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Collecting - The Disease 69

An anonymous reader writes "Gamers With Jobs has an interesting piece this morning on the nature of collectibility in games. While primarily a personal account of one man's journey into the hell that is Magic: the Gathering, it raises interesting questions about the difference between real-world and virtual-world collecting, and the economic motivations behind both." From the article: "I sit down. I play. I get schooled by a 12-year-old for two hours as he teaches me the ropes with a condescension reserved for teenagers with grownups by the throat. Each game is a bet — loser gives the winner the top card off his deck: Ante. I leave a dozen cards short. I had discovered a great game, and people to play it against. But that's not why the night sits burned into my brain with razor sharp clarity. No, it's because that Tuesday night in San Francisco, I became a collector."
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Collecting - The Disease

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  • Ante (Score:2, Interesting)

    by torqer ( 538711 )
    I just love playing games with stakes other than just for the fun of it. I must admit to playing Magic in the distant past. We used to cut the Deck for the ante cards prior to playing. You certainly don't give up as easily if a valuable card is drawn for your ante.
    • Re:Ante (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 )
      Ante decks were made specifically to school other people. You can make a deck of all commons and cards that double the ante to steal uncommons and rares off of chumps. Ante in MTG is dumb.
    • Re:Ante (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke ( 6130 )
      You certainly don't give up as easily if a valuable card is drawn for your ante.

      But thinking about that is exactly why I never played ante.

      The valuable cards were usually the more powerful cards, since even the rarest of cards wasn't worth much if it was crap. Often these valuable cards would form the foundation of a deck. So not only did you turn over a valuable card for your ante, you are now deprived of that powerful, pivotal card in the game that follows, increasing the odds that you'll lose, and pote
  • If any gamers are going to choose to get into Magic: The Crack Addiction, they may as well be "gamers with jobs."
    • I would say gamers with rich parents, because that game requires one to invest a lot of time in it as well as money. The cards are constantly changing and what may be a decent deck one year will get smashed the next(provided you aren't playing with the uber-powerful, uber expensive cards)
      Money and time are the reasons I gave it up.
      • one of the wonderful things about magic is that its not as fast changing as other card games. cards stay "powerful" or "usefull" for longer, especially when you compare it to other games such as say... yugioh.
        • ...until the ban all you cards from tournaments or introduce rules that essentially ruin entire collections.

          That happened when the Mirage set came out. Tourney rules were changed, cards were banned, phasing was introduced, and an entire generation of M:TG players threw in the towel because we didn't care to rebuild everything we had becaust WotC decided to change things up on us.
          • yep. I played MTG 3rd edition, as did friends who played. I think 4th edition was when that phasing crap came out, and I havent looked back.
          • Phasing? That only made a card unavailable every second turn and was more of a drawback than an advantage (with some exceptions). I'm sure you mean shadow, that made a creature unblockable except by other creatures with shadow. Yep, that was lame and even as a kid I considered that a complete cash-grab "buy our new cards or have no chance to compete!".
    • This gamer with a job plans to check out the WoW trading card game [upperdecke...inment.com]. They say that you can mod your characters in game with codes that will be coming with these cards... I recently went to ebay to see about scoring some 3rd edition MTG cards (old timer) and the unopened booster boxes (like 27 packs of 15 cards or something) were selling for $500. I was all about my black-green thallid deck...
  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:41PM (#15826712) Journal
    Thurgood Marshall is in a group for people who are addicted and need help.

    Thurgood: Hi, I'm Thurgood.
    Entire Group: Hi, Thurgood.
    Thurgood: and I am addicted to marijuana.
    Entire Group groans
    Addict: You in here for some marijuana?!? Marijuana!?!? Man, this is some BULLSHIT!
    Bob Saget: Marijuana is not a drug! I used to suck dick for Magic: The Gathering cards!
    Addict: I seen him!
    Bob Saget: Now that's an addiction man! You ever suck some dick for Marijuana?!
    Addict: HUH?!
    Thurgood: No, I can't say I have.
    Bob Saget: Yeah I didn't think so...
    Addict: Boo this man! BOO!!!

