More Magic

This piece in the Guardian is a souped up press-release promoting the forthcoming new version of Magic, the collectible card game.  However, there were two takeaways that made it worth reading.

First:

Tifa Robles is the founder of the Lady Planeswalkers Society, a group which aims to bring more women into the game. When she started playing in 2010, an estimated 10% of Magic players were female. Now that figure stands at 38%.

“It’s grown a lot in the five years I’ve been playing,” she said. “But the reason I started Lady Planeswalkers was that I do think there are things stopping women participating in organised events.

“Part of it is just pure numbers. If you’re one of the only women in the store, or sometimes the only woman in the store, it can feel really lonely. But I also know that in my own experiences, I’ve encountered a lot of sexism. A lot of it is subtle, and you only really notice it as a woman. People question your ability to play the game for yourself, they ask if you’re there because of a boyfriend, things like that.”

“My husband games as well, and it’s interesting to see the dynamic when we go to an event together. I’m actually a much better Magic player than him, I was a tournament player and he never was, but people assume it must be the other way around. People ask him for advice or for his opinion on things in the Magic community when I’m the one that’s really more involved.”

If the 38% figure is even close to being accurate, that is an impressive achievement and is to be lauded. It used to be that Settlers of Catan was the only serious boardgame that attracted female players in decent numbers. If Magic is doing the same, that bodes well for the game and the hobby.

Then there’s this:

But while Magic’s ascent has been impressive, it isn’t the only game in town. Other card games – physical and digital – have been able to establish themselves by addressing some of the most common gripes players have with the game.

One is cost. Cards which perform well in high-level tournaments often increase dramatically in value on the second-hand market, and a top-level competitive deck can run to over $1,000 (£650).

Games such as Netrunner, a deep and compelling cyberpunk game pitting hackers against monolithic corporations, have provided a cheaper alternative by simply releasing cards in complete sets, creating an ever-expanding game while eliminating the need to buy individual cards at inflated prices.

Others, most notably the digital collectible card game Hearthstone, have provided a slicker, simpler alternative to Magic’s online offering, which is only available to Windows users and has struggled for years with a cumbersome user interface. And while Hearthstone doesn’t have a physical equivalent, its developers recently announced that it had accumulated over 30 million active users, overtaking Magic in terms of sheer player numbers.

I much prefer the non collectible card games, and indeed have bought some of the Netrunner stuff. But there must be enough fans to keep the collectible mode going, or Magic wouldn’t be sticking to that format.

I had heard that Magic‘s online version was poor, and this article suggests that there is room in the marketplace for serious competition. However, the physical version is crucial – as matters stand – for all sorts of reasons. The retail world plays a big part in keeping the popularity of the game so high. The social interaction just isn’t so good online.

One day, I will sort out my Magic cards…