James Gee says “how we speak or write create [the context in which we are communicating]” (p. 11). This is important when writing about Magic: the Gathering because for the most part the Magic community is very insular. The Magic Community naturally gathers around plays that encourage them to play, this might be a group of friends you meet in middle or high school, or people at the local game or comic shop that help support the casual and tournament players. One could do a search on the internet and find a wide network of people who share passion for the game. But the words take on different meanings to a player; this shared discourse helps to create the community. I would like to see the community grow and this insular language means that this can be hard to do.
When encountering a new player it is important make sure they know what you are doing while you play the game. For example pretend that you are at a new job, but do not understand the acronyms used. My job at a grocery store uses more acronyms than I can remember, like OOS (out of stock), OOD (out of date), etc. If you were to ask for an explanation, you expect to be answered in a polite manner. This same essentially the same response you should expect when learning the terms in a game of Magic. As you learn these new terms and use them you become part of the community; it is a “reciprocal process through time” (Gee p.11).
Unfortunately language in a game of Magic is part slang used by the players and the specific words used in the game to specify specific actions. For example earlier this year who knows how to play the game casually told a player used to the semi-competitive scene that he had a “devotion to life-gain deck.” While this is a perfectly accurate description of what his deck does, gains a lot of life and abuses cards that have effects when you gain life, the word “devotion” has a specific meaning in Magic. Devotion is a mechanic that counts specific symbols on the cards (mana symbols) and has effects on the game based on this number (Mechanics of Theros). My friend had only recently begun playing the game again and had no idea that the word “devotion” meant anything other than what it meant outside of Magic.
Due to the ever-evolving nature of the game situations like this can crop up. Every few months a new set of cards is released and every eighteen months sets of cards rotate out of the most common form of competitive Magic, called Standard. This creates a unique situation of intertextuality within the game. “All texts are interdependent: We understand a text only insofar as we understand its precursors” (Porter p. 225). The example of my friend using the one word wrong discounted him as a competitor to the other Magic player because he did not know that “devotion” became part of the “web of meaning” within the game of Magic (Porter p. 225).
Magic: the Gathering is a game based on intertextuality. As I mentioned new sets get added to the card pool and new sets rotate out, but for a short while specific sets of cards that are developed separately are played together. This leads us player to find new interactions that may not have been intentional when the cards were made, a perfect example of “authorial intention [becoming] less significant than social context” (Porter p. 225). Each new set of cards come with new keywords and mechanics that give the cards new interactions or abilities. Some of these may be returning from older sets, but they may play differently with specific sets of cards. The means that even though an experienced player has played with returning mechanics and keywords a new player is not at as much of a disadvantage as they may think. For example I took ten years off before returning to the game, but had no real problem getting right back into the community because even though mechanics and keywords were added I still understood what was going on because the base of the game was still the same.
Gee, James Paul. “Discourses and Social Languages.”
Porter, James. “Intertextuality and the Discourse Community.”
“The Mechanics of Theros.” Wizards.com. 2 September 2013.