Several months ago, after the interview with Peter Adkison, former head WOTC employee, I inquired whether Richard Garfield would be interested in doing an interview. Peter said that he would contact him, and if willing, Dr. Garfield would e-mail me back. About a week passed, and Richard e-mailed me back the response that he would agree to an interview, as long as I allowed for work delays and other WOTC delays causing a belated response. I agreed.
About a week later, I called for as many questions for the interview as possible on the CPA, since it is a rare opportunity to ask the original designer of the game of Magic questions, one that should be shared with as many people as possible. MTGnews.com also helped by putting a link to the CPA and telling its readers that a question call had been posed.
I allowed the question call to persist for a month after questions came trickling in via mtgnews, the CPA thread and my e-mail box. I sat on them editing and attempting to sort them for about a month and a half. I cut all of the "Can you ask him to sign a(n) ___________ card for me? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE???????", reducing the number from over four hundred to about one hundred and ninty. After condensing the similar questions into one well-worded question, I had about 120 different questions. I edited out the well-answered questions from the previous interviews with Peter Adkison and Mark Rosewater. After that, all questions I found somwhat disrespectful were taken out as a matter of courtesy. I kept trimming until I had the following, minus the last three questions on the list. Those were added about a week ago to try to bring the interview, if forthcoming, up to current Magic issues that had not happened when it was originally sent.
To everybody who submitted thoughtful questions for the interview, and who helped with it, Thank You Very Much.
To everyone who submitted signing requests: I believe the term is "slaps" or something similar. [That would be "slops", probably - Spidey] I apologize that I couldn't allow some new technology graft a signature onto a card via several hundred miles. People, in life, read the fine print. This is an E-mail interview.
And to the man that made this interview all possible, Richard Garfield, Ph D; THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART
Orgg: First of all, as tradition dictates, I must ask of you what type of games you prefer. The well-know myth is that you love games of all types, from electronic, to pen-and-paper, to LARPing. Can you give us some more details about your personal gaming habits? Possibly details on your game room?
Richard: One of my life philosophies is that one has very few natural likes or dislikes, but that one learns them. If I was born in a culture that ate bugs I would probably like to eat bugs. I consider it, therefore, a professional responsibility to learn what makes all types of games appealing, and have played as many different ones as I could until I
learned the appeal.
The only real exception to this is solo games, which I consider more puzzles than games. I do play these but I don't feel obliged to. So I feel it is very important to play Starcraft with other people, a lot less so against the computer.
In practical terms the games that fit into my life right now are games that can be played in less than two hour sessions with little preparation, and a little luck is good to keep the pressures to think too hard to a minimum.
Orgg: Well, now into Magic. Again with tradition: What is presently your favorite Magic color?
Richard: Not blue. Really I tend to try to play whatever the most underutilized color is, and to build decks that break current archetypes, so my favorite floats a lot. I currently dislike blue because it has over time changed in my mind from the wacky and tricky color to the "you can't do anything"
Orgg: Your favorite card(or cards) of late? Most people know of the special connections of Phelddegrif and Wyluli Wolf. Are there any other cards you'd like to touch upon?
Richard: My favorite recent card is Winnow, I like its effect and subtlety. As far as cards with special "hidden meanings" I know of lots from the old days, and less from these days. Some others from days gone by are Ernham Djinn and IffBiff Efreet, named after Herman and Elizabeth Vroom - my sister and brother-in-law. Iffbiff was a childhood name for Elizabeth. Another pair was Mijae and Ydwen, named after Jamie and Wendy, two friends that were married during the design. A card that commemorates something other than people is City in the Bottle, which is a reference to Sandman 50, Ramadan.
Orgg: What type of deck do you usually prefer to play? Would you share with us the deck you are using most often now?
Richard: As I mentioned above I like to use decks that break the current archetypes. I can't talk about most of the recent ones I have been playing because they center around mechanics being developed - but the idea is illustrated by a red/blue turbo obliterate deck. Most people were viewing obliterate as anti-blue, but I noticed that when I used it blue was always in a better recovery position than me unless they were just playing stupidly (which I can't rely on nearly as often as I used to). Then I thought maybe it actually had synergy with blue! After playing with it though I think I demonstrated there was more synergy than people expected, but not really a viable amount.
