Is Magic: the Gathering Really Evil?
I am a Christian. I am a born again, Southern Baptist, Jesus died for our sins Christian. Like any other person, Christian or otherwise, I have my hobbies. Among my favorite pastimes is Magic: The Gathering. I attend Friday Night Magic, Saturday tournaments, and I play casually with my roommates and our friends. Since I started playing Magic almost nine years ago, I have heard and read many Christian criticisms of my hobby. Please understand that I do not believe these Christians are stupid or ill meaning. With rare exception, these people are simply concerned parents, watching out for their children in a world filled with spiritual pitfalls.
If you are one of these parents, then this article is intended for you. This article will focus on four of the most common arguments I read. My aim is to prove that Magic: The Gathering is not evil by demonstrating that it is less harmful than other activities in which we commonly allow children to partake. I urge you to read this article in its entirety. However, if you are running short on time or interest, please read at least the concluding paragraphs of the article.
This is by far the most common attack on Magic: the Gathering. I will be the first to admit that the creators of Magic: the Gathering made some mistakes, especially early on. In the early sets, there were 9 cards printed that were directly related to demons. Wisely, the creators saw the error of this, and, with one exception, these cards are no longer printed and, in fact, are no longer legal in current tournament play. For parents who are still concerned that their children may accidentally stumble upon these cards, I will give two reasons that you need not worry. First of all, most of these cards have been out of print for almost eight years now. So when your child goes to the store to pick up a pack of random cards, there is a zero (0) percent chance that they will get one of the 8 out of print “demon cards” in a pack, and a very, very small chance of getting the one in print “demon card” in a pack. Also, according to a card list found in Magic: The Gathering’s “Apprentice” program, these demon-related cards are 9 out of 6,099 cards available in the Magic: the Gathering game. That means that, even if your child could randomly stumble upon one of these cards, which is almost impossible, these cards only make up .1% of the magic cards available.
Some parents are still concerned about exposing their children to anything that has to do with magic, good or bad, with or without demons, real or imaginary. I can understand your fears, but let me put forth this question. How many of you have, at some point in time, allowed your children to watch the classic Disney movie, “Sleeping Beauty”? Did it not strike you as odd that, at the climax of the whole movie, the evil sorceress, Maleficent, challenges the prince with “Now shall you deal with me, old prince, and all the powers of Hell!”? She then turns into a mighty dragon that the prince slays with the aid of three magic fairies who combine their magics to enchant his sword. What does this teach your children? Would you not let them watch this charming movie because it deals with magic? Or would you be more likely to explain to them that magic, while it can make a story very interesting, is not the way to solve real-world problems?
So it is with Magic: the Gathering. This is simply a game. You can simply explain to your child that, while it is fun to make-believe about magic, it is not an appropriate way to try to deal with real-world situations. As long as this understanding exists, magic is no more harmful than a walk in the park.
I don’t fully understand this argument. I have read it in many places, and seldom does the author follow up by naming the bad lessons that Magic: the Gathering teaches. However, I feel that the issue should be addressed anyway because it is such a common argument. Let us start by talking about Monopoly. Here’s a nice, traditional, family oriented game. We all sit down around the table for a fun evening of play. But have you ever really stopped and thought about what the game teaches? In order to win this game, you must buy, buy, buy, drive a hard trade bargain, charge rent ruthlessly and, in short, drive everyone else into the ground by taking their money until they are bankrupt. Where are the Christian lessons? Generosity? Nope. Kindness? Nope. Patience? Nope. But do we stop playing Monopoly? Of course not! In spite of it all, it is a fun, family oriented game. As before, as long as parents teach their children. The understanding should exist that, while wealth mongering is fun in a game, it is not a way to act in real life. Then, children who play Monopoly can, and usually do, grow up to be generous, wonderful people.
Magic: the Gathering is no different. If you see a bad lesson being taught in the game, you should approach your child. Teach them that it’s fun in the game, but inappropriate in real life. I can assure you that, if you teach your child, then the game will not teach your child. It is only in the absence of the parent-as-teacher that the game-as-teacher must substitute.