    Everyone "boos" him and throws bottles and trash at him
    • Ah, yes (Score:3, Funny)

      by everphilski ( 877346 )
      When we'd get a pack, my friends and I would sniff the wrappers, always commenting "they lace it with just enough crack to get you to buy just one more pack..."

      So many wasted college nights...
  • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:44PM (#15826729)
    once you realize that the value of your collection doesn't lay in it's internal value (they're just cards or china or whatever) or your enjoyment using the collection (most collections are sealed away. Even if you do use them, how could you possibly get real use out of 100 cars or 1000 beanie babies?), then the only thing you have left is monetary value and bragging rights. And you only have monetary value and bragging rights, really, with other collectors. Did you tell your aunt polly about your Star Wars figure collection? What did she say? "Bad-ass"? Sure she did.

    I have been caught up in the collecting bug in the past and as soon as I'm done, I just wonder where all my time/money/space/soul has gone.

    Where are you Pogs now?

    • But Magic (as TFA talks about) is different. You actually get to use your cards on a regular basis. That is the key difference between this type of collection and others.
    • by nelsonal ( 549144 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:48PM (#15826769) Journal
      I collect stock certificates, some are even uncancelled. :)
    • by twistedsymphony ( 956982 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:59PM (#15826854) Homepage
      Well I suppose it all depends on what you collect. Collecting is a desease of sorts. I collect all sorts of things, My largest collection is of DVDs. Always double dipping for the newest ultra limited special collectors edition box set. But I can usually hock the older version on eBay and some $$ back. Lately I've been good on keeping up with the news and I can get rid of the older versions before the newers one even hit the market. I had the complete Cowboy Bebop DVD set... I had found the discs on sale when I first got it and bought it for about $70 total. When I heard they were re-release it remixed in surround sound I sold the collection on eBay hoping to get $50 or $60 but wound up going all the way to $110. And unlike beanie babies I can watch my DVDs meaning I and my friends get enjoyment out of my addiction.

      Another example is a card game that I collect called Killer Bunnies. Similar to Magic but there are only small number of rare cards, the rest are part of standard booster packs so there are no surprises. When the rare cards first come out they're usually pretty easy to find. They can be found on eBay between $4 and $10 a piece (a lot for a card to a non collector I know). However it would seem that the value of such cards increases as time goes on. The first two rare "Omega" cards I have and purchased for $10 a piece I've seen up for auction on eBay recently for over $175 a piece. This might seem silly to some people but I still play with those cards. To me using those things is just as much fun as trying to complete the collection.

      Some collectors will go out of their way and pay any price to complete their collection but I find with a bit of research, digging, and patience you can find what you're looking for without making worthless investments.
    • I just wonder where all my time/money/space/soul has gone. Where are you Pogs now?
      Milhouse: I kind of traded your soul to the guy at the comic book store. But look! I got some cool pogs... Alf pogs! Remember Alf? He's back...in pog form.
    • (most collections are sealed away. Even if you do use them, how could you possibly get real use out of 100 cars or 1000 beanie babies?), then the only thing you have left is monetary value and bragging rights.

