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The Creator Of 'Magic: The Gathering' Knows Exactly Where It All Went Wrong | Defector

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article explores the origins and evolution of the popular trading card game Magic: The Gathering, focusing on its creator Richard Garfield and the challenges he faced in designing and launching the game. It also examines the game's impact on the gaming industry and Garfield's current views on the direction the game has taken.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] The Origins of Magic: The Gathering

1. What inspired the initial idea for Magic: The Gathering?

  • Garfield came up with the idea for a deck-building card game after meeting with Wizards of the Coast co-founder Peter Adkison, who was looking for a portable game people could play at conventions.
  • Garfield's epiphany came during a hike near Multnomah Falls, where he had the idea of allowing players to choose which cards to put in their decks, rather than using a fixed deck.

2. How did Garfield's early playtesting of Magic differ from the final game?

  • In the early playtesting version, Garfield only gave each player a single deck or at most a few decks, rather than the vast card pools available in the final game.
  • Garfield did not anticipate the game would evolve into a system where players could acquire large collections of cards, which he felt diminished the "magical" aspect of having unique cards.

3. What were some of the early challenges Wizards of the Coast faced in launching Magic?

  • The game's sudden popularity led to production and distribution challenges, with Wizards struggling to keep up with demand and dealing with issues like card speculation and pricing.
  • Wizards also went through a period of experimentation, trying to expand into other game types, which Garfield was critical of, describing the company as a "big horny summer camp."

[02] Garfield's Perspective on the Game's Evolution

1. How does Garfield view the current state of Magic: The Gathering?

  • Garfield has become disillusioned with certain aspects of the game's evolution, particularly the tournament system and the power level of rare cards.
  • He is concerned that the game has become too focused on monetization, with Wizards trying to "over-monetize" players, which he believes could be an "existential threat" to the game.

2. What are Garfield's thoughts on Magic's online platform, Arena?

  • Garfield and former designer Skaff Elias predicted the challenges of translating Magic's face-to-face mechanics to a digital platform, particularly the issue of handling instant card interactions.
  • Garfield believes Arena lacks the social and interactive elements that are essential to the Magic experience, describing it as "skinnerware" that abuses players.

3. How does Garfield's current game design approach differ from his work on Magic?

  • Garfield now works independently as a consultant, focusing on designing games that can be enjoyed by a wide range of players, including his own family.
  • He prefers to design games alone, as he finds the collaborative process "painful" and believes it inhibits his creative process.
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