How games change lives, and lives change games

Intro: In this article I decided to tell you guys about something that I am really passionate about. It is the worldwide phenomenon called Magic:the Gathering – the first trading card game ever, in which fantasy and storytelling interacts with chess-like strategies and gaming competition.

I got interested with MTG a year ago, not because anyone close to me was playing, but because I have always, since childhood been really passionate about the whole concept of card games and storytelling. I don’t know if you remember another trading card game, called Yu-Gi-Oh. This is the first one that I came across in childhood and it’s imaginary origin story really left an impression on me, and it kept on to this day.  The story was that a young man who lost his wife went out looking for otherworldly magic to bring her back and that brought him to Egypt, to the pyramids, where he found the Millenium Elements (magical objects dating from Ancient Egypt).

The part of the story that I really fell in love with was that he was a painter, and one of the Millenium Objects, a golden eye, gave power to what he draw, and that’s how Duel Monsters, the card game from the show, was born. I really liked the idea that one guy painted pictures, which became cards, and then everyone in the world got to play with them but no one knew how the cards where created, or how many were there. It has some Creator-Artist flavor to it.

MTG: Back to our present subject. My taste for magic cards which can be used in battles between players gets refreshed every year, and one year ago, when it did, I found something on the internet about the actual father of all card games, and the origin story was all real.

For me, MTG’s main captivating element was their incredible drawings, and I thought to myself that the Yu-Gi-Oh creator may be an actual person in this case, not just a series of automated machines. It turns out there are a couple of them and each card designer gets to leave his name on the bottom left corner of the card.

So more people get to be the Creator, and their cards are being used by a vast majority of the world.

But, digging deeper, I found out that the actual MTG creator story is even greater.

MTG origins: Richard Garfield earned a PhD in combinatorial mathematics from Penn University in 1993. He became a professor of mathematics in Washington and, in the same year, MTG was first launched.

What captured my attention was the way he talked about how the idea developed in his mind over the years. If you know MTG, you are familiar with all the Planes Walkers stories, but, if you’re not, you need to know that the game is centered around a fantasy world with multiple dimensions in which certain chosen people discover they have magical abilities and, later in life, can teleport to other planes. When you play MTG, the fantasy world in which you enter assumes you are one of those wizards or warriors, and you are using your specific realm’s spells and allies in order to defeat the other wizard. You can also call upon other planeswalkers (which are on cards) to aid you.

This model of playing is different from Yu-Gi-Oh and other trading card games because it involves you personally in the story and your game arises in the world as a distinct episode. For example, let’s say you play dark creatures and your opponent has fire creatures, depending on the creatures both players summon, you can see a war unraveling between two peoples or two planeswalkers.

The producers of the game start each new edition with these key story concepts, and the set itself sets a certain narrative background for players. For example, in one set, the powerful hunter Garruk gets cursed by the witch Liliana Vess, and so he becomes a dark minded killer. Only after two additional expansions we find out what happens with Garruk and about the coming of a greater evil.

These characters can be brought to life through the combinatorial mathematics that Richard Garfield used for making the games’s structure and this is a great thing indeed. We are not only getting involved in a story, but also creating it.

The Origin of all: Digging even deeper, we can find out that Garfield got inspired for his creation from the famous Dungeons and Dragons board game, which I also knew nothing about. But taking it from there, you really come to an understanding about the how the modern MMORPG video games came to be and why it was the natural thing to happen. But about this and D&D I would like to write a separated article.

Concluding: MTG is the second predecessor of the MMORPG games but is has a special kind of gaming flavor because you get to be in the same room with the other players and the deck construction let’s you express more of your individual style. I really enjoy the feeling of MTG’s fantasy world and I have found it to wake feelings in me that help me see real places with a more spiritual eye. I hope you will enjoy this brief story about how it came to be and I can’t wait to write a new article about it. Have a nice day and don’t forget, games are good for the soul !

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