      My kids play with my mom's beanies. Beanie babies are actually fun to play and throw around. Beanie baby wars! You just can't do that with cars though.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've been through the 'collecting' addiction many times. It started with MP3s. I downloaded and downloaded and downloaded. I ended up with more music than I could ever listen to. Next was console roms, then Dreamcast games, then X-Box games. I bought both my Dreamcast and my X-Box specifically because you could pirate games. I had hundreds of games with a good percentage of them never having even been placed in the consoles.
    • for me, it started with collecting icons in System 7 on my mac... then I moved on to collecting sounds/sound effects, then when I got my 56K modem, I started downloading more and more games and other warez.

      now, I'm happy just collecting ROMs and music... I've completely lost interest in collecting software I'll never use.

      however, I do miss Magic. too bad the game isn't what it used to be. and too bad I didn't spend the 35$ on the black lotus when I first started. damned thing sells for 1000$+ now.
    • I know a guy who was like that. Not me though, I'm addicted to information and since I replaced MTG with Slashdot my expenses went waaay down.
  • Kids these days... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Psmylie ( 169236 ) * on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:50PM (#15826787) Homepage
    I play some against adults, and against kids. Most of the time, when I'm against a kid, he's usually using some "unbeatable" deck he found off the internet. I really hate that. In my opinion, playing the game is only half of it. The other half of the game comes from building a functional deck. To simply copy a killer deck found online takes a good chunk of the fun out of it.

    I may lose a few, but I build my decks myself, from cards I get either from lots, pre-built decks from WotC (which I buy to get used to new mechanics, and usually rip apart after a few games) or booster packs. When I beat someone, it's with a deck I built, not one I copied from someone else.

    • To simply copy a killer deck found online takes a good chunk of the fun out of it.

      For adults, the fun of Magic is in learning why that deck is killer, how the mix of lands, creatures, spells, etc. was optimized.

    • I think the most fun I had was with the old MTG computer game where you could do lots of testing of deck strategies and there were lots of fairly rare cards populating the game. I was new enough that I really didn't notice how good or bad the AI was. I wish they would have released set update expansion packs for that game, it was pretty fun.
  • There are good reasons to stick to card games like Poker, i can think of at least 11 million [chron.com] great reasons to give Poker a chance. If Magic had that kinda money in it, I think a lot more people would be trading those "killer" decks, and there would be some really interesting big hands.
  • It's a good test of whether or not you have an addictive personality. I've actually been dusting off my collection lately, playing for fun with my son. I deliberately didn't kill him, just to show a point.

    Back in the day, I used to play cutthroat for cards, but these days I get much more enjoyment from making theme decks and killing people in interesting ways. I also haven't bought a card in close to a decade. It's a waste of time.

    I did end up making a Neverwinter Nights modification called Demon [ign.com]
  • by TooMuchEspressoGuy ( 763203 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @03:11PM (#15826933)
    Like your average geek, I used to play Magic: the Gathering. I also spent a ton of money on Magic: the Gathering. I played casually, sometimes in "serious" tournaments, went to pre-releases, busted open booster boxes to find cards I needed for my collection, the works.

    And, what did I get out of it in the end?

    The friends I made playing casually weren't interested in much else, and subsequently, I found that I wasn't much interested in them. Tournaments and pre-releases are filled with trash-talking, cheating, and rules-lawyering, making them decidedly unfun. And the money I spent on cards could have been better spent on something that's more fun, more social, and just as fitting to my geeky lifestyle (like, say, video games.)

    In other words, I got nothing beneficial from it, aside from the occasional interesting friend, triumphant tourney moment, or excellent deal on old cards. Consequently, this summer I made the decision to sell my entire $2500 collection via CardShark. Now, I'm raking in a load of cash, which I'll probably re-invest in music or games (i.e. things that are actually fun), all for a bunch of pieces of cardboard.

    And that's not even getting into my whole rant about how Wizards hasn't given a damn about the gamers since the Ice Age block. But that would be getting off-topic.

    So, if you take one thing from this post, let it be that, if you're on the fence about quitting and selling your collection, do it. Your life and your pocketbook will be all the better for it.

    • And that's not even getting into my whole rant about how Wizards hasn't given a damn about the gamers since the Ice Age block. But that would be getting off-topic.

      No please...lets get off topic and rant about this. Ice Age truly was the last great era of Magic...I quit about the time Tempest came out. You're making me nostalgic thinking about Necrodecks, Jester's Cap/Mask, and my all-time personal favorite M:TG card...

