Journey to Somewhere: Love, Sex and Magic by Ben Heath

Journey to Somewhere – Developing Tempered Steel by Ben Heath


This edition of ‘Journey to Somewhere‘ doesn’t actually involve any Magic: the Gathering-based stuff at all, well not directly anyway.

For those who are not aware, former world champion Jon Finkel was pretty much lambasted in a public blog after the blogger had gone on a couple of dates with him for being the former World Champion of Magic: the Gathering and not mentioning it on his dating profile. The final straw was the fact that he still played. The original blog can be found here.

But this article is not to defend Finkel, or attack the author of the blog post. Nope, it’s about the average guy who plays Magic and the stigma that comes with it when it comes to dating. This man is not Jon Finkel, one of the best Magic players in history; this is about Ben Heath, a guy who struggles on the PTQ circuit.

It was my friend’s 21st birthday party, and we went on a typical Friday night out in Leeds. That meant lots of drunk students and plenty of cheesy music to go along with it. At this point in my life I was a trainee manager for a convenience store in the heart of the student area of Leeds. I’d worked there for nearly two years so I was quite well known, and often high-fived on nights out by people who recognised me. Tonight was no different, and soon enough my friend and I were invited to join a bunch of medical students on the dance floor. The guys we met were borderline desperate for me to get with this one particular girl, but as nice looking as she was, I simply wasn’t interested. No, another girl had caught my attention and we got chatting and things went from there.

We kept in touch after the night out, but unfortunately didn’t see each other for some time due to the fact she was abroad on a placement. Roll on the start of the new student year, and we saw each other and things picked up from there.  It didn’t take long for us to be official, but then came the dirty secret, and I’m not talking about my autism*. She asked me about my hobbies, and I said that I played Magic: the Gathering. The reply I got was typical of most British people.

‘What’s that?’

After much explaining, she finally understood what I was going on about. Or at least she claimed she did. Things continued to be awesome and we were really close, but then there was a flashpoint which, in hindsight, was the beginning of the end. The day she met my Magic friends.

She was over at my house and we had just finished a nice dinner that I had cooked (and managed to not burn, miraculously). After the meal, my friends came over as we were going to play test for an upcoming tournament at Fanboy3 in Manchester (it was the Scars of Mirrodin Game Day, I believe). I thought I had timed it to perfection, as she was going back home to see some friends for the weekend and was leaving that night, but apparently not as she wanted to hang around for a bit and see what it was all about. After fifteen minutes of small talk between her and my friends (with obligatory ‘nice to meet you’ questions such as ‘where are you from?’ and ‘what are you studying?’), we, as a group quickly ran out of non-MtG things to talk about. So naturally, Magic became the main topic of conversation. Bad Move

Later on that night I received a tearful phone call from her, telling me that she had felt alienated. She was right though, and we had managed to alienate her, despite it, of course, not being our intentions. It was the wedge that drove us apart, with her managing to convince herself enough that we lived in completely separate worlds.

The fallout was not pretty, and certainly not something to talk about in the public forum. What I will say, however, is that the way it was handled was naive at best, but heartless and cruel at worst (on both sides, I didn’t take it well at all).

The point of this story is that Magic, especially in the UK, is not well known but as soon as you try to explain it, it does not have a pleasant stigma associated with it. Some of you may have different experiences, but for me they are mostly negative. The ribbing was, and to a degree still is, constant, and whereas a man like Jon Finkel, and most people for that matter, can take it, unfortunately I can’t.

A few months after this, I got released from my contract with my employers due to cost-cutting, and I suddenly found myself unemployed, single, and rejected from all but one of my university choices as I was looking to get my life back on track, and I was failing miserably… Then suddenly, three weeks later my fortunes had turned around completely as I got accepted by Manchester University and scored myself a full-time job in Worcester.

I also had a new girlfriend.

We had met at a New Year’s party and had quite a few mutual friends. We talked infrequently until she started coming round to visit us every now and then. She knew about Magic and she knew I played it A LOT, and therefore I wouldn’t have the same problem as last time. Unfortunately, she lived in Leeds whilst I had moved back to the Midlands to live with parents so I could take on this job.

The relationship started really well, but that’s when I got my priorities wrong. Ever since the previous break-up, I had pretty much been putting myself first, as I had long decided that I was number 1 and that I was the most important person as far as I was concerned. So I played an awful lot of Magic whilst working for an MtG card distributor. I playtested frequently which meant there were nights where my conversations with my girlfriend were, quite literally, only a couple of texts. Which is fine if you’re in a long-term relationship and it’s pretty well established… But it’s not fine if you’ve only been going out for a month or two. This is what I like to call “a Bad Move”.

Things ended mutually and we’re still friends. It doesn’t mean I don’t think I messed up, I believe in some ways I must have, and it’s certainly a lesson I’ve learned and hope not to repeat.

Magic: the Gathering is a huge part of my life, and therefore will always play a part in all aspects of my life. As far as I am concerned, when it comes to dating you need to accept your girlfriend/boyfriend for who they are, and don’t try to change them, because they will grow and change themselves as the relationship develops.

Thanks for reading,


*true story



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