If I really want to come from an area that I am a specialist I am going to have to come out of the nerd closet, and talk about a subject that I do not really share with the exception of my closest friends because it is hard to explain to people who do not already know what it is. For this blog I am planning on talking about a card game, Magic: the Gathering. I played the game in middle and high school, took a ten year break, and was able to come back. Unfortunately this break, among other things, means that I am still very much an amateur player. While this was supposed to be a summary of an interview, I am out of touch with all of the professional community and was not able to set up an interview with another amateur writer, so I will be summarizing other interviews along with my first hand experience to help fill out this blog.
There are a wide variety of articles and blogs regarding Magic, ranging from explaining the basics of the game to beginners, strategic articles that breakdown the strength and weaknesses of a deck and teach you how to play, to simple deck lists and tournament reviews. But there are also articles that can be comical, making inside jokes that only other people who play the game would understand to articles that promote upcoming events and specific stores to try to increase attendance. It was at a prerelease event three months ago that I heard the following comment, “Wow, it’s really strange how different we [the players] are outside of playing matches, but when the games begin we attempt to destroy each other”. This made me realize that there is a unique rhetoric that goes on in the Magic community. For this blog I will attempt to analyze this dialog in this blog.
First I should probably step back and explain what Magic: the Gathering is, Reid Duke a professional player explains:
“You can think of Magic as a cross between chess and playing-card games…Both are one-on-one strategy games; at the simplest level your creatures are your chess pieces and your spells are simply one extra layer of support for them. Both games require strategic thinking, long-term planning, and an eye for advantageous openings. However, in chess, the whole game is laid out on the table where in Magic there is uncertainty.”
Magic has also been jokingly called a game with “more rules than game.” Rich Hagon, the Magic Pro Tour Statician in an interview with Marshall, described Magic as the “most complex game ever, ever.” while that may seem daunting to beginners once everything clicks it is such a great feeling that is hard to compare.
So who plays Magic the Gathering? If you find your local card store and walk in on the weekly tournament chances are you will see a group of mostly young men ranging from their early teens to somewhere in their mid-thirties. While this may seem like narrow demographic, most of the stores that I go to do not care about age, gender, or race. All we care about is if you know how to play the game or want to get better at playing the game. That is the main purpose of the communities of Magic players, some people want to improve their skills on a competitive level to win money at larger competitive tournaments, but majority of the people are a part of this community because they love the game itself.
If this is the main purpose of the community, then all of the writing is important because this is how we express the joy we get from the game. It comes in many different forms depending on what you are looking for. A relatively niche community like this one has embraced social media; you can watch competitive tournaments stream almost every weekend on Twitch TV, and interact with the commentators though Twitter. You can even follow professional players on Twitter and watch as they make new discoveries, what tournaments they are going to, and even if they need cards to complete a specific deck.
One of the main myths and constraints I encountered in this community is that much of the content is created by professionals, who play at a higher level that many players can only aspire to reach. Amateurs tracing their progress like Megan and Maria, hosts of the podcast “Magic: the Amateuring” fill a unique niche in the community inviting listeners to improve along with them. They have found this exigence and applied their improve skills along with their love of the game despite this perceived constraint.
Logos and ethos are the main rhetorical strategies that work best in this community. You do not have to be a professional player to contribute to the community, but it certainly helps provide additional weight to the argument. The main thing that players within the community care about is if your logic/strategy is sound, logos is certainly the strongest strategy. But you have to keep in mind that Magic is such a customizable game that even solid appeals to logos and ethos will not be enough to sway all the readers to your side. Pathos also has a place within this discourse community; humor is often common in many articles ranging from inside jokes about the community to terrible puns regarding card names.
Because there is so much customizability in magic that finding unique voice can be hard in the community. One can also be well respected, but due to the nature of the internet people will still find things to hate about the writing. Rich Hagon mentions that people are at different levels, some people would rather get into the nitty-gritty aspects of the game, but people providing content also have to approach the material on a way that would reach a wider demographic. We have to remember that “Magic is a game of conversation” (Limited Resources).
Bitzer, Lloyd, “The Rhetorical Situation.”
Duke, Reid. “Level One: What is Magic?” 11 Aug 2014. 1 Sept 2014
“Limited Resources 235 – Pain and Suffering with Rich Hagon.” Limited Resources. Marshall Sutcliffe and Rich Hagon. iTunes. 23 May 2014.
“Magic the Amatuering: About.” < http://www.magictheamateuring.com/sample-page/>
Smith, Craig. “Rhetorical Dimensions of Myth and Narrative.”
Smith, Craig. “Aristotle’s Rhetoric.”