As clouds darken the sky and the wind outside howls, a group of Eastern Michigan University students meet in McKenny Hall no matter the weather.
They brave the elements outside and trek from their dorms and classrooms, gathering not to study, but to battle. They fight with summoned monsters that do their bidding and hurl spells at each other. They meet to play the card game Magic: The Gathering.
EMU junior Garrett Doyle said MTG is a strategy trading card game that requires players to use resources effectively. In order to win, a player must play creatures that are his or her minions and hit his or her opponent with them.
Doyle said the basic rules of the game are not that complicated, but its difficulty depends on what level you are playing. As players gain experience, they become aware of cool interactions between the cards that you do not always see on the surface, he said.
“A card does something and it seems really straightforward, but there are a lot of really subtle interactions you can do with other cards,” said Doyle. “It’s kind of a creative thing for me. Building a deck is a creative process.”
EMU senior John Bolt said MTG is a social game and that is why he likes it. He has been playing for about four years.
“I’m friends with a lot of these guys. We get together and mostly what we do is play cards,” he said. “A lot of us are classmates.”
Doyle said there have been times students have seen the group playing and joined in.
“We’re here pretty much Monday through Thursday between classes,” he said. “It’s a good place to stop by and hang out.”
Bolt said if newcomers are interested in playing the card game, there are manuals or pre-constructed decks for beginners that are simpler to play.
“The game is usually between two to eight people,” said Bolt. “Once you start getting above eight then the games start to take many hours. A game usually lasts anywhere from one and a half to two and a half hours in this play group. We try to keep it to four players at a time.”
He said the game brings people together that might not normally be good at interacting socially.
“You get to focus on this one thing but you’re still talking to people so you’re still getting people’s opinions,” Bolt said. “I definitely like the social aspect and I’m a little bit competitive with it.”
Bolt said there is a range of experience in many of the players in their group. He said some people have been playing for one year and others have been playing for ten years.
EMU sophomore Jonathan Harden said he originally played MTG in the 90’s when he was introduced to it by his father, but he got really into the game about two years ago. He said he likes it, but it’s expensive.
“Some cards cost 50 dollars,” said Harden. “It depends on how old the card is. It’s like comic books. You have to keep them [cards] in good condition.”
Harden said it is a lot of fun when you have a good group. He said after a relationship break up, he began to play Magic to help get his mind off his troubles.
“It’s a good hobby,” Harden said. “If I have something to do like a game, a puzzle, homework then I don’t have to think about stuff.”
EMU junior Avery Greene said MTG is a very interactive game that requires a player to play with at least one other person, so it is thought provoking which is one of the game’s appeals.
“You get a lot of intellectuals playing the game,” Greene said. “It was created by a game design major. He put a lot of work into it and it has been around for about 20 years.”
Greene said he has been playing the game for about 10 years.
“I played with friends in high school and it was a great social experience and it really connected me,” said Greene. “It’s great to just have those types of friends and it’s a very collective experience.”
According to Greene, his group is pretty much always in McKenny Hall but there is also another group that sometimes meets in the Student Center at night to play.
“I’m not a big game person and this is kind of one of the most long lasting ones,” said Greene. “I think it really does influence your critical thinking and makes you quick-minded in making decisions and be immediate; it shows parallels to that. It’s a very open community and very happy.”