Picture me, an eager 22-year-old fresh out of college, trying to make a name for herself. I end up finding a job that I love and becoming close friends with a few colleagues as I begin to settle into my new life. But I had a secret. For the first few months at my new job, nobody knew my after-work activities consisted of living in a fantasy world full of mythical creatures, vividly colored worlds, and “online only” friends that would share their deepest secrets.

I would spend my days thinking about new grinding sites or how I was going to level up quickly because I was eager to be able to equip a new weapon. Despite enjoying the intellectual conversation with a great group of young scientists, I still felt quite alone. It’s always nice to have a few friends who you can share stories with. There were times where I’d picture myself surrounded by a few of my closest coworkers, listening intently as I described my last boss run in detail. That never happened. In fact, it was quite the contrary. When I finally got the guts to chat with some coworkers about my after-work activities, it was met by strange looks, confusion, and a chuckle or two.

“Aren’t games for children?” exclaimed a coworker. I shyly laughed it off as I retreated into my head. The very thing that brought me comfort was being ridiculed and made me feel as if I were an outcast. Was it wrong of me to enjoy games as much as I did? Is my passion so juvenile in nature that I can’t relate to others my age?

Needless to say, I kept my game talk very quiet and to a minimum from that point on. My coworkers and I remained cordial but I always felt there was a part of me that wouldn’t be accepted. In order to fill that void, I started looking up ways to fill my leisure time in my area. It wasn’t before long that I came across a small Brooklyn game store tucked away in an unassuming corner of Williamsburg. Up until that point, I had never stepped foot in a game store; I had preferred to do most of my gaming solo, plus I was starting to consider myself weird for never “growing out” of my gaming phase. It was at my LGS that I found solace with others who were just like me, started to experiment with different genres, and experienced a sense of camaraderie that is hard to come by. Two and a half years later, I consider my LGS a second home and will forever be grateful for all the memories that have been made behind its doors.

This is my story. What’s yours?

I met a roommate and one of my best friends at my LGS. I also met a girl that I would later become engaged too, even if we didn’t ever get married. Well she did, just not to me. –Anonymous

As a sober guy who’s veered away from AA, veered away from a dharma group, and left with no true “community,” I started going to my LGS, at the time just a few blocks from my apartment, and now about half of my close friends come from the pool of people I met there. I’ve met an aggressively diverse group of folks and expanded my vision. I’ve become a bit of a better MTG player, too. It’s amazing what a safe and friendly gaming environment can do for one’s life when you show up. –age 33, Brooklyn

Meeting new people was a very slow process when I moved to NYC a few years ago. My LGS was basically a ready-made community and group of friends that really made acclimating to the city significantly easier. –Anonymous

I used to be very shy, not really into anything big, etc. But me and my friend (who got me started at Magic and gave me my first deck) went to our first FNM and I started to make friends, and the more I went to my LGS I made more friends and started to get better at the game, I’m a little young as well but some of my best friends are people I have met at my LGS and are much older than me. Another great memory I have of my LGS is the first FNM I went 4-0 without losing a single game, it was awesome and super exciting. –age 14, North Carolina

They gave me a job. –Anonymous

Feel free to share your story in the comments section below—and, as always, thanks for reading!

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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