Fulfillment and success are what propel us.
In a society that equates ambition increasingly with money or worldly success, it can be thrilling and gratifying to transfer the very human urge to succeed to a more flexible medium.
That’s why I play Magic.
I don’t play Magic: The Gathering because it’s fun. It is, I suppose, but it scratches a deeper itch than that for me. I play Magic because it resonates: something in it just rings in a way that makes it feel more productive than a mere distraction. It’s compelling in its complexity. With tens of thousands of cards available for use, I have to factor in power, synergy, and, most importantly, creativity into each deck I design. I rarely even play Magic, to be honest with you. I design and obsess because it’s so thrilling to understand and to innovate. For someone technically inept, it’s the thrill of design and creation.
It’s joyful to be smart and to try. Even in the context of a game, the accomplishment and enjoyment is deep and sincere.
Don’t think it’s wasted! The value of a feeling is often its own reward. Is it pathetic to take joy and pride in a game? Maybe. But taking joy and pride is important and, well, joyful. I recommend you take it where its offered.
The outlet into games has been coming for a while.
Why do you think people are talking about things being gamefied? We thrive on reward and effort and enjoy being immersed in that. It’s very natural. And it’s important to see why we need things gamefied: it’s because the “work hard and succeed” part of games have been conspicuously missing in many of our larger lives.
I’m not going to go in on The American Dream right now, but, at minimum, we can agree that the path to success is murky and unclear, especially in this transitional internet economy.
That means our natural instinct to succeed can be frustratingly stymied in more traditional jobs: we don’t know where our reward is, and we can’t do as much work as we’d like in piecemeal, minor positions.
Bureaucracy means many places of employment are lax and slack-jawed. You do what you can. I know people who are frustrated that they can’t flourish and do their best work. Ambition burns so bright in them that they have to shelve it, shake their heads, and retract their passion.
Without an outlet in work, those urges remain frustrated.
It’s deeply human that we want to succeed. It’s often perverted into excess: think of advertising that provokes or feeds on the perceived inferiority of your body or wealth.
So I suggest you chase the feeling that Magic gives me: the feeling of effort being exciting and enjoyable. It may be less clear than the money = happiness binary suggested in pop culture. Don’t worry about profitability! That’s the joy of a hobby: there’s no burden of practicality here. This is just about joy.
So, with that in mind: find a rewarding outlet for your ambition. Make it a hobby, but understand: it will strengthen you. It may be a game. It may be volunteering. It may be performing. But, whatever it is, feed this inner ambition.
Fan the flame of your own personal greatness. Try hard. That passion will enrich your life and improve your talent in all aspects of your life.
(Also, if you’re playing competitive Magic in the Modern format, maybe run a pair of Spellskites in your main deck. It wrecks Splinter Twin, Infect and Burn, plus blanks all the removal on your guys.)