In today’s world of school shootings, sniper attacks, and war threats, a very legitimate concern for parents is “Does this pastime teach my child to be violent?” There are a very few Magic: the Gathering cards that portray blood or actually show violence in their picture. However, even these cards simply show a still version, which does not necessarily lead a child to desire to do physical harm to another. For my comparison here, I will use an idea that I found in an article on Pokemon written by Loren Eaton and posted on the Plugged In web page.
“… the violence is not explicit, nor is it displayed. When someone plays Battleship,
for example, he generally doesn't stop to think, ‘I'm firing at an enemy vessel, blowing
it up, and killing thousands of men in the process.’ He just puts a red peg in a hole.”
Although Loren Eaton was writing about Pokemon, and is opposed to Magic: the Gathering, this part of her article can unarguably be applied to Magic: the Gathering as well as to Pokemon. This isn’t like a video game or a movie, which rely on graphic special effects. When a Magic: the Gathering player plays a fireball, there are no flashy graphics to depict magical fire engulfing his or her opponent in flame and their charred bodies falling to the ground. Rather, the Magic: the Gathering player announces, “I am playing a Fireball” and places a card with the name “Fireball” on the table. The targeted player adjusts the dice they are using to keep track of score, and the game moves on.
Another common accusation is that Magic: the Gathering is expensive, in both money and time. In response to this I say, “Magic: the Gathering is, in fact, a hobby”. The idea behind a hobby is that it takes time and money. Do you like to golf? Are you going to tell me that you don’t invest money and time in your golfing hobby? Do you collect baseball cards? I bet that involves time and money. Do you follow sports? You need to pay for tickets and/or TV reception. And what about the time spent looking at stats, watching games, etc, etc. All of these hobbies, like Magic: the Gathering, are good things. Hobbies are what we use to fill empty time in what would otherwise be a dreary, boring existence.
I am a musician and a college student and I have a job. In all my days I have never missed or been late to a rehearsal, class, job or other obligation because I was so caught up in a game of Magic: the Gathering that I couldn’t tear myself away from it. However, I also understand that children don’t have the experience at budgeting time and money that I do. This is where you, as a parent, must step in. The game will not teach your child as long as you are teaching your child. Your son’s grades are slipping? Fine, no Magic: the Gathering games until his grades are up. Your daughter isn’t practicing her clarinet? Okie dokie, she can play in the free Friday Night Magic competition if she’s practiced her clarinet five times this week.
And as far as monetary expenses? Give them their X-dollar allowance. Tell them to spend it on whatever they want, but they won’t get any more money until next week. I can assure you that your child will learn very quickly that, if they only have five dollars, it might not be best to run to the card store and spend it on Magic: the Gathering on the first day they get it. And if they do, isn’t that why you gave them the money in the first place? So they could buy what they wanted?
You may have noticed a trend in all of these items. If YOU teach your child, Magic: the Gathering will not. It is as simple as that. This article is NOT to get parents to cut themselves out of their children’s lives. Please continue to monitor what your children do with their time and make sure that it is appropriate. However, before you jump to a conclusion, please do your homework. Go to a card store and buy a pre-constructed deck. Read the rules to the game and look through the cards. Do they seem evil? Or is it just a card game? Talk to some of the magic players in the store. Do they seem evil? Or are they just harmless, if nerdy, people? Try to play in a tournament. Does it seem evil? Or is it good, wholesome competition?
If, after trying all of these things, you decide that Magic: The Gathering is evil, then by all means, don’t allow your children to buy cards. In fact, if you decide that the game is evil after researching all of this, please write articles about it. The world has enough uninformed Christians making fools of themselves by writing incorrect information about Magic: The Gathering. I have grown tired of reading mindless rants against Magic: the Gathering and it would be refreshing to read more legitimate, informed articles against it.