Earlier this month, The Strong opened its newest permanent exhibit, Game Time!, which traces the history of non-electronic games. The exhibit includes an artifact-rich timeline of games from the 1800s to the present, and also presents collections of some of the most popular game genres, such as race, strategy, party, and wealth accumulation. As excited as I always am to explore a newly completed exhibit, I had a special sense of pride in this one, because a small group of artifacts I donated are on display.
Released by Wizards of the Coast in 1993, Magic: The Gathering became the first commercially produced trading card game. More than 12 million players follow the game currently. As a fellow fan of Magic for nearly a decade, I understand the significance of the game and I wanted to contribute some of my own cards to augment the museum’s collection.
Magic proves a relatively easy game to learn but difficult to master. Players begin with land cards, also known as manna, which gives them the ability to summon creatures and cast spells. These cards damage opposing players and their creatures, gradually reducing their life points. When a player’s life points reach zero, it’s game over. Magic requires a large amount of strategy, as well as a hefty amount of luck when it comes to drawing the right cards, but the rewards for successfully completing a difficult game are immensely satisfying. I’m still learning some of the deeper intricacies of the game, but Magic remains a favorite pastime. I also enjoy playing several electronic iterations of the card game.
MicroProse released the first electronic Magic: The Gathering game for the home computer in 1997. The game included three different playing modes, beginning with a single-player campaign that focused on quests to gather different cards, in the hopes of constructing a strong deck to play against the game’s villains. It also featured a dueling mode, which initially allowed the player to challenge a computer-based opponent. A later expanded version included a multi-player mode to challenge other human players. In dueling mode, players either constructed their own deck or allowed the computer to randomly generate one for them.
Wizard of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering Online became the first attempt to simulate real-time games. It allowed players not only to challenge one another to virtual duels, but also to trade cards with one another. Players purchased cards online at regular market value, and if a player ever collected a full set of virtual cards, she may exchange them for physical copies. Magic Online is an especially fun online game for beginners, because serious tournaments and purely casual games are clearly separated.
While I prefer to play with physical cards, the best part about electronic versions of Magic is the inability to make mistakes. If, for example, I try to play a card at an incorrect time, the computer does not allow me to do so. This is a great way to learn game mechanics and prevent misconceptions of how the game works. I also find it easier to examine my opponent’s cards, which I can easily call up on my screen as opposed to having to lean across a table. It’s also incredibly handy when there’s no one around to play with and I’m itching for a game.
Magic is only one example of the myriad of exhibited games that began in physical form and ultimately progressed into the digital realm. Game Time! is a wonderful resource for all types of gamers, and I hope many of our readers will have the opportunity to experience it firsthand. Is there a particular traditional game you love that has an electronic counterpart, or perhaps one you wish existed? Share your stories with us!