Magic: The Gathering is a card game and your goal is to knock your opponent down to zero points. But Magic: The Gathering also has a deep mythology about an infinite number of parallel worlds. Eric Molinsky of Imaginary Worlds looks at why this handheld card game has survived the onslaught of competition from digital games, and how the designers at Wizards of the Coast create a sense of story and world-building within a non-sequential card game.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent invisible I'm roman Mars. Eric movements has reported a few so it's for us over the years and he has his own great podcast called imaginary world that we featured a couple of times. Imaginary worlds, has a very special place in my heart because it is the podcast I listen to them host with my boys, mass low and carver, because it covers all the same, I fancy subjects that they love like the indeed in doctor, who are being in a really thoughtful. And entertaining way every great show it's about those things, but it's really about We are as humans through these worlds, that we create and share earlier this year, imaginary worlds produced a story about the thing that is most mere endear to my boys. Hearts and that's the card game magic. The gathering is called magic, a card game, but if you spend any time around someone who loves magic, you know it is way more than a card game. It is a way of life and Britain
sure it rewired my son's brains, I've. The cover magic on that- and I appeal for a while now, but Eric did such a great job with it. It made more sense to share his version and introduce you to another great pot, gas that you might not know already enjoy your listing to imaginary worlds show, but how we create them in why we suspend or disbelief american Linsky in this is that My name is not new bill. Nat is teaching me how to play magic. The gathering at the Brooklyn strategist, which is the same shop where learn to play dunyazad dragons a few years ago, were deemed IE is a roleplaying game. Magic is very much a card game. And by the way, majesty shorthand and most people called magic gatherings formula mostly call it magic in this episode the simplest level. There are two basic types of cards: magic whims and spells in some ways. Magic is like any card game right. You need a combination of law.
Can scale to win, and it's usually played with just two people, but It is not a generic deck of cards each of the cards as a creature or spell or magical artifact on it that you can use to attack your opponent in some cards represent the source. Your magic, which our lands, the more land cards that you have, the more magic you can wield against the person sitting across from you in your goal is to knock your opponent from twenty points. Two zero points down simple. It's not it's really really not! So when you play Do you always have seven cards in your hand, that you're taking from the deck of sixty cards well that deck of sixty cards is something that you custom make because the company that makes magic gathering wizards of the coast has put out over ten thousand possible cards to choose from
over the last quarter century- and there is a central mythology that unites those thousands and thousands of Carte Blanche, watch it the gathering, takes place in a multi verse and some of the cards represent plain walkers. The main characters of the game can jump from one parallel universe to another now, I always knew them out of the gathering was huge, but had never done an episode about it, because I was kind of intimidated like when I used to go to the Brooklyn strategist played the Indy We shall be role playing our characters like we're in some kind of mediaeval improv troop and then I'd look at it. Table where these people are playing magic. The gathering- and it was like yours- Can you hold our language now this year is the twenty fifth anniversary of magic, the gathering and it amazes me the game is still so popular now that is anything wrong with game itself, but me was developed by this mathematician name. Richard Garfield, in the early nineties, there is very little combat video games
And now so many analogue games and toys that used to be pretty solid, are struggling to compete against play stations and Ipad apps. In magic, does have an app. But the handheld card game is still the main focus and they are now. Struggling to compete. I mean matter: the gathering has been on an epoch run were each year is more profitable than the last. So I had to questions about the game. I was really carries out. First, why has it survive the onslaught of digital entertainment and, secondly, How do you create a sense of story in world building In a non sequential card game Other mythology and world building make for better card game, or is it something? players ignore when they just focus on winning. Well to answer those questions, I went straight to the top, the head designer for magic. The gathering mark rose water
ample driveway. We all know that mean it sounds rather Dr Newark, oh by the way, That is how we starts every episode of his podcast as he drive to the office outside Seattle. Talking mode different aspects of the game, and he doesn't just do a pod cast Mark- is out there on every media platform. Talking about magic, answering questions from players. He is a force of personality. No mark has been with the companies as the mid nineties, just a few years after magic, the gathering came out and I have to say in all of my years of interviewing people. I don't I've ever met anybody who so unabashedly loves their job as much as mark does my jobs come off the really cool things that will make player really really excited, and then I do not talk about it for sixteen to twenty four months. Usually, for example, did last December we put our