Orgg: Everyone knows that you are the creator of Magic: The Gathering, and in extension, the whole TCG genre as well, but it is not common knowledge what title you hold at Wizards of the Coast. What is your official title?
Richard: My title at Wizards is Designer-in-Chief. I have no management responsibilities, but give my opinion on games, and game play to Wizards. I also work on TCGs, Magic, and wacky game proposals.
Orgg: How much are you still involved with the day-to-day workings of Magic?
Richard: I am involved in an ongoing basis with Magic design and future direction, and the play environment, including development of an electronic version of the game.
Orgg: If someone did not know that you had a son and daughter, they would know it now after the cards Splendid Genesis and Fraternal Exaltation appeared for sale on E-bay. Would you tell us their names?
Richard: Terry (3) and Schuyler (1) are my daughter and son. They don't play too many games yet but they are learning fast. The cards were supposed to be personal gifts to friends, not for resale because I don't want to make a commercial thing out of my children's birth. Apparently I gave the cards a bit too widely, however.
Orgg: What about your wife, Lily Wu? Everyone has heard of the legendary proposal card; but not many people have seen it. Where would it be possible to see a scan of it?
Richard: For the same reason as with the children's cards, I have not circulated the Proposal card. Having these as stories contributing to the lore of Magic is fine, but to print the cards starts to cross the line, in my mind (and my wife's mind), into "publicity stunt". For that reason I have kept these cards on a tight leash. Over time it seems less important and maybe someday we will feel comfortable with it, after all, an event over 6 years ago hardly seems like a publicity stunt.
Orgg: Speaking of your wife, what are her gaming habits?
Richard: She likes light games, with luck and casual play. She can play endlessly however, and in fact the first time I was interested in her was after a game session that lasted Friday evening to Saturday afternoon. These habits, however, have changed with the coming of children. From time to time she plays games and I can see she still really likes them, but much less often than we would like. She was an original playtester for Magic, by the way.
Orgg: What about her opinions on your gaming habits?
Richard: She understands that it is part of my job and that I need to play enough that I enjoy games. She also understands it is a large part of who I am.
Orgg: What games have you taught your children?
Richard: As mentioned above, they are pretty young. Schuyler doesn't have any games outside of peek-a-boo, and run-around-a-lot, and maybe synchronized-screaming, all of which he has a blast doing. Terry plays concentration (memory matching), dice rolling, adding and matching, war and hide-and-seek, to name a few. On her birthday I was driving her to the fair and Henry Stern was in the car with us talking about his previous night at a casino. He turned to her and said "How about it Terry, instead of the fair do you want to go play dice and cards?" Terry answered "Dice and cards! Dice and cards!"
Orgg: How often do you play games with your family?
Richard: Not often enough, again because of the children's ages. But the amount will increase and I do intend to start designing games for them.
Orgg: Any advice to the parents in the Magic community on the different games that children tend to enjoy and at what ages to introduce different types of games? Details here would be appreciated.
Richard: My extensive experience ends at age 3.5. So far, however, I have gotten a lot of play value out of simple sorting, counting, and matching games. These games have no winner, just tasks we are doing together (like roll 30 dice until they are all sixes). It is a real pleasure watching her develop during the course of these games. From counting all the pips, for example, to recognizing the dice faces by sight. From only being able to search for a match of the single card she is holding, to having buffer space left over to note matches among the passed by cards. Games are amazing, even at the most fundamental levels.
Orgg: What changes have occurred to the section of the company where you roam after Hasbro aquired WotC?
Richard: The only real change Hasbro has made is what our place in the world is. For example, prior to the acquisition it made sense for us to think about board and card games other than trading card games, but it is less important now because Avalon Hill, and Parker Brothers are part of the family. No one told us to stop but it just makes sense from our perspective to pay more attention to the skills we have that Hasbro, previously, did not have.
Orgg: Has the aquisition made contacting the companies that Hasbro has control of, such as Avalon Hill, Parker Brothers, and Milton Bradly, easier? You once expressed regret that Avalon Hill had been purchased by Hasbro and some of it's game lines canceled. Since it should be easy now to communicate with them, would it be possible to take over some of the products that were abandoned like Titan: The Arena?
