Friday Night Magic: Players gather at local game shop

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airmen 1st Class Kyle Gese/Wikimedia Commons)

It was 6 p.m. The low hum of the room began to develop into animated chatter. Players trickled in and mingled with familiar faces before checking the event list for their seat assignment and settling in.

Decks were laid out and adjusted for precision. One player in a green, zipped sweatshirt cracked his knuckles and rolled his head in a circle to loosen up. Another sat stoically with his hands flat on the tables. Overflowing briefcases and day-packs were stuffed in corners and under tables — the signs of a long work-week ditched for the weekend.

Friday night Magic: The Gathering tournaments at Addictive Behaviors usually start this way; they occur weekly and attract players of all ages and intellects. Sign-ups take place in advance either online or in-store, and a master list is then made to match opponents based on skill level and previous scores.

Magic: The Gathering is a game that revolves around strategy, shop owner Brock Sprunger said. “It has a lot of complicated mechanics that are pretty simple to execute,” he said.

Players can purchase different variations of standard or modern decks every few weeks and trade cards with other players to customize their collection. Because the game can be so complicated, there is a lot of debate and discussion that takes place about certain cards — which creates more interaction between players.

“It’s kind of like our NFL football game,” shop regular James Barnum, 30, said.

Jessica Lambright watched as her 10-year-old son, Sam, sat across from his opponent — a man twice his size and triple his age. They were about to play their first round of Magic: The Gathering. She was talking about the different color decks available for the game when suddenly she stopped mid-sentence — she’d forgotten to teach Sam how to shuffle his cards.

She laughed and shook her head. “That’s going to be a problem.”

Sprunger was at a table against the wall playing with a young boy in an orange beanie. He said he likes to compete alongside everyone else on Friday nights. Sprunger opened the shop in 2004 to satisfy a desire among Eugene gamers for a communal location to play Magic. He said Addictive Behaviors is a hub for people to meet and hang out. Anyone — regardless of background — is welcome.

“People aren’t jerks,” Barnum said about the Friday night crowd.

He talked leisurely about the game and his experience playing while his opponent, Nate Stanley, 19, sat in front of him — neither of them seemed to have trouble multitasking. Both men have been playing since they were teens and they shifted their cards around the table with ease.

“The goal is to win, but I’m more just here to have fun,” said Stanley. “My deck is pretty janky so we’ll see.”

Across the room Kevin Lee stood poised near the counter and shifted his weight every so often as he observed the players; he was checking out the competition.

Lee is a gamer through and through — he said he taught himself how to add and subtract by playing Zelda when he was 3 years old. Other commitments in college forced him to take a break from Magic, but now that his schedule has cleared, Lee is looking to get involved once again.

The skill level of players at Addictive Behaviors looks diverse, he said. He chuckled when he saw Sprunger, who was still playing with the young boy. “The owner is a classy fellow,” Lee said.

Light slashed across the room as the sun began to lower outside. Shadows fell over the Magic and Zelda posters that were plastered on the walls. Players continued to rotate tables as games finished and others started — the tournaments on Friday nights usually don’t end until around 10 p.m.

Barnum lost his game to Stanley in round one but still went on to win the whole tournament. Next week he’ll have a spot at the reserved table. Playing Magic: The Gathering is much better in real life than online, said Barnum.

“It’s like a puzzle combined with a bit of randomness,” he said.

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