Anyone who has been an important part of my life will probably be able to associate me with whichever game I was playing at that time. I can vividly recall during my school days, that warm, eager feeling in the pit of my stomach that I would get when the ending bell rang. I couldn’t help but be excited that soon I would be home playing whatever game I was crushing on at the moment. The bus seemed to move in slow motion as I imagined holding the controller/mouse/grip of cards in my hands, strategizing my future game plans the entire ride home.

I expected this euphoric feeling directed toward game play to be a bit more subdued in my adult life, but right now its stronger than ever! As much as I love my job, I still have the tendency to watch the clock as it approaches 5:00 p.m., sneaking in a Magic article or two during the day to satisfy the hungry beast inside that I’ve been feeding since my youth. As of late (2 years this month…woot to my Magic-versary!) my game of choice has been Magic the Gathering, but boy have I gone through some awkward stages. Join me as I take a journey through memory lane and highlight some of the games that warmed my heart (and numbed my bottom). The first game to awaken the beast was Contra in the late 80s/early 90s. OK everybody, say it with me:



My brother Randall and I would rush off of the bus, sit in front of our Nintendo, give the cartridge a few blows, and get lost in this run and gun action adventure. Since Randall was older, he was always player one in co-op mode, but I didn’t mind as long as he let me get the floating “S” power up! I would run through the jungle with my spread gun— jumping, ducking, and shooting to my little hearts content. I would always get nervous as we approached the huge wall with the sniper perched on top because I knew once we got in, things were about to get real. Breaking through those seals in the “3D” rooms had my heart racing because I knew boss time was approaching. Once inside his chambers, we’d spend some time ducking and dodging but once the boss appeared, I would stand in the middle of the room with my super cool spread gun and dominate. It made me feel confident, powerful, strong.


You have to understand, we’re talking about a shy “smart girl” in elementary school. Being good in school isn’t cool when you’re in school. It’s only after you finish and make something of your life that people want to appreciate it, and as of recent times, emulate it. It makes me smile when I see nerd culture being passed off as a style or a fad. For a lot of us it was a way of life, a way for us to be ourselves, or in some cases, be more powerful than ourselves.


“Long ago in the beautiful kingdom of Hyrule surrounded by mountains and forests…”


The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past stole a lot of my homework time away from me. This 2D, top down adventure was my first experience with getting lost in a new world. Randall and I would spend hours in front of our Super NES figuring out puzzles, fighting bosses, and collecting pieces of hearts. Usually it was Randall at the helm, and me directing using a small little black book entitled “TOP SECRETS, Messages from Sahasrahla”, a small memento that I still have to this day. The only time I picked up the controller was when it was time to catch a little fairy in a jar, that part was my fav >_<! This was my first experience with really wanting to play perfectly. We had to find every piece of the heart, visit every house, enter every room in every dungeon, all before defeating the evil Ganon.


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My brother, who’s a year and a half older, started doing his own thing and growing away from playing games with his little sister, so I began looking at my computer as more than a place to make masterpieces on Microsoft Paint. My fondness of the top-down orientation led me to find Chip’s Challenge, a multilevel tile-based puzzle game. I identified with Chip as he made his way through Melinda the Mental Marvel’s clubhouse, as he strives to be a part of the group. I mean, who doesn’t wanna be a member of an exclusive puzzle solving club…amirite? HIGH FIVE…don’t leave me hanging now! These puzzles were challenging and got increasingly harder as you increased in level, but game play was simple— arrow keys or a mouse were all you needed to navigate through this ever changing world.