a protocol unstable, which is kind of like a humorous, take on magic. I've been working on this project for seven years and I did not talk about it for seven years and so when I finally got to talk about people like while you're so excited. Unlike I've been waiting to dine about it seven years now, one of the reasons why magic has stayed popular all these years is because the game never stops evolving as mentioned earlier. The premise of the game is that, though, these parallel universes called planes in the frequency in which wizards of the coast has introduced. These new plans has gone from every couple years to every year to now sometimes twice a year. And you know, in the beginning, magic was relying on all the standard fantasy tropes that you would see in a game like dungeons and dragons, but as they kept introducing the world's more and more quickly they Conor ran out of those fantasy troops, and so they ve all So I had to be more creative in terms of what they bring into the fantasy genre like in one
these parallel universes everything's made of metal. Or another. One of these parallel planes is like a steam punk version of India, but as marks as a set of cards is a very challenging way to tell a story. Not everybody sees every card and I don't see them in the same order. So what we ve done is we tend to use our cards to build the environment, to build the world, to flesh out the world and hint at the story, and then we tend to tell a story through other means like on the magic, the gathering website, but a lot of extra material explaining what is going on in these different worlds, but eventually they decided to up the ante on the design of the cards. So you encounter a new deck. You automatically feel something about this world without having to read the backstory behind it. We want to figure out what the emotional core of the experience is going to be. The mechanics aren't just about doing something.
Turn up making, you feel something and it really got into the idea of we're going to go to a gothic horror world and we're going to make you afraid, cuz. It's a gothic horror world or we're going to go to greek mythology, world and you're, going to be a hero and go on adventures and make something of yourself now. There are three basic elements: each cart first, there's an illustration which is about to buy two inches. But there's so much drama in store. Are you going on in those little paintings and then looking up I get sucked in like it's a movie, the second moment every card, is the statistics as to how this creature spell for artifact will function as art, and I did not realise how many different ways. A card could behave in a game. I mean it is endless in terms of how many points you gain or take away from your opponent whether this card is better used on the offensive or the deed, pensive, how many times you can use the card and the game again
aren't random. They reflect the personality of what's on the card. In the third major element to every card is something called flavour text, which are basically a few lines of poetic description, but even the flavor text has got more immune, just over the years now, in terms of how many words they can cramond your card, but how succinctly they can paint a picture of a broad story beyond that one card back when I write flavour tax, one of the things was, it was a lot like poetry. It was a lot like how guy convey as much as possible in the small amount of space and one that my fair visa waiver tax there's a card. In effect called we went with icy world, that's called ice age and there's a cardiac called Lord Life, which was this horrible monster base loosely basin some nor stuff. The flavor text on it was
HANS run its fuller life last words of Sofie Arabs, daughter and somehow just like this idea that this poor of this poor women that, like the last thing we learn about her, is she scared to death? Could she knows how horrible this creature is, and she is right because that's the last thing you ever says. And as much as Mark loves to talk about the game. There's one aspect that is actually the most passionate about: it's called the color pie and when I first read about the color pie, it just seemed like to have an esoteric part of the whole game mechanics. But then I realized it is the life. Blood of the game is the thing that makes you feel
like your actually wielding magic. When you play with the carts because all of the cards in magic, the gathering are divided into five colors the cards or their white black blue, read for green in each color represents a different philosophy of magic. So white magic is about control, order,
