Friday, January 22, 2010

Things I've Learned as a Geek: Theory #7

(this is a Note i put up on Facebook a while back that i thought i'd transfer over here for more easy reading)

The trading card game, or TCG, is a long-standing and time honored past-time among the geek community. I played the oldest and most respected of these, Magic: the Gathering, for about five years and would often spend hours perusing websites devoted entirely to theorycrafting and strategies.

As with most TCGs, M:tG is played using a deck of cards which you create out of your personal collection and pit against an opponent using his own personal deck. As of February, 2009, there were over eleven thousand unique cards to choose from, with 600 - 1,000 being added each year. This tremendous card pool creates an almost infinite number of possibilities for making a deck tailored exactly to your play-style or fanciful whim.

The challenge, then, is to make a deck that eliminates, to the best of your abilities, the randomness factor inherent to the game's rules. Each game is started with a seven card hand and a new card is drawn on each of your turns, so the likelihood of drawing exactly the card you need from your shuffled deck is dependent entirely on the construction of your deck.

This project is what makes a good player; a finely-tuned, 60-card deck will handily beat the 100+ card monstrosity that the kid down the street is always toting about with him. What makes a great player is the playing, or "piloting" of said finely-tuned deck.

The final effort in minimalizing the random factors of the game comes in playing your hand in such a way as to set yourself up for good luck. A short-sighted player will, when he finds himself in a bind, go all in, hoping that a final onslaught will be enough to secure victory. A more patient player knows that there exists in his deck a card that will save him; he only needs to survive long enough to draw it. This is what makes those "lucky draws", when they appear, seem so miraculous. They don't always show up, but when they do, the pro is fully prepared to take full advantage of the situation.

"Jeff, wtf are you talking about?"

It is impossible - short of holding a gun to the head of a person with a strong sense of self-preservation - to make anyone do anything. People, and situations, are outside of our control. The only variables we have any say in is our own actions. It is best, then, to live our lives so as to maximize our gains should favorable situations arise. We cannot count on Luck to come along and give us everything we've ever desired, but we can put ourselves into situations that increase the likelihood of us seeing it.

Play smart.

(Trev is tagged because he introduced me to Magic.
Tim is tagged because he taught me to play.
Nate is tagged because he was my punching bag in learning how to properly construct a deck. His usual strategy of throwing monsters the size of skyscrapers at my face left little room for error and made me quickly discover the holes in my stratagems.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Step Off, O Ye Grinning Bastard

I am focusing myself.

Recently, during the in-between minutes of the night, right on the edge of my vision, i've been recognizing Depression rearing its dusty, smirking head. This is nothing new, but its been wonderfully absent in my life for several months now and i was just beginning to get used to a new status quo, emotionally.

Depression is nothing to get excited about 'round these parts; its just part of the family dark. A recently learned that i had a great aunt who stepped in front of a bus one day without explanation. Most of my extended family (on that side) has had at least a brief episode with depression and we generally come out of the experience all the better for it. But still, i suppose its never something to be taken lightly.

The important thing to remember about depression, for those who don't suffer from it, is that it is not just being very, very sad. Sadness is normal. Sadness is a sharp, localized pain that is easily targeted and dealt with. Depression, on the other hand, effects all areas of one's life and is, more than anything, exhausting. It drains your energy, your passion, and, if not overcome, your will to live. It is ennui to the Nth degree.

I have always been what i refer to as a "Depressive" personality. It is common for me to wake up one day and simply feel quiet, delicate, contemplative. Rainy days often provoke such moods and i do not shy away from them. Once, when i was younger, i questioned why "depression" got such a bad rap and decided to embrace and utilize the effects of such moods for artistic purposes. Several years, a short stint on Lexapro and a lot of experience later, i realize that my occasional dark moods and actual depression are two entirely different beasts.

This time 'round, i resolve to cut the beast off at the pass. I know his tricks, and i know his effects. I've seen him coming and i'm taking measures to make sure his arrival is a most unpleasant one.

You can't scare me any more, Mister What's-the-Point-Getting-Out-of-Bed. I broke your wrists last time we fought, and you'll not get hold of me or mine again.