(Page 2 of 2)
Many who play the game are like Kyle. They want to get all the cards so they can play the best game possible. The rarest cards have the best powers.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The companies that sell the cards know this. That's why they design them so that the kids who are most interested in the game have to spend lots of money.
A nine-card "booster pack" of Yu-Gi-Oh cards costs about $3. Each booster pack includes one "rare card." But ultra-rare cards, which are even more powerful, are in only one of every 12 packs.
To get the best cards, you have to buy lots of them. Most of the cards you end up with will be ones you already have.
"They want to keep you hooked," says Douglas Gentile, director of research at the National Institute on Media and the Family, in Minneapolis. "Their goal is to get you to spend more money, and to get you to get your friends to spend more."
Instead of getting interested in a game that requires a lot of money to play better, many toy experts recommend that you look for games that only require one purchase, but can still play out in hundreds of different ways.
"Yu-Gi-Oh requires strategic thinking," says Stevanne Auerbach, a play and toy expert in San Francisco, "but games like chess and checkers have unlimited strategies and can be more interesting and challenging."
Still, 4Kids is trying to keep Yu-Gi-Oh from becoming just another fad that fades. The company has decided to allow only a limited number of other companies to use the Yu-Gi-Oh name and characters to sell products.
"We want it to be here for the long haul," says Syatt, who says 4Kids wants to maintain Yu-Gi-Oh's "underground" reputation. 4Kids also wants to make sure that older kids and teenagers - between the ages of 9 and 14 - keep buying Yu-Gi-Oh products. The company will not advertise Yu-Gi-Oh to younger kids. When Yu-Gi-Oh appeals to little kids, "that's the day the big kids will [no longer be interested]," Syatt says.
Regardless of how well he does at Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments, Kyle Amirault says he'll play for a few more years. "I'll play as long as it's fun," he says.
Walk into most toy stores nowadays, and trading-card games are easy to find. If a new adventure movie for kids is in theaters, count on a new trading-card game in stores soon.
But that wasn't always the case. Just 10 years ago, trading-card games didn't even exist!
The origin of the trading-card industry can be traced to "Magic: The Gathering." Magic was the first game in which cards with characters having different powers face-off against one another.
Since its debut in 1993, Magic has gotten very popular. Its producer, Wizards of the Coast (in Renton, Wash.), has created 6,000 kinds of cards. More than 7 million people have played Magic at more than 100,000 official tournaments.
Richard Garfield, the Seattle-based game consultant who invented Magic, got the idea by fiddling with games like chess and Monopoly.
"At a certain point," Mr. Garfield says in an e-mail interview, "it hit me that the modification of the game could be the game itself. From there it is a short leap to a game where each person chooses which cards he is going to play from a vast pool of cards - creating, in a sense, their own game."
In traditional games, Garfield says, the action is limited by what is in the cards and on the board. He says trading-card games generally (and Magic in particular, of course) have attracted millions of fans because the game can take many paths.
"Players of trading card games enjoy the boundlessness of the experience," Garfield says. "Each player has a unique part of the game, so that each player you play brings you surprises and teaches you more."
Unlike many trading-card games, success in Magic does not require a player to buy expensive rare cards. Common cards, Garfield says, have a lot of power. Rare cards are more complex and unusual, but not necessarily more powerful.
But when it comes to cost, parents and kids should consider the value of trading-card games, Garfield says. He considers the games to be a "mental sport," so to him it's OK if families spend as much money on these games as they do on sports.
Garfield's goal, he says, was to make a great game, not just something to get people interested in other products.
"Magic is not driven by books, or movies, or TV, or video games," Garfield says. "It is my hope that Magic is, like a very few games such as Scrabble or chess, timeless." (But if he could do it all over, he says, he would have been interested in having a Magic TV show and film.)
Yes, Garfield plays Magic, among many other games. "I like board games, card games, computer games ... traditional games, role-playing games, physical games (like Jenga and darts), party games," he says. "I am sure there are other categories I am missing, but you get the picture."