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CardShark Content - Matthew Smith (5/21/2002)

Why Do YOU Play Magic?

Because I know you do. You might avoid my eyes as I pass you in the hall, wince at the sound of my mispronunciation of G-a-e-a, or fade into the corner as I walk past your card shop, but I still know your shameful secret. You’re one of those Magic Nerds.

So now what? First things first: let’s deal with the issue of guilt. Realize that your feelings of guilt are quite normal and natural. For almost a decade, people who treat Magic players, and recovering Magic players, have puzzled over why the players continue to game when the link between card-flopping and the losses they suffer is so clear. Denial is an integral part of the disease of the Magic community and a major obstacle to recovery.

“I’m no Magic player”

George is a Magic player, but he won't admit it, and doesn't think he needs to change.

The thought has occurred to him more than once that he might be a gamer. His first marriage ended in divorce because his wife finally got to the point where she refused to put up with his all-night gaming every weekend.

She told George that she thought he needed help and suggested he find out about a Magic rehabilitation clinic. Her suggestion just made George angry. ´´I'm no Gamer,´´ he blustered. ´´I can take Magic or leave it.´´

´´Then why don't you leave it?´´

George didn't stay for an answer. He stalked out of the house and spent the rest of the evening in a card shop.

I can take it or leave it. True, to a point. George seldom games during the week -- maybe a game or two after work, but that's all.

He saves his real card-flopping for the weekends. Even then, he controls his gaming so that he can make it to work Monday morning—most of the time.

He often feels tired and shaky, but so does everyone else after a wild weekend. That doesn't mean he's addicted to the cardboard.

In George's mind, a gamer is someone who has to play cards, a person really hooked on dice, who hides card wrappers and sees elephant tokens and mana curves, a bum who can't hold a job. George isn't like that at all.

He admits he does go overboard at times. Nothing unusual about that—all of his friends are heavy gamers. He's spent a bit too much on cards a few times, driven to a PTQ and not been able to recall how long he’d been there. Twice, George has completely sold his entire Magic collection.

Each of those times he was reduced to paying exorbitant prices on cards he’d already once owned.

Still, he insists he always trades fairly, even with the kids. ´´I've never had an unhappy customer,´´ he boasts.

After his second eviction George told his landlord, ´´I sure won't let this happen again.´´

But that's what he said after his first eviction.

Denial Styles
What's with George? A couple of things, both related to his most successful and most self-defeating defense: denial.

Denial takes two major forms. First, the gamer insists that he or she can play regular games like regular people. Socially. Normally.

This means that there are always ready excuses for the exceptional times. It's someone else's fault. It's harassment, bad luck, or just too much pressure.

Each is convinced that he or she isn't a ´´real´´ gamer.

George's disruptive pattern displays only one kind of personality. There are many others, and they overlap and shade into each other.

*** The five o'clock gamer doesn't flop a card until after work—never touches the stuff before five—then games continuously until passing out.

*** The periodic (or binge) gamer can go for long stretches of time without touching cardboard. Then comes a binge that can last days or weeks or months.

*** The maintenance gamer finds ways to tap mana all day long, to keep just enough Magic in the blood.

In short, there is no ´´typical´´ Magic player that serves as a standard by which other Magic players are measured.

The only thing they have in common is that, sooner or later, they all have serious life problems related to their gaming.

Stages of Recover
RecoverSet: Invasion
Nelson DeCastro
Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.Draw a card.
Helping professionals often report that many people break through denial in three stages:

Recognition. The person begins by admitting the problem. Many card-floppers get to this point and go no further. They give lip service to their obsession. But lip service just isn't enough.

Acceptance. The person actively does something to change his or her behavior. It's more than lip service; but still the Magic player has reservations: ´´Maybe I can game again, like a normal person.´´

Surrender. At this stage the Magic player has no reservations. He or she sincerely admits an inability to control gaming and is committed to a life of cardboardlessness.

In understanding denial, it's important to realize that denial is not restricted to Magic playing—or even to other forms of cardboard dependency. It's a common defense that protects all our egos from harsh reality. It's found in the cancer patient, the cigarette smoker, and the diabetic.

Still, nowhere is it more disabling—and potentially deadly—than in a Magic player.

Because when it comes to gaming, denial is all that keeps us from discovering who we really are—and who we've always wanted to be.


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