I dabbled around computer gaming a bit more with Sim Ant, my first real taste of a simulation game. I spent months building perfect colonies of soldiers, workers, queens, and drones in a quaint little suburban backyard, fighting off enemy red ants, and ultimately spreading into the house. As fun as it was digging nests, caring for larvae, and watching the queen lay eggs, I missed interacting with others as I played. It wasn’t long after, that Nintendo 64 hit the market. You know what that meant, right?  ZELDA TIME! ::cue the theme song maestro::



Randall and I assumed our position on the floor, him with controller in hand and I, not with just a little black book of secrets, but a whole manual to guide us through the game. This was my first experience with a game guide and I absolutely loved it, but my grades didn’t. Even though I nearly missed honor roll that quarter, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was so worth it. I played viola from fourth grade until senior year of high school, so I was very happy when my brother passed the controller over to me when it was song learning time, a big upgrade from catching fairies in a jar! The 3D experience was very cool, especially given my gaming background. I went from playing with virtual ants to watching my brother ride Epona across a huge field and carefully guiding him to all 100 of those Gold Skulltulas. Plus, I was gaming with Randall again so it was a huge upgrade from being holed up alone, in front of my computer. These are moments that I will always cherish.

I played Starcraft and got into cards a bit during the later part of high school. Now, since you are reading a Magic the Gathering blog, allow me to elaborate. When I say cards, I’m not referring to a TCG, which I wish I had stumbled upon earlier, but instead I’m referring to actual playing cards. My school had a pretty big spades community and would throw tournaments throughout the year. I was very good at the game and so was my spades partner. We had an uncanny way of knowing what each other was thinking and dominating the field during these events. Spades was my first experience with competitive play and you guessed it, I WAS HOOKED! The thrill of being one of the best teams in a 50+ player event is a sensation you can never forget. I would go home and practice as much as possible after school, eventually branching out to tournaments taking place in the community. As much fun as it was being introduced into a competitive environment, I was off to college and knew that I just wouldn’t have the time to commit to trying to remain the best.

I went to college, joined a sorority, and made a bunch of friends. The only gaming I had time for was a quick game of Windows Internet Spades or a Starcraft campaign now and then. Sometimes I would boot up Roller Coaster Tycoon to satisfy my simulation fix. It wasn’t until after graduating that I was thrust into the world of MMORPGs. I know what you’re thinking, “Monique, you got bit by the WoW bug didn’t you?” The answer is no, now don’t you dare laugh at me, but I was heavily into MapleStory, the Korean 2D side-scrolling game. It was bright, the music was cheery, and I loved the idea that I could join a guild and play with others. There would be days were I’d grind on high level monsters for 12-13 hours straight (barring bathroom/food breaks…sometimes) because I was soooo close to leveling that I could taste it. This game was known for the different emotions your character can display, so I knew it was time to stop playing and retire my cleric (and bandit and assassin and archer) when my sister would tell me to stop communicating with her in Maple faces!


I felt it was safer to play a portable MMORPG in Haypi Kingdom, a medieval based strategic war game app featuring lots of resources, catapults, and hidden treasures. By this point I was working full time in a lab, but knew I needed to satisfy that gaming itch or I would go mad. Haypi Kingdom took up a lot of my time because when I joined, the server was brand new and there was a lot of room for growth. As you probably guessed, I was the #1 player in the server and was leader of the #1 alliance after a few months of playing non-stop. But oh boy was it getting bad— being #1 is great and all, but it also makes you a target. People on the server knew I had a large army so I would get constant attack alerts on my phone all day. Now, I can’t just let these suckers attack my cities and take my prestige away, so I had no other choice but to put down my pipette and sneak off to the bathroom so that I can defend my kingdom. On top of defending myself, I talked a good talk, so I was the go-to person for helping out my alliance members by intimidating players in World Chat, our server’s common chat room. I stole a lot of cities, reset a lot of level 10 forts, and helped dissolve a lot of alliances in my day. This all came crashing down when a few key members of my alliance were stupidly banned and like Rome, my entire empire burned down all around me. Cities that I worked on for months were stolen, my army was crushed by opposing forces, and my alliance’s name was soiled beyond reprieve. I knew that this was my time to get out, well that and the fact that I spent more time in the bathroom than at the lab bench!

Soon after that stint, I found the best game in the world, Magic the Gathering. And this is where my story begins…

Monique Garraud is a Brooklyn native who started playing Magic in 2011. “Grinding It Out” is her weekly take on the trials, tribulations, and joys of being a competitive tournament player

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