By Daniel Stein

Editor’s Note: Meet Daniel Stein, our fifth contributor to the new, rotating Scrub Report! Daniel’s articles will appear over the next four Fridays, as he details the highs and lows of being a parent with a kid hooked on MTG. If you’d like to write for The Scrub Report, send an email to [email protected]

It’s been really nice taking some time away from the game. Honestly, while I do love the excitement, thrill and enthusiasm involved in playing Magic: The Gathering, I can honestly say I am not obsessed. With my son out of town for a month, it has been good to take a step back and reflect on my interest in the game and how to engage my son, who is overly enthusiastic. With the detached perspective I would like to address three important topics that come to mind: Violence in MTG, how often to play MTG with your kid, and what types of people play MTG.

Violence in MTG

This is an important topic to discuss. When my son first developed an interest in the game, he was 8 years old. Despite my own interest as a kid, he did not learn it from me. It was his classmates that turned him onto the idea. I thought it was pretty cool. I started to ask Isaiah questions about his cards, what they do, and how they work in actual play. His responses were limited to what the cards looked like, the power levels of the creatures and the potential value of the cards. This was a huge red flag for me. As a parent, I knew that he was too young to strategize and follow the complex rules built into gameplay. Unfortunately I took the cards away and did everything I could to avoid all discussion about magic. Why, you ask? It comes down to the unavoidable reality that Isaiah would be exposed, at a young age, to the incredibly violent and mostly irrelevant images drawn on the majority of cards.

Of course, if you are into MTG you may try to deny this fact. “Oh, it may be violent, but it’s a part of the very expansive and super-awesome world of MTG!” Or, “Come on, you’re going to prevent your kid from the game because of some swords and blood? You can’t shield them from the world forever, man!” While I totally agree with both of these sentiments, it’s important to remember that children are highly influenced by the world around them, especially when their ability to process complex themes and philosophical ideas is limited. Therefore, when the words on the cards are meaningless, they turn to the images to understand them. For adults, or older kids, the images are merely a backdrop or pretext to what the card actually is. Now that Isaiah is 10 (what a difference developmentally), he is not as interested in the pictures on the card. Rather, he understands the role each card plays in his hand and his deck.

Recommendation: Regardless of age, if your child is not ready to comprehend the complex gameplay of MTG, I would avoid all interaction with the cards. The development of children is such that their focus will be whole-hearted and therefore, they will rely solely on the imagery to satisfy their interest. When your child is ready to play the game, understand the intricacies and dive deep into the world of magic, engage them in a reasonable and responsible way!

How Often To Play MTG With Your Kid

This is a great segue into a very important aspect of the game. It is inevitable that your child is going to want to live, breath and sleep MTG. You will likely find a card in their hand or hear something related to a card, a card’s value or something like that coming from them at all times. This is ok! Developmentally speaking, children are drawn to things and put their whole selves into it. It’s best not to shame your child for their “obsession.” If it is getting on your nerves, there are a couple of things you can do. First, try engaging in the game with them some time. You can do this by learning how to play and playing with them, allowing your child to teach you how to play, or by bringing your child to your local game store and allowing them to play with other people.

Speaking from personal experience and as someone who has a genuine interest in playing MTG, I approached his interest in the completely wrong way! As an adult, we have all these responsibilities. Paying bills, feeding people, keeping things clean and orderly, and the list goes on. It is natural that we will find opportunities to avid all of these responsibilities as much as possible. Naturally, I found MTG as an opportunity to escape from the real world. Oh, I’m home from work, sure let’s play. Oh, we’re done with dinner, I’ll clean dishes later, let’s play. Oh hey, you need to go to sleep, let’s play a round before you go to sleep. Ok. This was fun while it lasted, but as I have taken a break from playing and had an opportunity to reflect, I realized this was inappropriate. In a lot of ways, I fueled his “obsession.” And while his obsession may be ok, I was not approaching it from the perspective of a parent. I realize that a more healthy way to approach his interest is to set specific times throughout the week where MTG is appropriate. Since Isaiah is homeschooled, we are not victim to the whole Monday – Friday must be for boring stuff and let’s cram anything remotely interesting into the weekend. So, our local game store has booster drafts at 7 PM on Wednesday nights. For us, that means we can take the cards out Wednesday morning, satisfy our craving for MTG during the daytime, go to the draft, and satisfy our desire to spend money and engage our community, and maybe ride high on the excitement through Thursday. Once Thursday night arrives, we put the cards away until the next week. If you recall from my previous article, I am not a fan of Friday Night Magic for a number of reasons.


While most Friday Night Magic events do not look like this, It can feel like this to navigate with a young child. (Image Via.)

The reason why I think this is a healthy approach is because the world is full of exciting and wondrous things. I love to jam out to live music and take walks in nature. I enjoy playing music and reading manga. I love to cook food and play board games as a whole family. There are so many things to do throughout the week, that if we played MTG every day, Isaiah would (and did) simply wait for the moment when we could get a round in. His mind would (and was) set on MTG every and all day. It was unhealthy and it really irritated his mother (who is totally awesome and supportive of his interest).

Recommendation: Do not get sucked in to playing MTG all the time with your kid. Create reasonable space for gameplay throughout the week but also allow your child to develop a natural interest in other things. As he/she gets older, they will decide what they are truly interested in and it is your role to support them in that. At a young age, it is still our responsibility to expose them to a whole host of possible loves in the world.

What Types of People Play MTG

I’d like to take an opportunity to talk about this very uncomfortable and important topic. When you think to yourself, “Oh, I don’t want my kid around all those dirty, overweight geeks who don’t take care of themselves…” I’d like you to instead think to yourself, “Hm, I wonder if I can think about something without being completely judgmental.” Ok, now that you’ve made a good start, then think to yourself, “I wonder what types of people actually play MTG…” Great! I’m so glad you asked!!

First of all, MTG is played by people from all walks of life. Therefore it is truly impossible to define this in a simple way.

Let’s start with some pictures… There’s these kids:


(Image Via.)

There’s also these people:


(Image Via.)

Notice how these people don’t look overweight and disgusting.

Of course, there’s this guy… and this rooster:


(Image Via.)

See, all types of people play Magic the Gathering. I suggest you do everything in your power to avoid stereotyping the Magic community. If you are concerned about the type of people your child is around, it would behoove you to spend time with them at the game store. Of course, I do not recommend dropping them off in a room full of strangers while they’re only 10 years old anyway, but more importantly, if your child is 13 – 15 and you are concerned, go to the store with them. Hang out for a booster draft or Friday night magic. Spend time at the store and get to know some people. There will be people who have poor hygiene and don’t take care of themselves just as much as there will be people who are overly obsessed with their appearance. You will also meet really great people with wonderful personalities and complete jackasses. It’s a wonderful rainbow out there.

Recommendation: Don’t be a jerk. There is no ONE type of person who plays magic. Young girls, old rich men, dirty people, clean people and everyone in between and beyond. Get to know people who play at your local store. If you don’t think they are a good influence on your child, then find a different place to play, or start a group for young players at your local library. The possibilities are endless.

Looking to the Future

Next week I am going to get deep into two important topics: First, The financial aspect of Magic: The Gathering (how to avoid sinking into debt because your kid is pestering you to buy cards ALL THE TIME!) And second, the objectification of women and how to be a part of changing the culture of the game. It’s going to be a great discussion!

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