Richard: To be clear, I regretted the failure of Avalon Hill, not its purchase by Hasbro. Wizards impact on Dungeons and Dragons is in my mind a good one, but I still regret that the original company got in such a position that they needed to be purchased. I also don't know yet what will be the future of Avalon Hill's games. The people in charge of them truly love those games, and are trying to do their best by them. I think their new versions of old games, such as Acquire and Cosmic Encounter, are worthy, and I think their new additions to the line, such as Battle Cry, are also good. I would go so far as to say Battle Cry is excellent.
What about the "lost" games?
We will see, it will be disappointing if they disappear completely, but they won't if the people in charge of the line have their way. Cosmic Encounter has disappeared and been resurrected three times now - good games don't go forever.
Orgg: Honestly, do you still enjoy Magic?
Richard: Absolutely. You have no idea how much. There are many reasons for that. My enjoyment grew over time and continues to grow. It was, in fact, over a year after Magic was out before I realized I liked it better than Robo Rally, my first complete design.
Part of this feeling stems from the fact that Magic is a deep game. The longer it has been around the clearer that is. Deep games like Bridge, or Poker, or Chess don't bore its serious players in time; they become more and more interesting the more you know. I know a lot about Magic and
there are a lot of folk who know a lot about it and so it has a naturally heightened value.
Also, every time I come back to it the game has changed! So when I get back into, say, poker again I remember how great a game it is. When I have not played Magic in a while and return I not only remember how good a game it is, I am having a really fresh experience since the game itself has
Orgg: How did you originally envision the game being played?
Richard: I originally thought people would get anywhere from one to 5 decks and that cards would flow around small playgroups - legends circulating about good cards and rare combos. I thought that problem cards would be banned by individual groups, and timing issues resolved by house rule.
The reason I expected this is because that is pretty much how board games and regular card games work in the hobby industry. The difference, however, came from the fact that the playgroups overlapped a lot because people could play two at a time and were motivated to know lots of playgroupes in order to trade. This meant that there was much more pressure on a uniform banning and uniform timing rules. I still encourage small groups to use whatever rules they like for their games. The only time an official set of rules and banned lists are needed is when groups of people who don't know each other are playing together.
Orgg: Did it ever enter your mind that Magic might overshadow Role Playing Games by itself?
Richard: Not Magic, but I did believe that the concept of trading card game was so potentially powerful that it could as a genre compete with board games, role playing, or miniatures. I thought it would take much longer and that it wouldn't be Magic to do it. I felt that my valuable contribution was less for Magic itself but for the type of game I was trying to make.
Orgg: What made you decide on the name Magic: The Gathering instead of the original name Mana Clash? What other names were brainstormed for the game?
Richard: What I wanted to call the game was Magic, plain and simple - not Magic: The Gathering. I still refer to it as Magic, as you can see from this interview. The worry was that Magic was not an ownable name, like, say, RoboRally. So people talked about Mana-clash, Lords of Dominia, and Mana-flash, among others. Eventually the concept of appending The Gathering to the name came about and that seemed fine to me. I thought at the time that "The Gathering" was going to be a set title, like "Ice Age", or "Mirage". That it became the name of the whole game took me a bit by surprise.
Orgg: What are some interesting changes that Magic went through other than the well-known things like walls being able to attack?
Richard: I don't actually remember walls ever being able to attack other than through special spell use.
I guess the biggest change was that originally there were a fair number of spells that changed ownership of cards outside of mana agreements. Control Magic was permanent, Pixie would swap two cards randomly between hands, Ecoshift took all land in play and randomly redistributed them. These
were a blast to play with but the focus of the game became more about hustling your opponent than winning the game. Our compromise was to leave ante and ante manipulation in the game and that way folk who didn't want to play "for keeps" could just play with no ante.
Orgg: Would anything have been changed in the initial release now that you have the information you have now?
Richard: Very little. This doesn't mean that there were no mistakes, but that the mistakes weren't that important. As Magic grew, the tournament scene grew, player tech grew, and so forth, the precision that was warranted became higher. In fact, though I would never do a card set like was first released right now, it may have been better for the completely ignorant base of players that it was being released for than those made today.