and whatever works for the collective good black magic promotes ruthless individualism. Bread magic is fiery and passionate blue magic is brainy. Intellectual green magic is in harmony with nature. What do we need things about the collar pie that I love is. It explains motivations in a way that doesn't mean the motivations like one of these is really interesting. The meat they had made me think what life a little differently is nobody's right or wrong. They just have a reason for doing the things the way they do them and it's like. Oh, what are their motivations and one of your motivated by this that it makes sense you come and conflict whose motivated by that, I can argue in I have, I can argue, any color from any perspective that one of the things I did for fine it cause I'm a writer is I didn't interview and in my articles, where I spent a whole com with each of the collars interviewing the colors having the color,
plain from very perspective why they do what they do. So how did this all play out back in the game shop when I was learning how to play for my instructor Nat each horror as a very distinct personality and game play, The colors you used tend to define what you're deck does know. In my first game, I played with the deck of cards or everything this red so the magic I was using was fiery and impulsive, and that's my natural instinct when I play games, which is why often lose because going impulse is my downfall Whenever I'm supposed to be thinking strategically. Meanwhile, Nat was playing on the deck of black magic dissolve sucking away your opponents, energy and using it for yourself, ragged entered into One day, a hundred homey. I haven't. Why laughed so I'm dead Brady Dahmer means with the lead writer and creative team of magic any says when he
good work on developing a new set of cards. He always thought about how a story there telling with the cards should reflect the experience of people playing with the cards. Magic defies one of the most common ethos, prescriptions in fantasy, and by that I mean What's the basic moral message of of the story and fantasy a lot of times is sure you're the chosen one and your destined to save the world, but you're gonna need your friends to help you out and in doing so, but in educated. I felt like in terms of the story in the world design that form needed to follow function and in magic. The vast majority of games are played. One verses one. It's! U versus me. It's my deck versus your day.
And either you're gonna win or I'm gonna win, which to me, suggested a different eat, those which is sure, of course, you have to have friends that super important, but in the final fight, when it matters you're gonna have to fight it. In fact, he thinks tat. Magic is often misrepresented as a fantasy game, because traditionally fantasy has been pretty black and white in its morality, but when you play magic gathering, you're not automatically a villain if use black magic and you're not automatically the hero, if he is white magic. In that sense, it's magic gathering actually reflects science fiction, which has a long history of being morally ambiguous. Microsoft, arrived
that many times about how STAR wars is a fantasy story in cipher clothing. Whereas magic is a cypher story, fantasy clothing, so like right now, back volume chopped I use red magic and I lost so start using a deck of blue cards with spells, and creatures are brainier trick here and by the way when you pay. The game. You actually can play any combination of colours, but since I was a newbie Nat felt that I should just play one color at a time and when I switched from red magic to blue magic, I couldn't believe how differently cards worked and I felt like I was relying on a different part of my brain in mind Each Nat had also switched from black magic to white magic, and I felt like I was playing against a different I feel over Whelmd right now. I'm sorry about that can do now is via just lay there so like there are so many every card has so many like levels to it.
Oh good, disclaim Jake, so scared takes a long time. Burn, it's very, very complex game, but that's when I realized how story can come into this because to be a good magic player? you need to know why your cards behave the way they do and to do that really helpful to go in the magic website in red the lore behind your cards like what persistent disorders in the last five years, or so, I believe, was to make Cards reflect story, events more aggressively so that by put- by playing the game and watching what the cards do. You can actively learn how the story went fact, on wine I found that some magic players had created fan art where they imagined what, if Harry Potter were the Marvel cinematic universe were cards and magic. The gathering, these characters that we know so well, like Harry Potter or Thor it's kind of cool to see how they could be condensed into a single card
summarised with an illustration, a bunch of statistics about their strengths, weaknesses and powers, A few choice lines of flavour text, but when he was working on a creative team, pretty Dahmer me but always kept in mind that magic is not a movie or a book, reverse engineer to be a game. It is first and foremost a game. One of the challenges from me and designing magic world on the reasons why I undervalued plot is because I think that plot and games are not free, your ability to self direct, your ability to make the choices that you want to make your ability to explore the world how you see fit or to choose the cards for your own deck or decide how you want to win the game through finesse or through stealth through brute force. Those are super powerful things and plot subverts the autonomy- and I learned in my second round of playing the game- that this blue intellectual magic was a good fit for me.
