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A Simple Moment of Reflection

I was sitting around my store earlier this week and talking with my customers and employees and was thinking about what the game industry has become.  It really amazes me that one product has had such an impact on one industry.  I'm sure it's occurred in others, but this is something that I've been able to witness first hand over the past few years.
When Richard Garfield created Magic, Wizards of the Coast was a small group of people working out of a guy's basement.  Literally working out of a basement.  That's cool, because I guess everyone has to start somewhere.
The funny thing is though, according to popular stories and rumors, is that Magic: the Gathering wasn't even Garfield's first game of choice to be printed.  He first presented RoboRally to be printed.  It's not that RoboRally isn't any good.  It's just funny to think back and consider the fact that it was his true first love.  They just couldn't make a bunch of copies of RoboRally at that point, because of the prohibitive cost to such a small company.  He was told to come up with something else, and they would work with him.
As a side note, copies of RoboRally sell for $100+ if you have a new or good condition one on ebay.  It obviously can't be THAT bad :)
I really wish I could have been there at GenCon when Wizards of the Coast released Magic on the world for the first time.  I wouldn't want to be there for the monetary reasons.  Hell, it's not even for bragging rights.  I would just loved to have been there to see people's faces.  To see how strange and awkward it was to have this whole knew style of game that was creating a buzz overnight.  It would have been neat to see people ripping open packs.  People trying to decide if Fungusaur was better than Personal Incarnation.
Imagine the decks.  That had to have been horrendous.  Only, no one would have known any better.  They would have all been bad.  But with good reason.  There was nothing to compare them to.  There was nothing to reference.  Think back to when you first started playing.  I'm sur some of your first decks weren't that good.
I actually used to keep my good decks in a little file box on note cards.  I figured it would be good for going back and building the decks again.  Granted, we are talking about back in 1995 before we had tons of websites dedicated to the game.  But as I got better and I went back to look at the decks, I realized that many of the decks were terrible.  I was (or maybe my decks were) just the best of the bad players (or decks) in my area at the time.
The game has been around so long, that I have been able to spot different patterns of progression within different playgroups and progression within the skill levels of players.  I could go into detail, but that's another article for another time.  But that being said, I know how to deal with certain customers, because I can relate to the point at which they are in their learning progression. 
It's crazy that we can even talk about a game in those terms.  Really...think about it.
Outside of casinos, how often would you see a tournament played for big prizes before Magic?  Now, all card games that come into the market have to push some large tournament series, or give away trips, they need to have some gimmick.  The prizes have gotten so big that on a large competitive scale, some games aren't worth your time it seems.
But even with he Pro Tour going on, there are still a ton of casual players.  I have been saying it for years and I still stick by this statement: Casual players support every game on the planet.  If any competitive player believes otherwise, he's killing himself.  I know for a fact, from game industry forums I'm on, and from speaking to lots of store owners, that they make more money from their casual crowd than their tournament crowds.  The casual players support games.
But now, I'm getting waaay off the subject and beginning to rant.
Back to the point.
When I look at different items in my life, I can look at Magic and say with all honesty, that Richard Garfield truly captured lightning in a bottle.  In over ten years, nothing has even come close to replacing it as far as variability, competitiveness, community, complexity, or even game design. 
Think about all the different card games that have been released in ten years. I would say it is seriously about 150.  Think about any other item on the planet that has had even 50 like items released over a ten year stretch.  sooner or later, one of those items was found to be superior to the original item.  For some reason, that's not the case with Magic.
In ten years, not a single card game has come along to match the elements of Magic.  Even with people involved with the game going to other companies.  Even with some of them going off and designing other games.  Even with the economy changing.  It's really something spectacular.
The game has only gotten better as time has gone by.  More players are into the hobby.  The game is available in more countries than ever.  The Pro Tour is giving away more money than 'm sure even WotC had imagined they could support.
All of this is easy to take for granted.  That's why I wanted to bring this to your attention.
Regionals is coming up this weekend.  People are busy playtesting and working on last minute strategies.  Players are doing everything they can to get the upper hand. 
They are reading magazines for strategy tips.  They are also getting prices for cards they may need to buy for decks.
They are going to their local store a few more times to get some practice in.
They are getting a chance to go to a National Championship Tournament for a card game that's not poker.
They are probably reading three or four different websites for strategy content.
They are reading reports from various National Championships and copying and/or testing against decks from those events.
All of these things are aspects of a hobby that has slowly developed over time.  Honestly, it's an entire game genre that was created over ten years.
Take a little time this year to just take in the experience of Regionals.  It's easy to get wrapped up in the whole thing.  Dig your nose out of the competitive sand for just a little while.  Give yourself a chance to truly enjoy it.  You are part of something special, whether you realize it or not.
I've been involved in all types of sports, clubs, and hobbies, and nothing has come close.
I wanted tot take a break from the normal weekly articles to post this for the public.  It's just a bit of reflection on the game.  It's something that's always there, that many of us just haven't given any serious thought to.
I expect to see a lot of Good and Bad Plays of the week in my e-mail box.  I will be itching to send out more prizes next week.  Make sure you send them to me.  I've only gotten a couple each of the past few weeks, so your odds of winning a special prize are pretty good.  Also, some readers thought I was joking apparently, but I REALLY do send out prizes.
Also, for those of you that want to stop by and chat, I will be in Dallas at the South Regionals this weekend.  I'll have a dealer table set up, so if you needs some sleeves or cards, come look me up.  If you ask nicely, I'll even autograph some cards for you.  I'll only autograph creatures though :)
South Regionals are at:
Sheraton Park Central
7750 LBJ Freeway
Dallas, TX
 - for directions call 972-385-3000
Remember to send me those Good and Bad Plays of the week.
Enjoy Regionals.
Until next time,
DeQuan Watson
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