Getting into Trading Card Games as a Video Gamer

For the longest time, I’ve mostly written off trading card games as something not worth engaging in. I mean, I collected Pokemon cards as a kid, but I think that was only because it was the “it” thing to do at the time. All the guys at my elementary school spent their recess and lunch periods either comparing Pokemon cards or talking about Pokemon, so I guess I did too. I never actually played the card game. I figured, “I’ve got the video game, so why should I bother with the card game?” I suppose that’s how I came to have this attitude, and why it was only recently that my opinion changed.

As a lifelong video game enthusiast, I never felt any need or desire to get into a trading card game. Whatever money I had to spend on such things, I spent on games. I’m sure all you other video gamers out there can understand why, video games are awesome! For anywhere from $5 to $60 you can get hours upon hours of fun and excitement to enjoy either alone or with friends! Sometimes those virtual experiences can be absolutely unforgettable, so why would you ever spend money on something as limited as a card game. Well, it turns out that card games can be fun too. (I know, shocker right? 🙂 )

I actually had no intention of getting to any card game at all, but then a friend of mine over here talked me (strong-armed me) into playing Yu-Gi-Oh!: Legacy of the Duelist with him a few times. I’d known about Yu-Gi-Oh! due to having caught an episode or two on Cartoon Network when I was a kid, but I’d never actually gotten into it. It was 100% a kid’s thing in my mind, so I was rather reluctant to play.

Nevertheless, I played when he asked, learned how it works, learned how to strategize and so on, and slowly I somehow came to enjoy playing it with him. Eventually, I even became a fan! Now, I’ve even gone and made a physical deck and found people to play with! Honestly, it feels kind of crazy saying that, but here we are.

So, how does a card game like Yu-Gi-Oh! compare to video games? Well, against video games as a whole, it obviously can’t compete. There’s so much variety in games that it’s not even a comparision. Instead, let’s look at something similar within video games: the strategy genre. I’ll tell you right now, I’ve never liked strategy games. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around everything needed to actually play the game, much less win in one.

My issue with strategy games is one of scale: they’re often just so big that I get lost in all the things that need to be managed and dealt with. Yu-Gi-Oh! is largely a strategy game too, but it’s one that’s boiled down to a 1v1 encounter. Your strategy lays in making your deck, how you manage chance, and how you actually play it. Chance is absolutely a factor since this is a card game, but you can build things in a way to minimize its effect on your game. I won’t go into the minutia, but suffice it to say that this is a game that hinges largely on your own skill, knowledge and gamesmanship.

There are indeed super-strong decks that simply out-class most of the others, but there’s certainly plenty of tense, moment-to-moment excitement to be had at the casual level (seriously, stay casual. Chasing the meta in anything is a huge waste of time and money). There are duels that take everything you’ve got, with the momentum being pulled back-and-forth and chance either winning you the day or destroying your last hope! These are when the game is at its best, and happen often enough to make it feel worthwhile. It’s a kind of competition that I haven’t really found in games (beside video game versions of card games, I suppose), and I’m honestly glad I got into it.

Ultimately, I’ve come to think that my attitude of seeing card games as somehow “lesser” was wrong. They’re games just like their digital cousins, just games of a different sort. While I don’t think I’d want to go back and tell my younger self to get into them, I am glad to have been proven wrong and made able to enjoy one now. Guess it just goes to show that it’s really best to try things before writing them off as something you won’t like (obvious exceptions aside, of course).

How do you feel about card games? Is there an activity or even just a game genre that you wrote off before actually trying it? Did you change your mind later?

Image from Yu-Gi-Oh: Link Evolution website