Magic: The Gathering - Don’t Knock It ‘til You Try It
Erik Kersting

2711372623_a8491d08e0_z.jpgNo matter their social status, gender, race or demographic, all players of Magic: The Gathering, a fantasy trading card game in which players fight on a fantastical ethereal plane, have the same thing in common. Someone invited them to come over and play, and they were enamored with the community and friendships formed by the game.

Jordan Sisson, a student at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, got into Magic because his friends play.

Anthony Warzalla, a Stevens Point native, got into Magic because his girlfriend plays.

Juan-Diego Hernandez, a senior at UWSP, learned how to play Magic in the lobby of his dorm.

Sam Braatz, a UWSP student and employee at Galaxy Comics, got into Magic when he was an 11-year-old stuck in the middle of the Pokémon craze. Some of his preteen friends who he still plays Magic with to this day, taught him how to play on a fieldtrip when they were supposed to be doing something else.

“Magic is easily the most popular trading card game at Galaxy Comics,” Braatz said. “We run Magic tournaments four days a week and have a thriving community of players that show up to play. There is also a huge Magic community in Stevens Point that exists outside of Galaxy comics. There are gaming clubs, communal groups that meet at Taco Bell and a huge number of casual enthusiasts that play with their friends.”

Braatz plays as an outlet for creative and competitive urges and says he would not play if not for the people involved with the scene.

“I have met so many awesome people because of this game,” Braatz said. “I also find Magic to be intellectually stimulating. It is kind of like playing chess except there are thousands of different pieces to play with instead of six,” Braatz said.

If Magic is anything, it is complex. There are thousands of cards and nearly infinite combinations to put into a deck that a player may use. No two games are ever alike.

“I think Magic is very comparable to a sport,” Braatz said. “Magic is a game, and ultimately the goal of any game is to win. But within the bounds of this goal are people who play the game at all levels of competitiveness, from casual pick-up games with their friends to globetrotting sponsored professionals. The typical reasons that people participate in a sport— for competition, personal growth, fun, the community, to hang out with their friends—are all valid reasons I have heard others use to explain their continued interest in Magic: the Gathering.”

The game is similar to sports and music in the way it draws people together.

“Like in music, you don’t know everybody, but because of the music you bond. When you’re experiencing something you’re all into together, you start to bond when you normally wouldn’t,” Sisson said.

Hernandez says he has met countless friends playing Magic.

“As I play the game, I continue to meet more and more people who play, and new friendships will form from that,” Hernandez said. “I feel as though that it is similar to sports in the sense that they are drawn together because they hold interest in a certain game or activity.”

Even though the game is very popular, it is also very polarizing.

“It’s a little different culture. Most people think we’re all nerds,” said Warzalla.

Hernandez believes this is because others have marginalized the game.

“I think that people have that negative stereotype because they usually jump to conclusions without actually stopping to try and understand what the game is really about,” Hernandez said.

Many students are incredibly passionate about this game, just as passionate as students are about the Packers, their favorite band or their major. While an outsider looking in may not understand the complexities of Magic: The Gathering or the immense story behind it, one thing consistently stands out: the enthusiastic, welcoming, kind and fun community that surrounds it.