Why I Finally Quit Magic: The Gathering, or, “So Long, and Thanks for all the Phyrexians”

Well, my friends, it’s the end of an era: I’ve officially quit Magic: the Gathering.

Like many Magic players, I first picked up the game in college during its heyday and quit for trivial reasons (for me, it was to pay a dorm room fee). I returned many years later, right after Dark Ascension hit the streets in February 2012. I dove in hard, buying boosters weekly, fat packs with new releases, and becoming heavily invested with online trading websites.

ImageI wrote a lengthy essay last year about taking an eight-week “fast” from Magic in order to get my personal life in better order. At the time, I was burning up a great deal of mental energy and effort on trading, brewing, and consuming all aspects of Magic, and it was taking an increasingly negative toll on my relationships with my family. I succeeded in making it through the fast, but the effects of remaining tied to Magic, even loosely, lingered in the background.

I worked hard to limit my exposure to the game after the fast, but old habits die harder. I did a very limited return to online trading, but had to reign myself in before I started putting too many cards back on the market. I started playing again in a casual setting, but I found myself acting less than mature, almost bordering on sneaky, when asking for the time and opportunities to play the game amidst a busy family schedule.

After a set of lengthy discussions with my family, I went to a local game store last Thursday and made a commitment to sell off my entire Magic collection on the spot. Most of the cards I owned were still sleeved and in decks; I played a final few rounds with a friend of mine while one of the employees was pricing a stack of my highest-value cards. I’m sure I could have earned a much larger amount of money selling my collection online piece by piece, but this wasn’t about the money.

What makes this departure different to me is the context. My reasons for leaving the game aren’t the usual ones you hear from former Magic players, such as “I don’t have the money to keep up with the format,” or “my friends don’t play anymore/moved away,” or “I don’t like the new set/direction Magic (as a game) is taking.” This was about figuring out what works in my life and what doesn’t.

See, one thing I’ve had to come to terms with is my age. I’m not a 20-something college kid or working single man with minimal sets of responsibilities and the freedom to spend what I have (in both money and time). I’m nearly 40, married, and have two small children. I don’t have the luxury, the ability, or the need to spend countless hours mulling over a collectible card game when there’s children to care for, work to be done, schedules to plan, home projects to complete, and promises to fulfill. And it’s not like Magic was ever an integral part of my identity. Magic has always been an add-on; it was never something I played for years on end, nor was it a critical part of my growth and development, nor was it something that brought my wife and I together (as it has with many folks). It was a hobby, and it grew far outside its boundaries as a simple hobby.

I know there are plenty of folks who are successful in managing their gaming alongside their significant others, spouses, families, and careers, but it took me a while to discover that Magic is simply not compatible with mine. And it was hard to take the hooks out … that’s why I made the decision to cut my losses and cash out.

For all the people I’ve met during my recent time playing Magic, it was awesome getting to know you, and I hope we can continue stay in touch. As for you, Magic: the Gathering …

… so long, and thanks for all the Phyrexians.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.