      Ach! Hans, run! It's the lhurgoyf!
      -Saffi Eriksdotter, last words

      • It's not just the innovative decks that people came up with, either...

        -After Ice Age, WotC officially cemented their "one core set + two expansions every year" business model. This officially destroyed the random fun of crazy combinations like the Ice Age-Chronicles-Homelands-Alliances block.

        -Whereas Ice Age (and Alliances) had fun game mechanics that were intrinsic to the "feel" of the set (snow-covered lands), Mirage and beyond... didn't. It's almost as though Ice Age were made to be a new sub-game in its

        • I had a lot of fun with Magic with just my small circle of friends. I can't have spent more than $50 total on it for the three or four years we played it back in middle school and the beginning of high school. So I don't have the perspective of you guys, but once in a while I go back to my hometown and someone will suggest a game of Magic just for shits and giggles. I don't enjoy it at all anymore though, the people that kept up with it have cards with crazy effects that just walk all over my rusty old deck
          • I hear you. I spent hundreds of dollars on Magic in college (and that was considered moderate. My roomate spent thousands), and I still have most of the cards. I'd be into playing still, I love the mechanics of building and fine tuning decks, but the disparity of cards people have makes magic hard to "get back into" casually. When I do run into an old college buddy who plays, I generally suggest we play with one or the other's cards exclusively. Pick colors or something, and make decks from the same pool o
    • Hm. I played MTG with a bunch of my existing friends, and hosted my own tournaments on a weekly basis. I wasn't interested in playing with strangers or people who only played MTG. We did this for a while, and I never got into the craze of buying the latest expansion packs. Truth is new expansions only gave you an advantage if you picked up their specific "tweak", while standards and specific cards in some expansions were worthwhile across the board. So I had a lot of fun, and didn't collect much more than t
    • Heh, somewhere around here I have a carton of M:TG cards. My total cost: $0. I used to hang out with a lot of people who played M:TG, and I ended up collecting cards that nobody wanted. I built a few decks and tended to play people who wanted to test out a new deck idea. It passed the time. I don't think I'd ever play the game if it wasn't for getting free cards.
    • If you just want to have fun, instead of going to the big, state-wide tournaments, go down to your local comic and games shop and play in one of their weekly booster drafts. I can guarantee you 50% less rules lawyering and a lot more simple fun. After all the "net decks" that I use to read about and all the cutthroat competition on Apprentice in hidden IRC rooms, it still warms my heart to see the nerds around here at work pull out decks containing cards from sets from over a decade ago combined with card
  • Oblig (Score:4, Funny)

    by MrCopilot ( 871878 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @03:19PM (#15826991) Homepage Journal
    The Collector. Worst Super-Villian .... Ever

    Thank You.

  • by thebdj ( 768618 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @03:25PM (#15827033) Journal
    You see, I once used to collect innocent things...Star Trek figures, Star Wars figures...I even had a few CCGs...Star Wars, Overpower and M:tG come to mind. None of these really broke my bank. I worked a steady job in high school and since I was really only paying for gas and insurance, I had loads of money to spend. I actually had somewhere near $2000 saved up before college, so I didn't have to work in order to eat out and have fun doing things my parents weren't paying for (which was just school and books, and that nasty meal plan).

    Well, now my new "toys" are computers and electronics. When I spend money, it is a lot less frequent, but the items I am buying are much more expensive. I guess it comes with my more grown up interests. I have tons of DVDs and buy many used CDs now. The real disaster comes from my electronics though. I am about to purchase another computer. (Well, build it myself, but you know...) I own a Dell Inspiron 8600 and recently got a G3 iBook (nice and white, 800MHz, DVD/CD-RW, etc.) on ebay for $300. I also have a lot of electronics, HDTV, media player, and audio-phile 5.1 system.