It would. I avoided all my worst impulses and I became a better strategist. In act, but we also have this issue about, takes things of damage from sprigs of Lugosi, to my two, why you're dead little head Why a game over that up, I can't believe I'm doubling. Sing at the Thai I'm not going to go for two. Am I going to go for a ride best of three. There is more to the magic saga, including some growing pains, and these strange pitfalls of intense phantom plus you're gonna, hear. A couple of kids, who always have something to say
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go and not like it, but it just shows how much they care about the game that they're playing, but I can't sugar quota either I mean certainly some toxic players and wizards has banned them or at least been working on their terms of service in terms of what they can do. No overall lose loves Magic. Community PV went on a magic crews once, but then she has moments like this, where she once went to an event and sat down to play a game. The guy across her me well, where drafting asked high got into magic, and I thought I was the next question and responded and told him the answer. The answer is that you learn to play from an all female group. Could the Lady Planes Walker Society, but the guy didn't seem to care? He just said I didn't. Girls went magic and that was the end of the conversation. What s
unoccupied comment lake in his head. He probably didn't even think it was anything, but I still remember it because it just made me feel even more a little bit like wow. Should I not be here I thank everyone when you're already plank Amory apt to be one hundred percent on you're. A game in terms of your mind and strategy can be a hurdle to overcome this. I find fantasy spaces have become more inclusive. Over the years, there's been an ugly backlash and video games. The Hugo book awards cause p. A star wars, phantom and a huge community like magic. The gathering has not been immune to those problems. That said, the game is always gotten praise since the beginning for having diverse characters on the cards, but over time. Creative team realised that they needed to be even more inclusive.
Allie met. When is an editor and designer who mostly works magics digital division in a few years ago and in turn came up to her with an idea what, if they created a Trans character for New Decker, their working on. I realized this is what we want representation to look like this. This is pretty natural flow like this is not sure warned. This is not taken as this is a natural extension of already? established things about this setting? They brought the idea to James Wyatt, who was a senior creative designer on the story team, and this turned out to be a personal project for both of them. Holly is Trans, although she wasn't
out at the time limits for James, my daughter, is trans, so I said I need right. Piss story for her sake, Alley and James, really, one this character character called a Alicia to be a fierce warrior. In fact, the cards official title is Russia whose smiles at death in the illustration on the card shows a leisure full armor leading the charge with her army of the more do clan one thinks a magic that I love about. Our aim is that we don't tend to put boob plate on our women, so you can't really tell ah what her physiology looks like James Road, the back story for the website and the biggest plot point that they argued over was whether an antagonist should confront Alaska butter identity, the thirst nonsense, and I've heard some people say that since the story was published, that Maybe-
would have been better if a lesser was just accepted fur who she is with no question at all I'm, but we did end up with a character in the story who challenges her and says you're. Just a boy with doesn't know who he is, which is at a terrible of, In the illustration, the cart shows a leisure and full armor leading the charge with her army of the more due care. Because she wanted to have a character. Come to realize eyelashes worth in vain you and identity as who she is. The little thing I remember discussing, early armies That letter was a good fit for the Marty for two reasons, and one is that idea that they claim a war name and the other is the fact that they dont use blue magic, because in the realm of magic. The gathering, if you have the blue magic Louis Impartially- about transforming and so it would actually be really easy to change.
