What It Means to be a Lifelong Gamer

Exactly a year ago from the time I’m writing this, I was in Seattle, Washington. The third Kaijudo Summer Championship was upon us all, and Kaijudo players from across the continent were gathered in one room to decide who would take home the trophy. In the end, weeks of testing paid off for me, and I went 8-1 in the Swiss portion of booster draft and constructed, my only loss being a scoop in the final round. After that, I had a great 3-0 run in the top eight and won the most important tournament I had ever won while remaining technically undefeated. For a brief moment, I was on top of the mountain, and I was more excited than ever to see how much the game would grow and how I would grow with it.


As of this moment, I haven’t played a game of Kaijudo, even for fun, in over seven months. The tournament report from my first place finish in Seattle was the last article I wrote for ARG until now, and the official Kaijudo site and Twitter account cease to exist.


christian 2Just two short months after my victory, the game’s discontinuation was announced. It would take place immediately after the release of the next set – which, of course, nobody really had an interest in buying anymore. There would be a fourth and final championship, but all the hype and competitive spirit from the previous three were thrown out the window and, as expected, many top invited players chose to not show up. Not long after that championship, the Kaijudo community effectively dissipated, and all the great experiences I had traveling the country for events turned into memories instead of an active part of my life.


So, why am I bringing this depressing subject up in the first place? The answer lies in my ability to call myself a gamer. Like a flower that miraculously survives a hurricane without being uprooted, it truly is the only intact remnant of the time in my life I can lovingly refer to as “the Kaijudo years.”


Let’s begin with a little CVH history lesson: Kaijudo was my first real foray into competitive gaming. Some may laugh at this, considering Kaijudo’s comparatively small player base, but it’s true. I had played Yu-Gi-Oh! semi-competitively from 2007 to 2009, but it wasn’t as much a part of my life as Kaijudo turned out to be. Kaijudo brought back something from my childhood: Duel Masters. This game was around from 2004 to 2006 in North America, and my deepest friendships were spawned from it. I met Carl Miciotto on the same day I first encountered the game at my local card shop, and we became fast friends as I started to delve into it. Spencer Swan, whom I met in the sixth grade, came from Yu-Gi-Oh! as a kid as well, but we quickly bonded through Duel Masters when I showed him the game. The three of us would frequently hang out and sling cards at each other’s houses as well as our local shop. I never would have guessed that our same group of three would be playing what was essentially the same game a decade in the future in Seattle for a major tournament, and I of all people would come out victorious.


Needless to say, when Kaijudo did finally come out, we jumped on it. It occurred after a three-year “drought,” when I simply wasn’t gaming. I was in high school, Yu-Gi-Oh! had gotten stale, and I was focused on other things. I didn’t miss gaming, per se, though if I look back today, it definitely seems like something was missing from my life.


christian 1In Kaijudo, we were frontrunners, both in tournaments and content creation. We formed Team Peach, became friends with many other top players from around the country, and did our best to BE the best. My competitive drive is something I can remember having since early childhood, and it took hold of me in Kaijudo. Sure, there weren’t Pro Tour-level events or cash prizes, but I was competitive nonetheless and loved trying to win events just for the sake of winning them and becoming a better player. I even got a lot of flack for this when I became the only person to win two KMCs in back-to-back weekends, beating Carl in the finals of the second one, since people wrongfully speculated that he wouldn’t get a passed down flight to the Championship! Good times, good times. Team Peach’s players were called everything from amazing to overrated (and even cheaters by a salty few) but the important thing to us was that we were inspirational in the way we played the game. At least, I like to believe that was everyone’s goal. I suppose I derive fun from card games in a different way than most, but either way, Kaijudo gave me an opportunity to do that while traveling to new places and making new friends across the globe, whether it was from meeting them at events to talking to them online.


It all came to an end, of course, but my revitalized gaming spirit and competitive drive did not – they could not. Most Kaijudo players felt the same way, at least about their gaming spirit. I was one of the lucky ones. I fell in love with Hearthstone right as Kaijudo was taking its last breaths, and almost three thousand play mode wins later, I’ve basically turned it into a part-time job as well as a full-time hobby. I have aspirations of one day making it onto the pro scene, but in the meantime, I’ve found a hobby that challenges me. It’s something I can enjoy and sink my teeth into, continue writing about on different sites, and even stream. I’ve even made a good bit of money coaching it; an opportunity Kaijudo never would have given me due to its small popularity. More than anything though, it’s FUN.


At least, it’s fun to me. Everyone has different tastes, in games as much as in something like food. When Kaijudo died, things pretty much went as I expected: those who came from MTG went back to MTG, those who came from YGO went back to YGO, and the list goes on. Force of Will and other games on the fringe of being in the top tier of popularity have attracted varying levels of hype for those not interested in playing what has effectively become “The Big 3 plus Hearthstone.” Of course, there are a few who never found ANY card game to play after Kaijudo, but they’re in the solid minority.


Since most people who played Kaijudo came from other games they were already immersed in, I suppose I was in the small percentage of players whose gaming spirits were re-invigorated by Kaijudo. The important thing, though, is that once a game has given us this spirit, we don’t lose it. Kaijudo made me realize that I’m going to be a life-long gamer. I can say very few things about my life with absolute certainty, but one thing I can say is that as long as card games exist, I’ll be playing one of them, whether seriously or as a hobby. For that reason, Kaijudo might very well be the most important game I’ll have ever played, and one of the most important things I’ve ever done. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who can say that.


Those playing and loving games with solid foundations are lucky. I suppose I can consider myself to be in this group now that I’m a Hearthstone player, but it wasn’t always so. Games do come and go – even the most popular game today might not exist in five or ten years. With Kaijudo, there were always signs that the game might be doomed from the start. This forced me to cherish every moment and every experience; though I hoped for the brightest of futures for the game, I was constantly reminded that its lifespan might not be very long. I’m glad I made the most of my time playing the game, and I think this is something we, as players, need to do more often. It’s not about the game itself, or the game’s popularity, or how well we do; it’s about the experiences we have playing. The other things matter too, for various and important reasons depending on the game in question and our specific goals, but when the game is gone and our results no longer matter, we’re only going to be left with the memories of our experiences. I hope everyone creates memories special enough to keep them involved in their current games for years to come, or to let their passion for gaming carry them to another game they learn to love and make a hobby.


This, to me, is what being a lifelong gamer is about. Over ten years from the first time I touched a card game, I’ve finally accepted this about myself. Gaming is a pillar of my life that I trust will remain constant, no matter what the future of gaming holds.


Being a gamer has benefited me in more ways than I think anything else could have. Games have taught me basic things, such as the ability to do math quickly and efficiently, and they have taught me the more complex aspects of strategizing and planning ahead. They’ve taught me how to interact with people from around the globe, make friends, and come out of my shell after being rather introverted as a child. They’ve taught me I can be good at something, and possibly even the best at something, giving me confidence in all walks of life. They’ve taught me how to win and how to lose. They’ve taught me to pass my knowledge on to others who may be able to benefit, and always search for ways to improve to better myself in everything I do. The journey never stops.


I guess you could call this a “life strategy” article, far from the game strategy I’m used to writing about. It could just be the ramblings of someone who’s game died close to a year ago and who has since moved on to a new game, but the big hope is that a part of it was valuable in some way to someone; at the very least, we should all be thankful for everything games have done for our lives. We really are lucky to be living in a time where the gaming culture is thriving more than it ever has before and continues to grow. No matter what game we like to call a hobby, I say we all go out there and take advantage of that.