By Katie Story
“Magic is a community of people who either like card games or like to be very competitive,” says Alex Cullen, a senior finance and management information systems major from Atlanta. “It’s kind of made up of all different kinds of people. It’s a very deep, intellectual game.”
Magic the Gathering is a fantastical trading card game that has been around for more than twenty years. Debuting at a gaming fair in Dallas, Texas in 1993, it was a huge hit among players. The language of the game is very epic. The website online talks about a “legendary story” and calls its players “Planeswalkers.” The game creates an aura of excitement, other-worldliness and fun. “I kind of figured it would be like chess where if you know how to play you’ll win 100 percent of the time,” says Alex Newman, a senior mathematics major and Magic player from Alpharetta. “There’s a lot of different combinations.”
Walking into the store on a Friday night, one of a few Magic nights hosted at Dragon Star Hobbies, the atmosphere is exciting. Tables are set up, mats are arranged on the tables to protect the cards and a large countdown clock is positioned in the corner to let people know when the next round will start. The store even has a special program to sort players. This is based on a system used nationwide. Theoretically, you could walk into any store and, so long as you have an account, could play with that rank anywhere. This creates a huge network of Magic players.
“Since Friday Night Magic is the most popular night, there will be about 45-50 people,” says University of Georgia alumnus and store owner Joe Teskey. The makeup of the crowd is usually locals and mostly males. Though Teskey says this game has a fairly better mix of people than other games, he would still like to see more students playing.
Another aspect of the atmosphere is the lack of hostility. People are friendly; the staff isn’t giving curious glances to a newcomer with a notebook asking questions to people and jotting down notes. Teskey explained that the store prides itself on being welcoming to everybody and having a friendly atmosphere. The store’s ambiance determines the clientele.
New players are especially welcomed. You can receive two packs of magic cards for free because the company that owns Magic, Wizard, wants new players. “Yeah, I was actually kind of surprised [at the friendliness]. I was intimidated to come here. Because we play this game, you start opening up to people. They’re really nice,” Newman says.
Going into Friday Night Magic at Dragon Star isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. Though professional players do play the games, this shop is very friendly to newcomers, and everyone is encouraged to come. There are about three gaming stores in Athens, but Dragon Star is the biggest.
Like any sport or pastime that develops a cult following, people bond over the experience and can vent over the frustrations of the game. This creates a community that, at least fostered at Dragon Star, is welcoming and open to new players and is a unique, interesting way to spend a Friday night.