Identity change. Your appearance change your body, and we wanted her experience to reflect better. The experience of real trans people in this world without accessibly magic half highlight. If I had blue magic, my life might have gone a little differently. A lot people's lives. My gone a little differently. My daughter has actually designed a dandy spell that will allow that as a permanent transition nice when they find it, but the car out there. They were a little nervous, but how the magic community would react, but There was so much positive reaction that I still cry thinking about it was, it was overwhelmingly positive, yeah. Maybe one comment and fifty was negative: thee,
overwhelmed majority over Wellmere majority was positive and the creation of his character Alicia also had a big impact on alley. I lived what lessons we will call a stealth for a long time that is an intact by being trans. I didn't let people know I I kept at a secret without actively lying about it. I came out, that halfway through the process hasn't it was that it was incredibly were wanting, was incredibly relieving with a I would still probably be stealth which look I'm not gonna say doesn't work for some people cause it does, but it was. I felt I felt it as a burden and a less was able to save me from that. Alexa, isn't just a character in the story: she's a character in a game, inner game, mechanics are cool it can help you resurrect other cards that you ve already used up in that
May the alley really appreciates about magic, the way game, mechanics, inspire character, development and vice versa, it takes the design and directions that we wouldn't necessarily ever get to without the desire to figure out how to express an idea through the mechanics of the game. I think that it would be possible to put different stories on, although I I really love the stories that we ve got. But if you didn't have any story on on these cards, you'd be missing. The soul of the really. So I came into magic. The gathering wondering two things: why is this game still so popular? Twenty? Five years later, in what is the role of storytelling and a card, and I think that the reason why magic has so popular isn't just the story within the cards or the story about the cards, but the brain
U story that emerges every time someone plays the cars. The real story of a game is what happens to the player in Brady. Dahmer Muse says that is increasingly rare, mean so many Video games today are behaving like five hour movies that give the player very little autonomy. In an era where so many games are played alone in front of your pc or in front of your council. Magic requires. This community requires this human presence. It's it's compelling enough in its mechanics in its game plan systems that it wants to hold onto your brain, wants you to explore its complexities, but in order to do so, you have to interface with other humans and because of that, it ends up being this naturally viral thing where If I want to see if my new deck works, I'm gonna have to find somebody to play it against, in other words, the magic of the game. Real world human interaction,
And real world human interaction is in short supply these days, but that's it for this week. Thank you Listening. Special thanks to Nat bail, Mark Rosewater, Alley men when James Wyatt he Dahmer Muse and leaves LEO magic. Has some of the best fantasy are out there and I don't even feel ashamed saying it. I asked lives if she's any favorite carts. I loved the card Hydra Doodle, it's this hydra, but it also occurred off and all the hat Heads are doing weird crazy things and the palaver tax is less housebroken than housebreaking Beth. That's good is a good cars really cute imaginary: worlds is produced by Eric Mullins, key and Stephanie building. You can find it
imaginary worlds, podcast dot, Org, we'll have a link in the show notes. So when it comes to magic, in particular my boy cover. Maslow, always always have something to say what he s, a boy's hello. My name is cover, and I play matching the other much everything you do in format is to try to find a combo or something like that, those so good that it will end up destroying the format you just each unbeatable. For instance, the copycat combat the copycat combo is where the person who made it found a way to make infinite little cats to attack for it damage by around turned for, and it was. It was ridiculous, inconsistent and added to and every time one, and it turns out that no one could beat it. No one could find a way to beat it and everyone who didn't play the deck lost and eventually they found out. It was so good that both cards need to be banned and taken out of them.
Not entirely so that it wouldn't go online. And so your goal is to find another one of those guess it is my name, mass low, and I also play imagined the gathering I prefer playing the is it colors, which are red and blue I'd like to play a lot of instance and source. My colleagues and I normally pay a little too many creatures for that type of deck. The great thing, about instance, is that you,
dont need await around while other people's turns you couldn't do stuff. As long as you have enough manner for it, you can play instances on other people's turns. What's an example of a type of its important, you complain. Terminals return, for instance, get it there's a card called sonic assault, and I normally would play this on opponents turn when their attacking and I'd say before attacks resolve. I tat insert creature name here, and that makes it so it can attack and as an added bonus, the control of that creature takes to damage. That's another feature of the card,
now, as for a few view, outscore diehard fat. Happy twenty ninety, ninety nine percent- and this was a product of ninety one point. Seven k, L W in San Francisco and produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown Oakland, California We are proud: member of Radio Tokyo from theorists a collection of fiercely independent and fascinating podcast, find them all and radio Utopia dot FM. Is brain new show next week produced in house stating for that. Its many stories part two happy new year radio, too.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.