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A community question: Don't we care?
By Jonathan Linneman
“At first I simply observed. But I found that without investment in others, life serves no purpose.”
     --Karn, silver golem (from the card Intervene)

     Oh, geez, where to start?

     Well...I guess my question is this: We’re Magic players. We love the game. We love the community. But do we really care?

     I’ll explain: Before getting into the Magic community, one of my main sources of social involvement was the music scene loosely categorized as punk. I went to shows, I ordered with concealed cash from little-known record labels, and I read the 'zines that would fill me in on the state of the scene and its inhabitants. It’s remarkably similar to the world of Magic, actually. We’re all bound by an interest that often affects us more deeply than a mere means of entertainment. While we started as players of the game, we have become a part of it.
One of the most intriguing things about the punk scene, however, is the incredible sense of social awareness and involvement that popped up in places. A hardcore publication might contain a page of album reviews, followed by an article on Food Not Bombs and an explanation of the environmental benefits of a vegan diet. The ska albums you buy might turn out to be a crazy quilt of danceable beats and political lyrics. Go to a show, and you might end up signing a petition to abolish the death penalty.

     The Magic scene has heart. I know this because I’ve made friends through the game and had great experiences with old friends and Magic. Tournaments and casual gaming nights are genuine events where we’re brought together by these magical cards. Heck, just reading some articles on the net makes me really proud to be a part of all of this.3

     So...how big can this scene’s heart get? Why hasn’t our subculture spawned the community involvement seen in others? I can think of a number of possible answers. It could be that we’re a community based on competition...but I doubt it. A lot of us call ourselves “casual players,” after all. It could be that we’re a scene based on a product. You might not expect activism in a community where buying stuff is such a big concern. However, all American subcultures seem to have a measure of materiality involved. The hardcore kids have to have their hoodies and their Chuck Taylors, but that doesn’t stop ‘em from writing articles about South American revolutions.
A friend of mine (and fellow Magic player) offered that the Magic scene might just be too “corporate” &em; meaning, I think, that a roomful of computer programmers and accounting students can’t be expected to gravitate toward political involvement. I guess this point has quite a bit of validity; we have the excess funds to spend on a freakin’ card game. In terms of our places in society, things are pretty good for most of us.
Maybe the Magic scene is just too new. Maybe we’re getting old enough to change that.

     Why can’t we use our community ties for the benefit of others (as cheesy as that sounds)? Go to a Prerelease, and bring a handgun control petition with you. Run a tournament, charge $3 and two canned goods for the entry fee, then give the food to a soup kitchen. Keep Amnesty International (amnesty.org) pamphlets in your trade binder. Get all the sealed-deck participants you can find to donate their commons, then sell the lot on eBay and send a check to the SPCA. Every little bit helps.

     It’s hardly about the issues. I know my political leanings run farther left than most; I’m not concerned if we don’t hug trees at the same rate. I’m just looking at what we have and seeing that we have the potential to start (and continue, in some cases) something really wonderful...a truly caring Magic community.

     I had a lot of grand ideas for this article. It would be a caring cardflopper’s manifesto...a Jerry Maguire-style mission statement to rally behind as we take our “scene” into a greater realm of social awareness. In the end, though, all I can type are a group of ideas and a plea for more. Please help me in this if you are willing, and please (please!) share your thoughts on carrying the idea forward. Or, if I’m just wasting my time here...tell me. I’ll probably disagree, but I’d love to hear from you just the same. I can be reached at jplinneman@hotmail.com or on the CPA forums as Sammy Dead-O.

Read More Articles by Jonathan Linneman!

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