Society of America sometime). But geeks are super cool now, right?

Then again, busting out your Magic cards depends on circumstances. I’m happy to play, maybe once, for old times sake, with a few friends so we can sate our nerd impulses and bro out on bourbon and mana. But it’s just not appropriate sometimes, like the time we picked my buddy up for Kyle’s bachelor party in Maine and he brought a giant, custom-made wooden cube with something like 1,500 Magic cards for building custom decks. We were going to spend all weekend drinking and disturbing the peace, so I don’t think that a 4/4 trample was an appropriate party accessory (although we also dropped $250 on plastic superhero masks, so maybe that’s debatable).

Lesson learned (if any)?

Let people do what they like. If they want to play Magic, let them play Magic, unless it’s distracting them from more age-appropriate things like paying a mortgage, getting a job, or having children. It’s just like a video game on cardstock anyway. But if you’re going to do what you love, maybe don’t do it in public because some jerk like me may tweet your photo without knowing a damn thing about you. It reminds me of that guy who was an open object for Internet ridicule but was actually a perfectly decent person with an interesting backstory. Everyone has a story, and most people are just trying to be happy and live their lives in the best way they know how without doing harm to anyone.

Just one more thing.

People are judge-y creeps, and I regret sassing these two men. They looked like they were having a fun time. And you know what: Who really gives a shit what some jerk passerby like me thinks? Cast like nobody’s watching.

Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor in New York.

11 Comments / Post A Comment

595310259@twitter (#276,793)

Ok, so this dude loves Magic and his friends do too. Yet, he spends paragraph after paragraph doing the 'schpiel' of making fun of people who play Magic. Why doesn't he make up his mind already, friggin fence-sitter, jeepers creepers. Nothing wrong with liking card games.

@595310259@twitter : Right. I'm going to go further : generally speaking, when your public tweet mocks people for something you more-privately admit to doing — yeah, fuck this guy.

@Gef the Talking Mongoose : And then the whole "oh, but I and my mainstream, conventionally attractive friends do it in a way so that it doesn't look like a 'snapshot of (the) sad, lonely life' of two 'stocky, even portly' guys" bit?

Mr. "Malady," you're a fucking asshole.

@Gef the Talking Mongoose : That's what I get for allowing anger to get in the way of correct attribution.

Allow the record to show that Mr. Malady, the interviewer, is a fine and upstanding citizen, while I don't apparently understand how interview, Twitter, or normal society works. I read this thing a dozen times and I still managed to fail to stick the ending.

Apologies to Mr. Malady, disapprobation to Mr. Keller. I'm a fucking asshole.

"jate" (#276,815)

aint cool about being cool to others
no copping cool yr silly self?
from 1 called cooler thn sin
but thn
who said sin s cool?

geek out geek warriors
gno geek s w/o friends
n that what these 2 men obviously are
gno more
gno less
hvng their own good time

ny finest dweebsness dude dudded up n dandy
can go piss on itself
if we cant deal with ths
personal deal

just sayn
as y'all seys

semper fi

flying home through chicago o hare the other day
passed through security ahead of a big solid black man in full fatigues
n commented on his obvious service
having a done a fair bit of the same (USMC 79-83)
th man was cool and pleasant
but the tsa guy behind the machine
suggested such dress and manner could signal a gamer instead
letting the insult slide off the long hair round this shattered face
rather than whip out the dd214 minature carried for emergency care and awareness if sought
the tsa's doubt was directed my way that was sure
the soldier n this former ops chief marine sat down to adjust ourselves and both smiled
shook hands tightened up the boots and returned to command of our lives for the flights ahead

btw play tested blackmore and used to work for flying buffalo inc entering play by mail campaign games in a navy surplus computer on paper tape data storage
before the corps
n played tunnels and trolls with the whole crew of fandom
friends like those are hard to find

they did gnow how to unwind.

do y'all?

you're setting these up for me like pins on the green

see wil wheaton's beautiful comments from Comiccon on the YouTube machine
that ll shame you

from the computer that wore combat boots (8711)

BadUncle (#153)

Evidently, the "dangers" of playing card games in public is that people like Mathew Malady will analyze their own relationship with geek culture. As he notes, "Let people do what they like," including wondering about anything on the streets of New York that is not impeding your path home.

Uh, you guys know the difference between an interviewer and an interviewee, right? Malady's few words are in bold, Keller's in plain text. Keller is the conflicted jerk. And even he comes clean about being a conflicted jerk. So what the fuck, commenters, be sharp!

@My Number Is My Address : See above; the New Yorker will never hire me now.

BadUncle (#153)

@My Number Is My Address Oh do fuck off, mom. That two adult men are concerned about strangers playing cards is no redemption for who is more weepy and about it.

PoplarJ04 (#277,212)

@My Number Is My Address

@BadUncle Your mom sounds fun. Objecting to the premise (which I also do) is no excuse to be stupid, dummy.

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