Priorities and Habitus – Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge by Graeme McIntyre
I’ve not written in a couple of weeks largely due to my bad performance at the Glasgow PTQ and WMCQ. While none of the particular bad beats of the weekend were particularly interesting (other than maybe me getting on the wrong train and wasting twenty minutes in the morning, in spite of having lived in Glasgow for 6 years…), and as such are not worth retelling, it is worth saying that I was pretty frustrated and took a short break.
This break, as well as the Prerelease weekend, got me thinking about how people prioritize certain things in Magic, and why certain behaviours are repeated. The first heading might seem like a rambling tangent, but stick it out; it’s definitely there to make a point about Magic.
Habitus and movies
“Habitus” refers to lifestyle, the values, the dispositions and expectation of particular social groups that are acquired through the activities and experiences of everyday life. Many people who play Magic might be described as (or describe themselves as) “geeks”*.
Films about comic book characters are part of geek habitus in so much as they are consumed by this particular social group extensively and there is a pretty nuanced discourse concerning the subject matter. I’m nearly always unimpressed with these films. They’re lacking in a lot of things I would expect from another film in order to be happy with it; character development is often pretty bad, the plots are loose… they’re basically just action films, and I’d be pretty reluctant to go see a random action film. But I still feel compelled to watch them, and many of my friends are all over these films on Facebook saying how great they are.
I don’t think anyone I know had a bad word to say about Dredd (which the rest of the world hated, based on how much money it made and so on). I can’t help but feel that I (and probably some of my friends, although I’m clearly in a worse position to judge) go to see these films through a combination of habit, knowing what people are on about when they invariably talk about these films and a sense that I’m “supposed to” (habitus). I wouldn’t put comic book film in my list of the “top 10 best films ever”, nor my top 50. Maybe The Dark Knight would sneak into the top 100. I wonder how many people who insist that these films are good would sincerely put these films in their top 50…
Habitus and Magic events
I started playing Magic with a bunch of mirage and tempest block commons and uncommons for a summer. Then I bought a couple of boxes. Then I got to know some people, and started trading for some cards to build decent decks. They encouraged me to go to tournaments, and to draft at the shop.
Soon I was playing every event I could get access to, mostly because it was an opportunity to play and learn, but also because of a sense of community; at the time there weren’t that many players in Scotland, so it was more meaningful to be at events to keep numbers up.
By the time I was 17 I was playing in 4 tournaments a week, testing 2-3 afternoons a week, worked in a card shop and played a little bit of magic online too. Then I qualified for some pro tours and I still played every local event I could as well as traveling to English PTQs.
When I moved to Glasgow there was magic on a Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, which I would generally supplement with testing on workstation 2 days a week. I obviously played a lot, but I expect that this is roughly how most people experienced becoming a Magic player as opposed to someone who knows how to play Magic; someone who is part of the community and so on.
To begin with we attend these events because they’re fun and we want to, over time though, it becomes the case that we attend events because we always have (they’re part of our habitus). I think it is important to question why it is that we do things, and assess the value of doing so.
Over the last 3 years or so, I’ve been playing substantially less tournament magic. To start with, it felt like there were loads of GPTs in Glasgow so it didn’t seem like an issue to miss some. Then it became apparent that there were enough people traveling to them who actually intended to go to the GP (who I would naturally concede to), so it didn’t make sense to go to trials if I wasn’t going to the GP.
*Then* they made the changes they did to the value of GPs, which coincided with their massive growth, and I gave up on GPs, and as such trials pretty much totally. With draft the problem was that they changed the draft format for nationals to core set, which meant there was substantially less point in drafting the expert level set.
Then they go rid of nationals completely, so there was very little point in drafting at all. Prereleases followed by the sneak peak meant £100+ over two weeks, and an additional two weekends where I hardly saw Kirsty, so I cut back to one of each. I was playing the last core set prerelease when I remembered what Ross Jenkins said to me at the Avacyn Restored prerelease:
Ross – “Yeah, I’m definitely never playing one of these again btw.”
Me – “What’s up? You put up a decent score…”
Ross – “Sure, but they’re just terrible. I don’t enjoy them.”
I wasn’t having fun either, and I’ve not played one since, but what’s really crazy is that I don’t even remember the last one I *did* enjoy. Playing all these events is costly in terms of time and money, but ignoring time (which is a far more subjective matter) playing 16 prerelease events as well as say 4 sealed GPTs a year is £500 just for the cards. Drafting every week is another £480 (assuming one draft a week).
Sometimes people ask me what I’m doing with cards and when I tell them they say “oh man, I’d like to do that but it’s a lot of time and money”, and they’re right. But they’re also drafting every week and attending the prereleases and GPTs. It’s ironic, but I think in a lot of cases over the course of a year I spend less time and money on magic than most of the people who say this to me.
I’ve mentioned before that I used play World Of Warcraft pretty seriously – my guild raided Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 11pm and on Sundays from 4pm till 11pm with a mandatory attendance of 70%. On top of this time was required to “farm gold” to pay for various things we needed to play.
What this entailed was killing Fell horrors over and over and over hoping they would drop an essence of life as these could be sold to pay for stuff. Sometimes they wouldn’t drop one in an hour. Obviously there is a fair amount of opportunity cost involved there, and clearly it was worth asking “do I actually enjoy this?” I think I waited 6months too long to quit, maybe a year.
The problem is that it all starts from something you’re 100% sure you enjoy, and you want to do. What I’m suggesting is that it’s worth taking a step back every now and then and reassessing how you use your resources in regards to the game, and whether or not you could reassign your time and money better, either by playing different sorts of magic, or perhaps either taking a big break or simply calling it a day.
That’s it for this week, apologises if the content I’ve used to make my point seems indulgent, but I think the point is definitely important!
*whatever that means. I’ve spent literally hours of my life discussing that! The irony of that fact in relation to an article that is principally about better use of one’s time does not escape me…