The Games I Play

On Tuesday night of this week, I found myself teaching almost forty Rioters how to play Magic: the Gathering. It was a crockpot cook-off, which meant we had high-caloric food, chips, bread, wine, and beer, to go along with a whole stack of Magic Origins Intro decks, 20-sided dice, and 6-sided dice. The event was meant to be a Talent team bonding thing, but other people who wanted to learn Magic heard about it and asked to join. We started at dinner, and the games lasted into the wee hours.

I’m not going to write specifically about the event this week, but I do want to pause and say again how tickled I am to be at Riot Games. It wasn’t until I woke up Wednesday morning that it occurred to me that we just used our team-building time to play my favorite game. With a big crowd. For hours. Plus beer. How cool is that? If you’re not a gamer, it probably doesn’t sound cool. For me, though… Heaven.

Wait, did I just say that my favorite game isn’t League of Legends? It’s true. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge Magic nerd. I wrote a weekly column for the official site for years, and I’ve also written a lot for other sites. For awhile, I even wrote Magic card names and flavor text. My time invested in Magic has waned a lot since having kids and a rocket-ride career, but I still have booster drafts at my house every month or so, still play Commander with my son, still attend prerelease events more often than not, and still mentally make Standard decks (I never end up assembling or playing, sadly) with each new set release.

It’s fair to say that I’ve taught hundreds of people to play Magic over the last twenty years, and have a tried-and-true formula for doing so. I’d never taught a whole roomful of newbies before, but it seemed to work out fine. At least a few people in the crowd had that “This game is AWESOME!” moment that lets me know they’ll play again. In my mind, the more Magic players that exist in the world, the more people I have to play with me and spread the good word of Trading Card Games. Yay for virtuous cycles!

Riot is a collection of really diverse nerd-flavors, and we’re all gamers of some sort. For a ton of Rioters, League of Legends is the end-all, be-all of games. We are littered with Diamond and Platinum-level players, and pretty much everyone plays League throughout the week.

But is that all we play? Pff. Hardly. How else do you think we have a packed room wanting to learn Magic on a Tuesday night?

In fact, my gaming tendencies have really had a chance to stretch and grow over my first year at Riot. In the last twelve months, I’ve played more League of Legends than all other games combined, but I’ve also spent quality time with Magic and…

  • Hearthstone – Hearthstone is a sort of simplified Magic, and has a great user experience. Games are fast and feel cool with lots of slick visuals and sound effects. Unfortunately, no one else in my family plays Hearthstone and we’ve vowed to avoid solo games. I like the strategic complexity of Magic more, and I like the experience of playing with physical cards with my son. Still, though, I’ve logged my fair share of Hearthstone, and it’s something a lot of Rioters play too.
  • Smite – I felt a little dirty when my son Jonah told me that his friends and pulled him into Smite and that I should give it a try. It’s basically a competitor to League, except from a different camera angle and using various pantheons of gods as the champions. There are a lot of cool things about it–and I like the pantheon theme a ton–though it’s a little too frenetic for my tastes. Still, I’ll keep playing Smite as long as Jonah’s interested.
  • Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder – I’m an old guy, and still love classic tabletop role-playing games. It’s still some of the most fun, social experiences of pure nerddom that I’ve experienced. Truth be told, I’m a much, much bigger fan of superhero RPGs like Champions, Mutants & Masterminds, Villains & Vigilantes, Golden Heroes, and, well… pretty much anything with spandex and capes. I haven’t found a group of folks who love this genre as much as me, so for now I’m fine with fantasy-themed games.
  • King of Tokyo, Bang!, Avalon, and many others – When Rioters are on a bus, or convention, or on a break from a big meeting, or in an airport… They bring games. The really fun ones then make it into my household for Friday Night Game Nights, which then spreads the part-game and board game virus across our friends. The three I listed here are our particular favorites at the moment.
  • Secret Ponchos – This was my favorite game from Pax this year, and I’m hoping that with last week’s release the controls for the PC are less bizarre than the beta (it started as a console game). I love the look and feel of Secret Ponchos, though, and I’ll keep checking in on it from time to time.
  • Heroes of the Storm  – Also a competitor to League, but one I probably only played a few weeks before turning away. The tutorial is amazing and the visuals are awesome, but in my limited MOBA time, I prefer League. I also don’t have any family members or friends who are hooked on HotS.
  • Guilty Gear and Marvel vs. Capcom – I really like fighting games but don’t own a console. A friend of mine has Guilty Gear Xrd and we have Marvel vs. Capcom in Riot’s arcade, so I get a fair amount of time on those two. When I wish I owned a console, it is almost exclusively so that I could play fighting games.

I’ve dabbled for a few hours with others, but that’s pretty much what I play these days. As gamers go, that’s a pretty light list. But I’ve never been a console gamer. I don’t like horror games or first-person shooters, both of which make me feel icky. And, of course, given my role and family, I just don’t have the time I’d like to expand beyond the above list.

You know, unless you were to recommend something awesome in the comments…

-jms

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