The Analog Gamer: It's A Kind of Magic

dotp_whatis_productHi, my name is Shawn and I’m a recovering Magic-aholic.

Magic is like paper crack to me. I find it consumes my life when I’m playing it. It becomes my goal in life, I will forsake food, personal hygiene and even intimate relations when I’m on a bender. It’s a sad part of my life but I thought it was behind me.

Struggling through Magic addiction is a daily challenge. I fight to avoid the Magic cards at the grocery, I refused the free Magic tournaments at the local game store. I’d been clean for almost a year when it happened.

I’m ashamed to admit my weakness but here, amongst a gathering of others with my problem I feel relieved to admit it. I had a moment of weakness and I slipped up. It wasn’t with that shiny foil packaging, I wasn’t huddled in the alley behind the game store.. no, I gave in to Magic last in my home and there was no physical evidence left afterward, just a note on my bank account for the purchase of 2500 Microsoft points. ( I only needed 800, but I wanted some extras on hand to buy cards later)

There is something so insidious about the digital version. It’s too perfect a translation in fact. While currently I can’t sidle up to the counter and pay for my next fix of booster packs and I don’t have access to the thousands of cards in my physical library I have little doubt the masterminds behind my addiction already have the plan for my digital downfall in the works.

What the online version of the game does do is simulate the game table well. The selection of cards is limited to the current core set and the ability to customize and modify the included pre-built decks lacks a bit of flexibility but overall this is the first time a digital version of Magic has come so close to stealing my soul. There have been a few other digital choices over the years, and Magic is no stranger to the online play space but unlike the old PC game, the horrible non-Magic Battlefront game and the long running Magic Online, the Xbox version is just insidious because its invaded my gaming life.

The once safe retreat of my recovery has become unsafe. Playing against others is as simple as firing up the 360 and hopping into a ranked match against people who are obviously just as addicted as I am. I’ve found the computer opponents pale in comparison to the challenge of playing my fellow addicts (except Ron), which in turn fuels the addiction. I feel the burn. I want to win.

dotp1The current selection of cards makes the game feel like its far more about the strategy and the deck build than it is about the cards you own – a problem that often plagues the physical games I’ve played. This is also a problem as it pulls on my addiction to new cards, new strategies and new options. I can feel my craving to buy more virtual cards, to build my library beyond the basics offered in the game currently.

Maybe Magic on the 360 is a safe alternative to going completely off the wagon. So far I’ve managed not to run to the store and buy a case of the latest release, Alara Reborn but I had to be emotionally honest and share with you all that I’d fallen. I’ve failed to resist and I wanted to warn you that the temptation to succumb is strong even with the seemingly safe Xbox 360 version.

I have failed to resist it, and I have to admit that some part of me wants all of you to fail as well. If you’re strong enough to resist its pull then I admire you. If, like me, you’re only human and give in, well… I guess I’ll see you online. I’m afraid this is my last visit to Magic Anonymous. I think I can manage the addiction now, thanks for all your help and support over the years.

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3 Comments on The Analog Gamer: It's A Kind of Magic

Ron Whitaker

On July 2, 2009 at 10:09 am

Unfortunately, I’ve fallen victim to this as well. Even more unfortunately, I played the part of Shawn’s whipping boy as we tried out the new title. One thing that has always been my downfall at any card game – I don’t draw cards well.

Morning Toast

On July 2, 2009 at 10:21 am

The XBL version of Magic is great for new players like me too because it clearly abides by the official rules and is consistent. It makes it so you don’t miss a phase or a turn or even a possible attack/defense. One thing I wish it did have was bigger text. We don’t all have mondo TVs so the zooming in/out to read cards can get a bit tedious.

As a noob to the Magic business, I’ve found the XBL version to be quite challenging. Since I don’t know the pros/cons of each colored deck as of yet, there is a lot of trial and error when playing the AI. And the AI is just hard enough when playing on the “normal” skill level. Tough enough to make you think, but easy enough that you’re not completely ambushed.

Sometimes one of my cards will get defeated or something else happen and I’m not sure why, but that’s all just learning cards and effects. Nothing can really replace a person explaining rules to me in a simple manner, but this console version does a pretty good job. Magic took my 10 bucks and I’m sure it will take many more bucks as they release decks and other DLC.

I have yet to play on-line versus a real opponent as I fear the trampling that will follow, but I’ll get there eventually.


On July 3, 2009 at 12:47 am

Regrettably I too have fallen victim to WotC’s digital incarnation of the small colored papers that siphoned away many of my paychecks in years past. The title was too similar to the physical manifestation, enabling me to pick up as if i had never been away.

I have noticed that the title lacks some ability to support complex instant/interupt chains. Conveniently there is little time to focus on this issue, what with the ability to continuously play ad infinitum regardless of store (or coffee shop) hours.