In the U.S. dominant era of Magic, U.S. players took to the game quick and dissected the game to an art – Apprentice, playtesting groups, team formation, mailing list exchanges, and tech sharing. While the U.S. had the jump on the rest of the world, you also have to consider that we will or maybe have, run the extent of the game, in that the mass amount of the original talent pool has dwindled. Obviously experience leads to greater results a great deal of the time. The U.S. had the jumpstart on that, but sooner or later the rest of the world would catch up, when the original dominant players moved on to different things.
Randy Buehler, Aaron Forsythe, Dave Price, Jon Finkel, and Turian, are just some of the people we’ve lost to age. Not that they’re too old to play (no one’s too old to play), but their lives have changed in a way that Magic is not as much of a priority as it was in the past. Some have used their education from college and studies to make the more consistent money I mentioned before and yet others have been singled out to work on the very game they were once so passionate for. Their passion isn’t gone, mind you, just directed at doing different things involving the game, enjoying them, and making a living from doing so.
Over on Magic League, I noticed that someone had posted about the European players winning more than the American players. I think the same reasons above can be attributed to this scenario as well, although I don’t know the statistical truth to this. Another contributing factor that I’ve thought about is the introduction of new games. If Magic had entered into U.S. culture at the same time as the new poker phenomenon, MMORPG’s (Warcraft, DAOC, Everquest), Vs. System, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh, then I feel it would have still been the greater addiction for those that like gaming.
True, the sales would have been lower because of a much more diverse competing market, but the game would have still taken off. With the early start on Magic, some players left the game and went to new things. These players are still in that same demographic and targeted audience that gaming companies tend to cater to, but they just got tired of the game and moved on. I’m sure it’s safe to say – and most will agree – that the U.S. Magic scene has lost many a good player to poker, Everquest, etceteras, before their talent could have blossomed into that of a Julien, Kai Budde, or”insert random new good foreign player name here”. Across seas and elsewhere in the world, foreign players have been presented with all of these games at once or within a small span of time and have chosen the game that most of us who are addicted to Magic would have chosen.
So am I just trying to find a reason for a poor performance at Worlds this year and maybe even a poor yearly showing for the U.S.? No, I’m not. I’m not whining or making bland excuses with no foundation for why the U.S. hasn’t been performing as well on the international stage. I believe that it’s evolution and in a sense, something I like to call”The Player MetaGame Clock”. The U.S. may struggle for a while as our talent pool tries to refill again and some of the fads of our current gaming choices pass, but in the same respect, the foreign players will also start to lose a significant level of talent. This talent loss will be based on their”better players” choosing new paths in their lives as they expand outside of that marketing audience they too were once a part of. Pro Tour heavyweights will get their masters and go onto things like law school and such. Some will join those dedicated few that left the competitive life of the game to go behind scenes and help create and make the game we all like. When this happens, look for the U.S. talent pool to begin to overflow as the foreign player pool, will begin to run a bit dry. The whole process will unfold and repeat itself over and over and over.
In conclusion, I think the only thing that will change what country produces Magic’s elite will be based mostly on what new games and ideas are presented to the gaming audience and which portion of the world first. If a brand new and incredible gaming concept comes along to the Asian markets and starts to tap into the Magic player community pool there (no pun intended – honest), then you could make a safe bet that the Asian country talent pool will drop significantly enough to raise the eyebrow of Ted and several others.
The U.S. has been expected to be the best at the game, because history has shown the majority of the time, we were. Things change, but it doesn’t mean that one country is outplaying another in the game. If Worlds operated in a manner similar to the Olympics, in that we could send our best players to Worlds and they would compete with the best from every other country, then things might be different. Instead, Worlds is devised from a pool of players from all nationalities who have achieved what it takes to get an invitation to play in that event. These players show up and compete, but not in a”country ‘A’ versus country ‘B’ fashion”. Hypothetically, a situation could arise where one player from country”A” defeats and eliminates his own fellow countrymen, who in turn, have eliminated their own fellow countrymen as well in previous and/or latter matches.
Anyway, I know I’ve taken a deeper look into this, than it probably deserves. I think my desire to write on this came out of a curious need to find the roots or possible roots of the decline of the U.S. showing at Worlds. In all seriousness, I could be way off base here, but after talking about this issue a lot over the past few days, these are the conclusions I’ve come to.
Until next time, take care.
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“God never puts more upon us than he thinks we can handle, but I wonder why he trusts me sometimes.” – Mother Teresa