The one change I might really make is in flavor, and the changes would be subtle. For example, I intended early on that the artifacts and some races in Magic be a bit techno - not techno, like the Urza's Rage mech, which I dislike intensely,[Orgg- Same HERE!] but steam age technology. So I pictured the Juggernaughts billowing smoke and steam rather than looking like they were pushed, and Orcish Artillery being less a ballista and more a scary cannon/engine. Anyway, I feel like it is lost flavor.
Orgg: When you first designed Magic, it was based on mana-to-power rationing, such as the famous "boon" three for one cards. How has this system been altered by the past seven years?
Richard: There are lots and lots of informal and formal rules that change over time, usually evolving but sometimes just changing. For example at one point it was a benchmark that no broad enchantment effect, even those that seemed useless, could cost less than 4 mana. Another time it was thought that for 6 mana you could essentially have anything. There are rules about how much enchantment removal should be common, and how much flying should be in each color at common. These rules change because we decide they aren't adequate, or don't allow the freedom we need, or simply because we want to shake the boat.
Sometimes people refer to the costing of a card in dollars and cents. A $4.20 card means it would be a good 4 mana card and a bad 5 mana card. I sometimes hear discussions about how flying in blue should cost 50 cents while in green it should cost 2$.
The most important thing to keep in mind - and the rules can change as much as people like provided the following principles be kept:
1) There is no best deck
2) There is interaction between decks.
For 1), it is really only important that no one discovers the best deck during the lifetime of that environment's play, or that it is discovered late if it exists.
Rule 2) makes too fast an environment (first turn
kill in particular) illegal, as well as environments where players are ignoring each other as they sprint to set up their wacky combos.
Orgg: Since the game has come out, several religious groups have accused it of being "evil" as well as a number of other things. What is your opinion on the accusations? What would you like to be done about them?
Richard: I feel some responsibility to keep graphic material out of the game. I prefer Hitchcock to slasher films. We cannot satisfy everyone, however, and shouldn't try. There are people who are going to oppose the concept of magic spells regardless of what is done with them. The roots of the images are Myth, Legends, Folklore, and Fairy Tales. These things offend some people, and conflict with their beliefs.
Of course I believe that people should take an interest in and be involved in their children's life - and if need be they should exercise control. I don't believe they should be limiting my children's exposure to things that offend them, however.
Orgg: How has your life changed since Magic's first set was published?
Richard: I imagine the biggest change is in my work, I now work on games professionally rather than teaching and doing math research. My life style is pretty modest and remains pretty modest. I drive an Accord, for
example, rather than some fancy car.
Orgg: What do you think you would be doing right now for a job if Magic hadn't of been such a success?
Richard: I would be teaching and doing Math research, and designing and studying games on the side. The biggest loss to me in this lifestyle would be my reduced alternatives on where to live. I have a lot of family in the north west, and was unhappy with the idea of moving every few years till I found tenure in some random place.
Orgg: How do you usually try to balance the different components in a game you are designing, from things like Magic to non-collectable games such as Filthy Rich?
Richard: I usually try to balance to produce a diversity of tactics. In Filthy Rich, for example, since there is only one deck of cards I can pay less attention to whether a card is too strong, and more to what strategies it introduces.
I also usually assume there is some interest on the part of my player's play groups to balance the games for themselves. That is, after I play a few games I usually tinker with the rules to adjust it to my tastes, and I assume others do that too.
Orgg: What goals do you keep in mind when designing expansion sets?
Richard: I want to introduce the largest amount of variety of play for the minimum number of rules additions. I like new rules but I want to make sure that players really get a lot for learning a new mechanic. Learning this stuff is hard, and you want to be amply rewarded for it.
Orgg: Do you believe seventh edition's rulebook should include an Outdated Rules section for things like Banding and Phasing that sometimes give new players headaches while trading? Or would it be pointless for such a section to exist?
Richard: That sounds like a good idea in principle. The thing I would worry about is that it would make players think the game is more complex than it is and frighten them away. I might instead include a web address for old mechanics.
Orgg: Many people worry about Magic becoming stale due to the overextention of new abilities. How many different abilities do you believe are possible that don't mimic existing abilities? Many people worry about card "macros" becoming scarce with the way abilities are discarded after one block, and sometimes after nearly one set.
