Taking A Step Back

I’ve realized over the past couple of weeks that I can take a step back from Magic and be all right.

Over the last two weeks or so, I have been completely out of it, "it" being the Magic community in general. I’ve been enormously busy, but I’ve decided not to try to make excuses. Basically, I haven’t played, traded, read, or written Magic in some time.

Does this mean I’m quitting? Absolutely not!

I know that Magic will still be there when things start to clear up in my life (as they obviously already are, because I’ve had the time to write this article) and that I’ll be able to pick the whole business up again. Although I’m in the process now of slowly returning to the normal inflow of Magic-related items in my life, I’m still not completely there. So this article is going to be about taking a step back.

I’ve realized over the past couple of weeks that I can take a step back from Magic and be all right. I can say, "You all* go ahead and play and write and whatnot, but don’t save me a seat. I’ll be back when I’m ready." And, I’m not the only one who can. I remember that Israel Marques did it once, although at the time, he thought that he was losing his passion. Jamie Wakefield did it, but he never came back (at least, he hasn’t yet). Matt Eddleman (whom I’ve quoted once or twice in the past) has developed a passion for Star Wars that far exceeds his love of Magic – yet he still follows along and writes for Scrye.

So, it just goes to show you that "stepping back" has various degrees. I took a temporary shuffle, Israel took a temporary step (and has taken a pseudo-step for the next month or so), Matt’s taken a couple of steps without the intention of moving forward, and Jamie’s made a mad dash for the door. On the other hand, someone I know seems to be constantly edging forward, and there’s even a girl I know who’s considering making that first leap into the game.

Magic’s in a state of constant "steppage," and that might be what makes it so prosperous. At any time, any player can take a break and come back (provided that he hasn’t sold all of his cards and has played a game in the last couple months). Similarly, a player can join at any time. Someone can say, "It’s not good for me in college, but I’ll see you again in four years," while someone else can say, "Well, I’ll play for a couple years – but once I’m out of college, I’ll have to put it down." Someone could charge into it with full enthusiasm just as another is running away from the game. Then there’s the person who buys a booster a pack a week while another is slowly selling his collection on eBay.

But, you all* already knew this, of course. Perhaps the validity of the statement would be seen if a contrasting example were provided. Very well. Let’s see… What’s a good contrast to Magic that can still be talked about without losing the readers’ comprehension? Of course! Pokemon.

People are constantly stepping in and out of Magic. However, Pokemon was somewhat different. In the beginning, it was a marathon, with millions of kids running screaming towards those little monsters. Recently however, things have started to turn around. Those who before were extremely enthusiastic about the game have slowly and quietly turned around and tiptoed out without anyone noticing. Others have fled. Some have held their ground, but now that they’ve reached their goal of Pokemon, they no longer have to make much noise. Basically, Pokemon is very quiet. Sure, Burger King is still giving away Pokemon toys in its Big Kids’ meals, but you don’t see a commercial for it every time you turn on the TV. Sure, the TV show Pokemon comes on, but it’s moved from prime showing on Fox to the backseat of WB. Sure, there are a couple movies out – but they haven’t been on TV yet.

Daniel: <—Does not watch much TV***.

Now, granted, Pokemon still has a lot of followers, but Magic players are more dedicated to their game than Pokemon players. For months, Pokemon was the #1 selling CCG in the world. However, many months ago, Magic regained its position as the best. My interpretation: A bunch of kids thought that Pokemon was really cool, so they bought cards up the wazoo. They also bought clothes, toys, movies, wallets, and bookbags that were literally falling apart in the stores! Because of this immense popularity, Wizards made more Pokemon card stuff. They released more expansions. However, this became too much for the average Pokemon player (who was probably under thirteen years old), and he quit to pursue more simple things. Pokemon changed, but its consumer base didn’t, so the consumer based went elsewhere. Of course, this is strictly conjecture – I really have no big facts upon which to base this conclusion, just a bunch of nebulous knowledge floating around in my mind.

So what’s my point? Although Magic players (and readers, writers, and traders) are constantly in a transit of "steppage," the stepping base remains the same. Just as the universe is always expanding though at different rates at different "places"****, Magic, too, is always serving the same basic base of people though those people often vary. (Note of clarification: This is not saying that all Magic players are the same. It’s saying that the population of Magic players is always made of predominantly males, most of them younger, and many of them falling into categories that have all been discussed before with those few exceptions.)

So to put practicality to this observation, if you decide that you want to take a step back from Magic and come back at a later time, don’t be afraid; it’s only normal. In fact, it’s practically required for Magic to survive. Therefore, you know that when you change from a back-stepper to a forward-stepper, you’ll be coming back to the same old game.

Daniel Crane

* – Read "y’all" for those of you south of the Mason-Dixon line.**

** – Applies to me.

*** – Really!

**** – Quoted because, in astrophysics today, the term "place" is pretty vague when talking about universal matters.