November 4, 2004

Excerpts: The Medici Effect - Part V

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 3:42 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Garfield offers two reasons for Magics success: a prolonged and exciting learning phase and an expanding community of players. Examined closely, you will see that he is talking about the intersection of games and collectibles. The players in any game go through several different stages, Garfield explains. First they learn the rules. After that there is an exciting part of the game where the players learn major strategic ideas. In chess, for example, this may be how to protect pieces. If two people are learning at the same time, the person who discovers the next big thing wins; then the second person copies and improves upon the new strategy, and this continues back and forth. Slowly, Garfield says, the game enters the third phase, where strategy is much harder to innovate and the rewards are much smaller. Most players find this phase burdensome, and they either fall out of the game or settle into a more comfortable method of play. During this phase of chess, players may keep at it but do not really improve and are essentially playing the same game over and over. Magic is a bit different in that this big improvement stage is with you for a long period, since the cards keep changing.
In addition, Garfield continues, Magic has really created a community, much more so than a regular card game or board game. When you play this game with your friends, you see that they have different cards than you do, so you start discussing strengths and weaknesses of cards and decks. Some cards might be traded . . . and you become a viable part of this community and get sucked in. In Magics case this is a very interconnected group. Players will seek out friends of friends, people they may have never met, just to get a specific card. People in this network, Garfield points out, interact in a much more dynamic way than in a game like Monopoly. If you play Monopoly with friends and they like it, they might buy a copy and play with their friendsbut thats pretty much it.
It all seems so simple and obvious when Garfield talks about Magic and what happened that day at Multnomah Falls. But if it was that obvious, others would have thought of it. What specifically was behind his moment of insight? How, exactly, do we generate intersectional ideas?