    My other interest include guns, which are not cheap by any definition of the word either. I have managed to curb some of my PC/console gaming, though I really think I am just stashing up until it comes time for the Wii. Actually the new PC is mostly for Oblivion and maybe the next UT. The fact is, even these are typically 10x or more expensive then my old habits and I am not really making 10x as much as in high school. Well actually I am, but I now have real bills...like electricity, water, gas...oh and that pesky rent...

    The point is, any hobby or habit can get really expensive. I guess it just eventually comes down to what kind of money you are willing to spend and what you find interesting.
  • by The-Bus ( 138060 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @03:35PM (#15827108)
    I thought this article was a bit... light. It gives you a good sort of back-of-the-cereal box review of collecting, but it doesn't go any deeper. I won't be expanding on the article, but I had a few thoughts relationg to the topic.

    Collecting is here to stay. It will never go away. That's pretty much a given; it is important, however, to differentiate between two types. First, monetary collecting: your Magic cards, Warhammer figures, etc. Second, non-monetary collecting: "earned" items in MMOs, unlockable costumes/endings/characters, etc.

    The good news with monetary collecting is that the internet helped implode a lot of markets. With Magic: the Gathering, I remember in the late 90's one card, a Juzam Djinn, carried a pretty hefty price, upwards of $150 if I recall correctly. It should be $175 or $200 now, if we're to believe increasing returns on collectibles and inflation (or eBay sellers with 0 bids). But quick look on eBay shows prices in the $100 area, per card. The most expensive card, the Black Lotus, also goes for about half of its previous price ($1000+).

    (Now, some Magic player is going to rebut about how the changing of tournament rules is affecting cards. That might be true to a point. But in the past ten years we've seen the same thing happen with sports collectibles, comic books, term life insurance, and countless other markets; opening a market will have the effect of reducing prices since it reduces scarcity).

    Now, monetary collecting in gaming is pretty bad in my eyes, especially for games kids play, since it puts kids without well-off parents at a distinct disadvantage over equaly skilled kids whose parents give them huge allowances or equally skilled working professionals with large discretionary budgets.

    Thankfully, in non-monetary collecting, time and skill are the real investment. Most "collectibles" in these games require no money: unique armor for your MMO character, unlockable costumes for your fighters/adventurers, or hats for your Nintendogs, etc. Still, there's some inequality, as people with time but not money constraints pay for training, gold, etc.

    Collecting, be it virtual or real, is intrinsic to gaming, video and otherwise. What's a sports player always work for? A Super Bowl ring. Or the Stanley Cup. Or a gold medal. Or any number of physical objects that represent victory. There's a reason there are physical things attached to these victories. It's not that the jewelry is more important than the championship, it's just that it's an object. In MMOs where items serve (usually) a useful purpose it's nice to get a trinket to show you defeated some boss. But it's nicer to get Ashkandi, Greatsword of the Brotherhood.

  • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @03:36PM (#15827112)
    ... then eBay is the cure ;)
  • I love the card game Magic, and most of my expenditures on it are quite reasonable. Paying $13 to draft is about 3 hours of entertainment and you get to keep the cards for later, and that's if you don't win anything. I've made some great friends because of it, and I still play it when I can.
  • Why MTG sucks? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @03:55PM (#15827230) Journal
    Why MTG sucks?
    Because the one with most money wins.

    You can build an uber deck and pwn everyone with a common deck. You can build unbeatable machines. Some rules have been adjusted to prevent heavy abuse but... I got a taste of this playing the computer version of MTG with older ruleset. A deck consisting of LOTS of black lotuses (now forbidden), +3 mana), some gravedigging cards costing less mana to restore used cards than the black lotuses produce (so you have a perpeetum mobile, produce mana over and over), then more cards for pulling cards from library to hand (never run out of them) and finally a few that deal immediate damage to the enemy proportional to mana used.

    Such deck would cost some $2000 or so.