Richard: I believe the combinatorial power of the game is large enough to keep it fresh for a long time - certainly as long as most people are willing to play most games anyway. Abilities leaving the environment is a very important piece of the puzzle, however. If abilities don't leave the environment the stuff entering it has to compete more and more with old stuff till the game collapses. Buyback may come back one day, but the absence of Buyback has as big an impact on the variety of play as its presence.
Early on I was worried about Magic's limitations, but I knew that if Magic were about the created environment rather than the cards that we could go forever. I think Magic has more power than I first credited it with, but in addition we have made it a game about environment.
Orgg: What is your opinion, Dr. Garfield, on the more unexplored color traits? Green has a rarely seen theme of time advantage with cards like Stunted Growth, Plow Under, and Fallow Earth; Black has the ability to sacrifice a large chunk of resources to off cards it traditionally cannot handle with Ashes to Ashes and Phrexian Tribute, White searches things out of it's deck en-masse with Land Tax, Tithe, Oath of Leiges, and the Rebel Chain-- the list goes on for some time. Do you believe that the less-used flavours should be explored in future sets, or are they seldomly seen for good reasons?
Richard: We play around with themes and sometimes we regret having done that, sometimes we link them together into a coherent flavor that emerges later, and sometimes we like to leave them as they are, a loosely connected set of ideas with potential. Again, something's absence is as defining as its presence, and so I view cards that we don't make as contributing to the environment.
Orgg: What games and projects have you been designing lately?
Richard: I have been working on all sorts of projects, including sports trading card games, a science fiction trading card game, and some computer projects. Many of my projects are speculative and may never see the light of day, like my cell phone game or my trading card trivia game. I also work on projects like little online games that don't really have a business attached to them, but one day I may put up just for fun.
Orgg: Why do you think that the other card games you designed, such as Jyhad(Vampire: the masquerade), Netrunner(sadly, a VERY wonderful game), Battletech or the Arc system games, didn't become as popular as Magic? Was it the choice of Magic vs ________ that killed them?
Richard: Yes, I think so. The appeal of trading card games is the variety of play they provide with minimal rules changes. That makes new trading card games a bad bet, because the players of trading card games would on balance rather get more out of their existing games, than learn a whole bunch of new rules and buy a whole bunch of new cards and find a whole bunch of new opponents.
Netrunner vs. Battletech is an interesting case however. Netrunner was designed to be as different as I could make it from Magic. After I realized that players didn't seem to want a new game as much as they wanted new stuff out of their old game I intentionally designed Battletech to be as
close as I could to Magic but still leave it strategically very different. It obviously wasn't enough to let it succeed in the long run but it was a nice exercise and did do a lot better. In particular, while Netrunner took about the same time to teach someone as Magic, Battletech took about 5 minutes to teach a Magic player. Now I would still prefer Netrunner, but I was very pleased at the amount of new stuff Battletech offered given hardly any new rules.
Orgg: What happened to the "experimental point system" tournament format that was previewed in 1995 and a few months later completely eradicated from wizards.com? Will a similar format ever see the light of day?
Richard: In those days we hadn't settled on a format yet, and that was one of the ideas we were playing with. I still come up with formats now and then, which I may incorporate into new games but will probably just be novelty in magic. For example, Schizo sealed is my last format - and that involves you and I both getting a sealed deck and two boosters. We both choose from our cards 11 cards our opponent must play with, give them those cards then build a 40 card deck around it. It really leads to some wacky card use and situations!
Orgg: Are there any tournament formats that you would like to see sanctioned?
Richard: There are many tournament forms I like, but I am happy having them circulate around unofficially rather than necessarily sanctioning them. The more sanctioned forms there are the less science there is in the forms there are.
Orgg: What is your reaction to the perceved lack of sportsmanship in Magic tournaments today?
Richard: I don't see that, but if it is the case of course I am disappointed.
These things come and go however, lack of sportsmanship leads to clamp down by tournament officials which leads to people complaining about the system being too rigid which leads to it loosening up, which leads back to a lack of sportsmanship.
Orgg: While we are on the subject of sportsmanship, Dr. Garfield, what was your reaction when Magic was declared the official Mind Game of China, replacing Chess? Do you believe that status is possible in the USA?
Richard: Please call me Richard. I don't believe that Magic replaced Chess, but that it was put on the same list as chess. Certainly that is a high honor also, however, and if there were some form of official "intellectual game" recognition in the states I would hope that the US would follow.
