Some people enjoy sports, others spend their free time reading, but I found a hobby that fit me: Magic: The Gathering. For those of you unfamiliar (as I was when I first encountered the game), Magic is a card game similar to Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh! Players build decks filled with creatures, spells, lands, and more and battle against at least one other player in hopes of reducing each opponent’s life count down to zero. There are many different formats and tens of thousands of cards to choose from.
I have been playing the game for almost two years now and would say I am only now making my way past beginner-level understanding. However, Magic is more than a game. While building decks and slinging spells, I learned lessons that transcended the game and made their way into my life as an agriculturalist.
- I’ve opened up to new ways of thinking.
The first time the game was explained to me, much of it was over my head. Part of what makes Magic so interesting (and confusing) is how many possibilities exist. I started out with simple cards that made sense – red spells that dealt direct damage and green creatures that were too big to deal with. The decks I have built today could easily destroy the decks I started playing with. They are filled with cards that I originally didn’t understand the use for.
Agriculture is filled with many different practices and ideas. Like many of us, I have a bias for specific practices that I grew up with or were taught in class. Now, I’m realizing that there’s no “right way” to farm. It may be different or more difficult to understand, but I can appreciate it now.
- My grades in agricultural economics have improved.
Magic is a game of strategy and understanding the state of the battlefield. Should I take the risk of attacking with everything? Should I hold back and wait until my opponent’s deck slows down? If I play this card, what options does my opponent have to react? Can I potentially work a deal out with another opponent to take down a common enemy?
I picked up my agricultural economics major just last semester and I’ve been able to compare different aspects of my studies to gaming strategies. Understanding markets is very much like understanding the battlefield. Sometimes I see myself as a speculator in the game, other times I am a hedger. There are always scarce resources and risk involved.
- I’m better at explaining unfamiliar ideas.
Very few people are actually familiar with Magic. I find myself explaining it to most people I encounter. I also play with many new players. With so many different concepts unique to each game, I have to explain them in ways that make sense to each individual.
In agriculture, we find ourselves having to explain our practices to many different people. While we may think it’s easy to understand, most consumers don’t have any point of reference. Magic is a great way to practice explaining ideas with less risk involved.
- Uncomfortable situations are a little more comfortable.
It can be uncomfortable being in a new game store or playing with people I’ve never met. Some people are easy to play with, others are not. I used to be scared of being judged because I had little experience with the game. I’ve had similar feelings in situations as an agriculturalist. The more practice I have in these situations, the easier it is to handle them.
- I think through my decisions more.
I like to be quick to make decisions (which you need sometimes in Magic). But one wrong move can end a game. When conversing with someone about agriculture, sometimes I’m too quick to try to clear up a myth and dismiss their lack of knowledge. But to handle these situations appropriately, I have to listen and think about the accurate response. Thanks to Magic, I am more aware of the consequences of my actions.
- I’ve expanded my reach (no pun intended).
Reach is a mechanic in Magic that allows a creature to defend something that flies. In communication, reach is how far a message travels. I am now a part of the Magic community, giving me a whole new audience to converse about agriculture with. Part of what makes Magic so great is that I get to build relationships with other players who share my love for the game. I get to learn their story, and they get to learn mine. It’s often that over a game of Magic the discussion turns to agriculture and I get the opportunity to help more people feel more comfortable with the food they eat.
- I see the importance of women representation.
Unfortunately, Magic: The Gathering and agriculture are both more male-dominated fields. I find myself facing stereotypes in both communities. Today’s world does not suffer from the same gender discrimination that it used to, but more progress is still necessary. However, thanks to Sigma Alpha, I know that there are strong women ready to be leaders in our industry.
I am so glad that Magic: The Gathering was introduced to me. I don’t believe that I could be the same voice for agriculture as I am today if it weren’t for the game. I plan to continue my endeavors in both communities for many years to come. If you are ever looking for an opportunity to try a new hobby, head to your local game store and try a game of Magic!