Playing in Isolation; part one.

To say that these are strange and uncertain times would be an understatement. The world is going into lockdown, and life is going to be far from normal for the next few months as we all battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. While the world will keep turning as we do our best to pass the time, boredom and mental health will be a major issue for everyone. This is especially true for all of you reading this at home, since the hobbies we enjoy are so rooted in community engagement.

Getting out of the house to play in an event at your local game store or hobby centre is usually one of the high points of the week, allowing us to chat with friends and leave the day-to-day worries of the world behind for a few hours at least. But with most countries (including here in the UK) halting mass gatherings in order to stop the rampant spread of the virus, these kinds of events will be put on hold for the time being.

If that weren’t bad enough, some of you will be stuck at home as a precaution against getting or spreading the virus. I myself am currently living away from my wife and children, as they are on lockdown due to health concerns. The fact that my day job is as a care worker means that my staying at home would put my family at risk, and I know I am far from the only one dealing with this kind of situation.

So it is imperative in these times of isolation that we stay in contact and watch out for everyone, even if it is from the comfort of our own (or someone else’s) home. Luckily, there are some ways we can all help each other stay connected and get our hobby fix. So today and tomorrow, I’ll be sharing with you some ideas on how to enjoy your favourite hobbies and engage with each other in an attempt to beat the boredom and maintain a healthy mental state.

Today I’ll be diving into Magic the Gathering, with tomorrows article looking at Warhammer. Hopefully, these pieces will be of some help to you all and give you some tools to battle the boredom and isolation until the world gets back to normal. Until then, look after yourselves and each other.

Online Gaming

One of the great things about Magic the Gathering is the fact there are not one, but two official online ways to play the game. Magic Arena and Magic Online allow players to get their gaming fix whenever they feel like it, and between the two of them you can pretty much place any format you like. But playing the game is only part of the Magic experience. A huge part of why I love play Magic is the social aspect of the hobby, and apart from the chat feature on Magic Online and the emotes of Arena, there isn’t much socialising in the digital realm. Luckily, there is a way to fix that.

Most of you will go to a local store or gaming group for FNM and other events, and most of those will have some online presences. It could be as simple as a Facebook page or Whatsapp chat, but there will be some way that that community will communicate what events and formats are being played on any given day. You can use these platforms to not only arrange games in the real world, but also in the digital one too. If you haven’t already, use these resources to add the people you play with weekly to your friends/buddy lists on your choice of online client. You can then arrange games from the comfort of your own home at a time when you are all free.

To add to the experience, set up a Discord group or other such means of chatting online. Set up voice channels for use in games to help keep in touch and make the experience more sociable. Remember, talking to your opponent is not only useful in-game, but it is a large part of the social aspect of Magic. And while you’re having a chat, use this time to check in on your friends and ask them how they are coping. Ask them about their week. Check in on how they are getting on, and let them vent if they need to. Trust me, being able to chat with someone about a card game based on magical creatures has done more to help my mental health than any therapy has, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

And as for that local game store, why not include them in the action. Remember that this situation will be hitting them quite hard, and there are ways of helping them out. If they are willing, they could set up online events by keeping pairings and records of prize support. It’s not quite the same as running an FNM or classic PPTQ, but if you’re wanting to have a more competitive experience it might be the way to go. And even if you are just wanting to have more casual games, think about including them in arranging Commander pods and other events.

Gaming at Home

You know what a lockdown in your own home is great for? Some Kitchen Table Magic. Now is the perfect time to teach your housemates, children, or significant other the joys of Magic the Gathering (if they don’t already play that is). Give one of them a spare deck and show them the joy of being a planeswalker. Arrange a game night and play some Commander or settle who is doing the washing up with a game of Standard.

Even if you don’t have a spare deck to loan someone, there are ways to play the world’s best card game. Why not order yourself a copy of Unsanctioned or Game Nights for some preconstructed fun. If Limited is more your speed, get a booster box (from your local store if you can) and play some Sealed. Maybe now is the perfect time to dust off that box of Dominaria you have been keeping for a rainy day and play some Pack Wars.

Whatever you do, do it together. Use this time to grow closer as a family, or bond over a game with your roommate. It might be a strange and unusual world we live in at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we have to face it alone. Most of all, look after one another. Things will get back to normal eventually, but in the meantime, it is up to us to lift each other’s spirits.

I hope today’s article has been of some help to you. If you need to chat about Magic, mental health or just want to share some fun memes, you can find me on twitter @MTGTengu. You can also drop us a line in the comments below. I currently don’t have any internet, but I’ll answer any comments when I get the opportunity.

Tomorrow, I’ll be giving some advice on how to get your Warhammer fix in the current climate, so check back for that. Most of all, remember to look after each other and, as always, whatever format you play: good luck and have fun.

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