Playing Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers on a console is much easier than playing the actual collectible card game, and it's also the only way I can learn the rules.
The video game sets you up with your deck, does all the grunt work like keeping track of tapping cards and what abilities can be used when, and a slew of other things while explaining what does what and why.
The virtual version of the game isn't just an easy-to-understand learning tool: It also makes finding opponents a cinch — something that's quite important since the closest place to play these games in person is almost a two-hour drive away.
I actually have a few problems when it comes to playing tabletop games in the real world: The first is that it's challenging for me to learn how to actually play.
Ask any of my friends, and they will tell you that me learning something new is like trying to teach a hyperactive child. I learn, but much like in my college courses, I learn by doing and not by reading instructions or listening to explanations.
The second problem — which is more exclusive to collectible games — is that I get too into collecting and spend hours just looking at my cards. In binders. I just don't have the money or the time to purchase tons of new decks and packs for every new game I play.
I don't have to worry about collecting too much in most video-game versions since they have a set restriction of how many cards you can have and what you can unlock. It makes the game limiting but easier for me to handle. And sometimes easier is more enjoyable.
I remember that it was so daunting for our middle-school-aged selves to see the Pokémon card game in person for the first time at Wizards of the Coast in Mall of America. We had never seen such a game before, and we bought everything we could with our allowance money, took the cards home, and played what amounted to a very screwed-up version of the card game.
We didn't actually learn how to play until the Gameboy Color version came out: Pokémon Trading Card Game. By then, we stopped playing with the actual cards and left rare cards like Charizard and company in our binders. Playing the video-game version was just easier, and fun at the same time. You could even win virtual booster packs!
That's not to say I don't like playing with the actual cards. I just bought my first Magic 2012 cards last week, and it's a slippery slope for my wallet. If it weren't for the video game, I would never have taken the step to start collecting and playing the physical product.
And here I find myself once again collecting cards, building decks, and filling binders.
It's a weird thing to learn card games and get better at it via video games, but I like it and wish more of these had virtual versions of themselves. Then maybe the Naruto cards sitting in my room would finally be put to use…at least properly, anyway.
With the introduction of Pokémon Trading Card Game Online, a game that lets you register codes from the backs of retail packages to obtain cards, it seems like the genre is changing and opening itself up to new possibilities. The Pokémon game offers all sorts of online features that let gamers trade and foster a sense of community.But being able to buy or add to my virtual stashes of Pokémon cards can only mean one thing: bankruptcy.
These recent video-game adaptations present fun and challenging games usually reserved for tabletops in an easy-to-play format. I want more. Let's just hope developers never find a way to sell me online boosters and a virtual binder to show off to the world.