A Pocket Full of Subculture

I recently found myself face to face with a subculture I had heard about but never experienced. Like all subcultures, the people involved have their own language, values, and trends. These people spend time and money on something I just couldn’t fathom investing into myself.

That subculture, ladies and gents, is the world of Magic: The Gathering. Embarrassed as I am to admit it, I spent a decent portion of one Saturday night learning the rudimentary skills and rules of this strange world. The basic goal is simple: outsmart your opponent(s) and attack them until they have no life left. The only tool you have at your disposal is an arsenal of cards with different properties.

Here’s where the nerd-factor comes into play (as if it weren’t there already). People spend YEARS building multiple decks, made up of possibly hundred of cards, with particular properties and designed with specific goals in mind. To what end, you ask? So that when you saunter into the comic book/game store on a Friday night and find your way to the secluded game room in the back, you will be prepared to face any number of other nerds with collections of cards and 20-sided dice.

Yes, you read that correctly. These people actually spend their free time–and money–in comic shops oo-ing and ah-ing over cards containing certain characters and weapons, marveling at the different uses and combinations. Words and phrases like “mana” or “+3/+3” suddenly have meaning, and can turn into inside jokes when used in the right circumstances. I can’t really do it justice…if you really want to know more about how it works, try this explanation. After watching a game and then sitting down to play one myself, I started to feel like Dorothy when she plopped down in the middle of Munchkinland. I did a lot of smiling and nodding, and pretended not to be ashamed that I was really sitting at this table, learning rules to a fantasy card game.

Then I started thinking…What if someone walked in on me and my friends involved in one of our hobbies? Who am I to call these people foolish for spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a hobby that makes them happy? I definitely have one of those. I guess I never thought of it as anything but normal. Doesn’t EVERYONE spend their paid time off and a large portion of money competing in a barbershop chorus? No? Oh, hmmm.

So game on you Magic nerds, I won’t speak against you. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have a 20-sided die of my very own, but shhh, don’t tell my other hobby.

5 comments on “A Pocket Full of Subculture

  1. Haha, great post. I used to be one of those Magic nerds (now I’m just a normal nerd). The strange part was, even when I played the game, I still saw it from both sides – I knew I loved playing the game, but I also realized how incredibly nerdy it was, and the people at those game nights and tournaments kind of depressed me. But, believe it or not, it was a great social activity – in grade school, rather than going to movies or going out to eat, my friends and I would play Magic when we hung out.

    Oddly enough, I found your post while searching for Magic-related articles. Why? Because I’m thinking about getting back into the game, if only casually. :/

    Do you really compete in a barbershop chorus? That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. No joke.

    • Hi Ethan!

      Glad to hear you liked the post. It showed up because I tagged it that way just in case. You never know what kinds of things people are searching for on WordPress. =)

      And yes, I really do compete in a barbershop chorus. It takes more explanation than an offhand mention, so I was planning to write a dedicated post about it soon. Keep your eyes peeled!


  2. Clever indeed. I need to start tagging every post with “Katy Perry” and “election 2012″… in that order.

    I’m excited to learn about this barbershop chorus business; I’ll be on the lookout for your post. Be sure to include some audio/video if you have any!

  3. I spent one lovely Summer as a Magic nerd. I had quite a respectable deck for a newbie and can attest that it is certainly very addicting. I never actually played in a comic book store though….I wasn’t quite that nerdy. Sometimes I wish I still had that deck.

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