Orgg: What about the art used now? As you have said in past interviews, the art of Magic has cut to a crop of artists that have similar styles. Do you wish the way art is done now could be changed? What would you change about it?
Richard: I would like to see two conflicting things, the coherence and distinctiveness of artistic vision that was present in Mirage, and the variety of art that was in the original set. Balancing these two desires
against one another is a challenge. The overall quality these days is higher however, though I loved the breadth of artistic styles that range between Drew Tucker and Quinton Hoover.
Orgg: What do you have to say about the patent that was issued to you for the machanics of Magic? When did you first apply for it? How do you think it has changed the gaming industry?
Richard: When I first made Magic I believed that the important invention was not Magic but the concept of trading card game. When I circulated that belief I was told high and low to get a patent, and so the application was begun before Magic was on the shelves. I sold this to Wizards along with Magic, so I have no claim on it. Magic has been so richly rewarding that it has not been important to me personally, but if Magic sputtered and someone else came out with the primary trading card game immediately, I think enforcing the patent would have been fair.
Orgg: What are your opinions on the secondary card market?
Richard: I think the secondary market is an exciting part of the game, but one that cannot supercede the player. It was vitally important that we crashed the market [Orgg's Note: I believe this a reference to Chronicles/Fourth] so that players could afford to play the game, and my loyalty will always be with the folk who simply want to buy some cards and play. As long as they can do that at a reasonable price I like to see the secondary market thrive.
Orgg: Now onto the flow of the game. What do you believe the best "tempo" for the game is, one of a high-speed such as tempest, or the slower speeds of the past two blocks?
Richard: This gets back to the topic of us selling environments rather than cards. I think both are good, and neither should always be the case. I think the relative speed of the environment, the strength of the colors in the environment, and the number of colors people play should mutate over time and that that keeps the game fresh. That said, the game shouldn't become so quick that people can win in less than 5 turns on average, and shouldn't be so combination oriented that it all comes down to a solo game to see who gets their combo first.
Orgg: What about the Deadly Combo Decks such as the Pro's Bloom deck up to the present "21" decks? What was your reaction to them?
Richard: I am happy with combo decks as long as there is interesting interaction in them. Solo decks are no fun. They [combo decks] just can't be too fast.
Orgg: Recently, many creature types have been disappearing and changing into other types, most notable the now ubiquitous beast type that has encaptured just about any wild or fantastic creature that doesn't fit into one of a few groups. Do you believe this is a good thing for the diversity of the game? What about from a rules standpoint?
Richard: The goal is to make the creature type more game mechanically relevant, which I think is a good goal. This way a card that affects all beasts is a reasonable card to have, while one that affects Fungusaurs is not. Flavorwise I think it is fine also. The name of the creature is the subcategory of the creature type. It doesn't mean that there can't be a creature type that doesn't fit in, but it is likely to be less interesting gamewise.
Orgg: Also, many creature types, such as the beforementioned (due to errata) Fungus, that once had many cards made for them have not been used for several sets now. Should the "extinct" creature types be re-introduced into the game of Magic?
Richard: Oh, I think they will make appearances now and then. I wouldn't be surprised if any particular race or creature type made a big appearance some day. The thing is, there is only room for there to really be a few fleshed out races at a time. There are far more interesting and varied
goblin decks than dwarf decks, but if we did more dwarf cards, then there would be less variety to the goblin decks. But some day the dwarves may get the spotlight, even if just for a set.
Orgg: Do you feel that Magic is truly a better or worse game than when it first came out? If it is better, what specifics do you attribute the improvement to? If it's gotten worse, how do you believe it could be improved? Feel free to comment on specific areas of the cards, such as their layout or artwork.
Richard: I think in almost every way Magic is better now than when it first came out. The ways in which it is worse it is typically a decision we made consciously, because it was overall better for the game. For example, the crazy cards like Chaos Orb, and the ante cards are things I miss, but because of the tournament structure I think the game is better off without them. And I think the tournament structure adds far more than the costs it has imposed. I love that Magic can be, and is, seriously analyzed by people.
Orgg: Do you believe Magic is more mainstream than it once was? If so, what do you attribute the acceptance to?
