Like kittens, puppies and most other animals, young people often learn life skills through play. The game Magic: The Gathering, not only teaches an assortment of topics to children, it challenges players young and old.
“Any activity that forces the kids to interact with each other and other adults is a good thing,” said Keith Baker, co-coordinator of Friday Harbor’s public Magic: The Gathering group. These players meet every Sunday at the San Juan Island Library from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Baker has been co-coordinating and supervising the afternoon for over 15 years, long enough to see young players graduate, marry and even have families of their own. He was originally attracted to Magic because he loves games of all types. Magic is essentially a card game, specifically a card trading game. Developed in the 90s, the era of Dungeon and Dragons, Magic involves wizards and other magical creatures. Some cards are more powerful than others, rare cards, according to Baker have been listed on eBay for $1,000. Unfortunately, those kinds of prices have given an edge to people with disposable incomes.
“I like to meet the parents beforehand to make sure they understand what the game is, that some of the cards are ridiculously valuable so the kids should take good care of them,” he said. Baker also emphasized that there is always an adult present. If he himself can’t supervise, he either asks another adult to step in, or the event is canceled for that day.
Currently, the youngest player is eight, with the oldest players being in their 50s, and the age runs the gambit in between. Baker admits most of the players are male, but it is an open group and women are welcome. The gathering isn’t just restricted to Magic either, people can bring their favorite board, card or dice game. The size of the group varies from evening to evening, as small as two and as large as 20.
Everyone that comes to the library plays each other. As a result, it is probably one of the few times adults treat the children as equals, providing that he/she knows the rules well, Baker said. Kids, he explained, do not have a lot of real power in life, and games alter that reality. For example, the eight-year-old who attends has become very good, beating Baker twice. Respect has been earned.
Besides leveling the playing field between ages, Magic helps children with math and probability skills. It also encourages logical thinking and reading.
“Each card is covered in words that they must read and understand how to use in the game,” Baker said.
Most importantly, because they are all in the same room, playing face to face, it teaches children how to socialize, to win and lose graciously, and deal with people they don’t like, Baker explained.
“It has been fascinating watching people grow and think in different ways,” he said.
To join the game, visit the facebook page Friday Harbor Magic the Gathering.