A third-grader was not the only one excited about sharing his favorite card game at “Magic: The Gathering,” an event at Oakland Convention Center on August 23 – 25 that attracted 1,800 gamers. Among the people addicted to the game are a beta-tester for Google Glass, a military vet designing security systems, a tattooed finance executive, a graphic designer for a startup, and Mensa members.
“Yah, we’re nerds, but there are times we’ve skipped school to play ‘Magic,'” said Pablo Mui describing the highly addictive nature of the game.
“It’s a card game that blends the elements of fantasy in ‘Dungeons & Dragons,’ ‘Jyhad (Vampire: The Eternal Struggle),’ Star Wars, and Star Trek to the mind-bending strategy of chess,” said Jim Secho, 40. In 1994, “Magic: The Gathering” received the Mensa Select Award by the American Mensa for “original, challenging, and well-designed games” according to an article in USA Today.
There was such demand that designers decided to hold off on release publicly. Over the years, learning how to play the card game has spread through word of mouth. Since 1993, the trading card game created by Richard Garfield and introduced by Wizards of the Coast has grown to approximately 11 million players.
“My cousin taught my brother, then my older brother taught me,” said Sebastien, 7. Their father explained that he drove the boys from Davis, California. His boys regularly played the card game at their local video game store on Fridays — on average, playing six to eight hours a week. Oakland is their first Grand Prix.
Jim Secho, 40, admits his addiction started at End Game, a game store on 921 Washington Street near Lake Merritt. He and and 29 others battled on to the next round. There were 15 games playing consecutively in pairs on 100 long tables.
“I used to play when I was a kid, then I stopped for a couple of years. In March, I picked it up again. It was my way to pass time and to deal with a family death,” said Secho. The game begins with each player having 20 lives. The objective is to hang onto as many lives as possible, or the game ends.
“It’s definitely an addiction, not a problem,” said Zac Swartout, 33, a social entrepreneur with Cutting Edge Capital on 14th Street and Franklin in Oakland. After a move to New York, he showed a friend the cards he was carrying in his wallet and taught him how to play. “That was eight years ago. I’ve kept playing since,” he said, still high from a 32-hour marathon of the game. “I’m sure I could be addicted to so much more.”
“It’s cardboard cocaine,” he shared, shielding his eyes from sunlight as he emerged towards Broadway for air.
Click here to see pictures of the event.