Let’s start with what I hope is an uncontroversial statement: Magic is a game of the mind. One of the things that makes Magic such an appealing pastime for many is that it requires no level of physical ability to play. It’s a game that rewards strategic thinking, and it’s more accessible as such than other team sports.


No one should lose a game of Magic because of physiological factors.


I went to GP DC this past weekend, the format for which was Team Sealed, and for the most part I had a good time. I didn’t have a good pool in the main event and was burned out by the end of the weekend, but it was nice to play Magic side by side with people I care about. And, since it was run by Star City Games, it was run as well as one of these events could be run.


But that’s not exactly an insurmountable bar.


For a while now, as Grand Prix attendance has continued to grow uninterrupted, the simple logistics of getting a meal have become increasingly difficult. This was particularly apparent in the Team Sealed format, where the combination of three matches having to end each round and an inability to return to the table after you left combined to keep people glued to the table until the bitter end, but it’s been a problem for a while. And I think it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.


It feels weird having to credential myself this way, but here it goes: this is not an issue that affects me personally. I have had eating disorders for years, and they have basically destroyed my ability to feel hunger. I do very well in situations where I have to keep my wits about me for long periods of time without having any food.


But that gives me an advantage in these situations. And I’m not the only one who benefits from this schedule. Many people don’t get to eat all day, subsisting on snack food and overpriced unhealthy convention fare, and that adds an additional cost to what is already an expensive event. When you have a factor in Magic that is governed by physiology or finance, that’s a problem for the integrity of the game.


“But GPs are an endurance competition,” an interlocutor might observe. “This is part of the whole test of these types of events.” And, to a degree, said straw man would be correct. But there’s a big difference between, “I can keep my head together through nine rounds of Magic in a 14-hour period,” and “I can keep my belly quieted through nine rounds of Magic in a 14-hour period.” The first one is a skill, the second one a party trick.


In effect, it devalues the endurance competition aspect when part of that test is simply a question of how good a person is at procuring food.


It doesn’t have to be this way. When I was in school, I was involved in a conference in Philadelphia which regularly books the Philadelphia Convention Center. It’s a bit of a DiY affair, hosted by a health clinic and free to the public, but we still managed, when I was involved, to begin each day with a bagel buffet/coffee station. We had little in the way of funding, but we recognized the importance of food to an intellectual affair.


Lunch was also provided at cost by a bunch of hippies, but that happened off site for convention rules.


I mention this all to make the simple point that it is not impossible for a well-funded event to include food on-site. Hell, have it be one of your registration options, and then pick up your prepaid lunch package on site each day. Or contract with a local business, spread the wealth. You could also hire food trucks to camp outside the event space. There are a lot of ways to tackle this issue! We just need the TOs to create a culture in which this is a consideration.


And even if their profit margins are so slim as to keep free or subsidized food in the realm of impracticality, there are still ways to make it easier for people to get food. One of them is super obvious, and yet so rarely happens: schedule a lunch break in the middle of the day. Now, some folk think that this would push the final rounds into the wee hours, but that’s the type of thing that can be avoided with proper scheduling. I think a lot of people would show up 30 minutes earlier, and play 30 minutes later, in order to have time to purchase and consume food.


Or, if that proves too difficult, start each round’s announcements with a time after which the next round will start. For example, if your round starts at noon, announce the next round won’t start before 1:30. Every once in awhile the round will spill over, and that estimate will be overly optimistic, but that doesn’t matter; what matters is that people know they can run out and grab something on a timeline. As is, there’s a degree of risk involved in ducking out for food, since there’s always the chance the next round starts before you get back and you get a loss or get dropped from the event.


Even if the extra time buffer is minimal, the knowledge will allow people to make informed choices.


Because at the end of the day, these events are supposed to represent the best competitive play Magic has to offer, and they don’t do that when people are held back by their inability to meet necessary bodily functions like eating. One day our community will tackle this issue, and once we do, we will look back upon the current schema and boggle that we ever put up with it.


Jess Stirba is known by many names.

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