    So the gameplay looks like this: I use up all the black lotuses producing lots of mana. Dig more cards from library, some more from graveyard, then keep producing mana. Then in one or two blasts (two in case the enemy drew some "reflect" instant, one if I know he doesn't have any) I kill the enemy. In one round. Sometimes just for fun hitting for 60 damage. They don't get to use anything other than an interrupt if any.

    Now if someone designs similar InstaGib deck, what fun is playing it?
  • ...the fun was in trading, not in collecting. There was an art in crafting trades which everyone was happy with, but I knew would help me grow the value of my collection. The game was somewhat fun, but it was governed by rules that were far too simplistic. Trading was its own sort of game, but one with rules that were far more subtle than the rules of the card game. Card values were constantly changing and their values differed immensly depending on where you were (in the test areas where WotC had relea
  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:14PM (#15828079) Homepage

    I thought he was talking about collecting real games! [atariage.com] I've got well over 2000 cartridge/disc games for various console game systems, some that most slashdotters haven't even heard of. (Arcadia 2001, anyone?)

    Yeah, sure, I got some of those stupid cardboard things, but I get stacks of 'em at a nearby thrift salvage store. If I find a card I don't have, cool. When I'm tired of it, I'll sell 'em.

    What's the difference? Those cardboard things were made to be collected, with intentional artifical rarities. The video games weren't. A rare card is often highly desirable when playing a CCG; a rare video game is usually rare because it's a total stinker.

  • Alright, I'll admit it; I am an avid player of M:tG.

    At one point I was spending about 20 dollars a week on the game though (but I havent spent any in the past few months). True, I once did play for...24 hours straight or so (went to a tournament at 5, got back to dorm around 1 in the morning and played with friends til 5 the next day), but in generaly I think I have it under control (of course, all addicts think that). Even so, twenty bucks a month was about the maximum I EVER spent on the game, and for
  • It's no real suprise him saying that the companies use 'collecting' in order to retain their customers and keep their sales up, the video game industry also cracked onto this a long time ago (level ups in MMORPGs to keep rebills high) so that you have a feeling of progression and growing with the game. Companies know that is an easy way to extend the life of their games, and on the really good side it can be used to lock users into a product and off other games (which henceforth are produced by other compan
  • Proxies (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hikaru79 ( 832891 )
    Magic is really big at my high school (well, I just graduated, but still). There's a regular club that meets every Thursday, and there's easily over 70 members who play. However, the club is divided into two (not disjoint) groups: those who play with real decks, and those who play with proxies. Basically, the half of us who enjoy the game, but aren't willing to pay hundreds of dollars (we're in high school) for the latest and greatest cards, simply design our decks on paper, go on the internet, print out t
  • I am a natural born collector. I don't see it as a disease, it's merely a personality trait.

    I collect CCGs, RPG books, video games, legos, dolls, stuffed animals, artwork, books, DVDs, anime, comic books and manga.

    I surround myself with the things I enjoy. I collect them, but not obsessively so. I don't spend hundreds of dollars on one rare card, but I'll easily drop $200 at once to get an entire run of a CCG I find interesting. I'll buy every book by a particular author and read all of them. I l
  • Collecting is pretty much dead and pointless. It died a long time ago. As soon as collecting becomes well known and high profile it becomes useless. The bragging rights of collecting something is being one of a few who have that item, or a complete set, etc. Being one in a million, or ten million who have it devalues your accomplishment.

    I got in to magic just before it exploded into the big collection phenom it is now. I got out shortly after that happened. The person who said the Black Lotus was valued at
  • by robbway ( 200983 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2006 @10:13AM (#15831663) Journal
    Dr. Phil would say "grow up and give the crap away." The problem is that collectors are often with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). That's a treatable problem that has nothing to do with "growing up." The article also touches on the elements of gambling addiction. If you have a problem collecting too many things, a therapist can easily determine if you're OCD and to what degree.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...