Richard: I wouldn't call it mainstream, but certainly it is more mainstream than it once was. That is one of the dividends of the tournament system. With millions in prizes a game will become more mainstream.
Orgg: What is your opinions on the various commercials aired for Magic? Please feel free to comment on specifics.
Richard: They have been amusing. I think the humorous approach is a good one.
Orgg: I second that the amusing angle is the way to go. One features me! Moving along, how do you foresee the future of Magic?
Richard: I am hoping that it remains as it has been, slowly growing with several new sets published each year. I think the tools are there to make it stay around indefinitely, and what better achievement could I hope for as a game designer than to be on that short list of games that is around for more than 20 years?
Orgg: What do you think the future of gaming holds for games in general?
Richard: Online games. Computer games interested me in the past but now that networking is becoming so easy and prevalent, and memory so cheap, it is really ripe with potential. The only computer games that really interest me is ones that involve more than one player.
I really see a vast area of games that are much much simpler than existing computer games. That is because whenever I am creating a paper game I am constantly butting up against a wall of complexity, or awkward recordkeeping that a computer can get rid of. But so many games are more simulations than games, and carry all this baggage with them. Tetris and minesweeper are what I am talking about - incredibly elegant little games that wouldn't exist without computer. Why aren't there lots of them and where are the multiplayer ones? (I mean truly multiplayer, not kludgy multiplayer like Tetris). There is no real money apparent here, however, so perhaps it will remain unplumbed for a while.
Orgg: What role do you expect to personally play in the future of gaming?
Richard: I hope to keep designing games. Eventually I will, perhaps, teach classes in game design, or write some books on the subject. I don't expect to duplicate Magic, but it is fun to design, and for me, even more fun to play.
Orgg: This may be an odd question, Richard, but there was a letter sent to Inquest magazine some time ago in which you mentioned "Monkey Ranching." Since then, it has become an inside joke for several people. What did you mean by "Monkey Ranching"?
Richard: Rick Swan wrote an article that mentioned that I had taken my Magic derived fortune and become a monkey rancher. You would have to ask him if there were any further meaning.
Orgg: To wrap this interview up, Dr. Garfield, I'd like to ask you one final question: Do you believe your original dream or objective for Magic has come to fruitition? Or has your dream of a world where intellectuals are viewed as highly as other sports stars been modified by the past few years?
Richard: Magic has succeeded far beyond what I could hope for. The world is a long way, however, from games being on par with movies or sports. There are no games pages in the newspaper. Game players are not as high profile as physical athletes. Game designers are not accorded the respect or recognition of movie directors or authors. In this regard there is a long way to go.
(Orgg's Note: the following were appended to the interview less than a week ago.)
Orgg:: Most people have read Tynes's Death of the Minotaur on Salon.com; many have said it reeks of Tabloidism. Is any part, or most, of his story true, or can you not make a comment?
Richard: It is factually true, but the story is, in my opinion, very different. The story of WotC was not one of corrupted ideals, it was a story of actually creating something great. The old days were among the worst in my life, with the company replete with people who wanted to do their own thing with money from Magic which they inexplicably felt they had the right to, despite the fact they by and large didn't like the game or its customers. The company tightening its belt and choosing an angle for Magic and doing it right is the best thing a game company has ever done.
The ideals of Wizards was not one of geeks overcoming, it is that games are, and remain, an immensely unrecognized and under developed field.
Orgg: Do you know what factors caused the close of the legendary WOTC Game Center?
Richard: I am not sure - I knew it was not a profitable site and maybe that was all that was considered. The game center was a place where we tried a whole bunch of stuff, and the stuff that worked was repeated in the other stores, and the stuff that didn't, like the virtual reality and arcade, were left only at the game center. I was only a partial fan of the place. I was really angry that they didn't do the one thing I asked which was make the place well lit for card playing. Instead we got this dark velvet draped atmosphere which perpetuates the image of game players as nerds.
Orgg: What is your opinion on Mr. Adkison's leaving WOTC?
Richard: I am sad to see Peter leave, but I think it is probably best for him. He has built his life around creating the WotC atmosphere, and now wants to work on something else, probably growing another little company since he had so much success before.
And so concludes the interview of the very first Magic Man from his high towers on the Coast.
And for all those interested, his signature is a mathematical joke(I think...)
I hope you enjoyed it!