Twelve Million Magic: The Gathering Players Can't Be Wrong

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Collectible card games may have had their earliest beginnings with the baseball trading cards that were first mass-produced in 1904, but the modern iteration of the collectible card game (CCG) began with Magic: The Gathering in 1993. The University of Pennsylvania doctoral candidate was charged with the task of creating a portable game that could be played in the downtime of various gaming conventions. His solution combined the nomenclature of sword and sorcery fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons with turn-by-turn card based strategy and card trading and collecting. Nearly twenty years later, Magic has created a whole industry that includes games like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh.

Life Points and Planeswalkers

Magic: The Gathering has its own lingo, its own glossary. The MTG world is made up of powerful wizards, or Planeswalkers, who come together to do battle with each other. These Planeswalkers use magic cards to summon beasts and powers to defeat their foes. Each player begins play with 20 life points, and players compete until they lose their lives. They can be defeated in several ways: card attacks can drain the life points of the various players until one lone survivor still stands; special cards can instantly remove players from the game; a player has no more cards; a player has acquired ten or more "poison counters". Play can become spirited and heated – as in any game or sport, MTG draws on and enhances the competitive impulses.

"Cardboard Crack"

From tournaments to basements the game has witnessed players with that almost compulsive need to trade, to collect, to win. You get the image of a darkened room full of youths, cards clutched in shaking hands, wild-eyed and strung out. A popular nickname for MTG has been "cardboard crack", due to this aspect. However, careful analysis reveals that MTG is no more or no less addicting than any other game or endeavour. Is a football fan "addicted" to cheering on his favourite team? A pop music aficionado to the latest from their favourite artist? There are those who would find it hard to put down any number of activities; one person's twelve-step is another one's hobby.

The Art of Winning and Losing

Far from being the downfall of the youth of the nation, games like Magic: The Gathering can teach young players the value of good sportsmanship. Let's face it: not everyone's cut out for the rugby field. Why should the virtues imparted by team sports be relegated to only those with the constitution to play? Skills like winning with grace and losing without losing face can be taught with MTG. Strategic thinking and improved social abilities have also been attributed to CCG play. In addition, the cards in MTG as well as rules and terminology include vocabulary that children at a young age might not otherwise be exposed to. While there are some concerns that could be addressed, such as parental involvement, supervision, and guidance, the astute observer will recognize the value that MTG and games like it can display.
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