Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Sins of a Magic Player

A long time ago, I ran into a now-deleted blog post detailing seven reasons why you should hire a Magic the Gathering player.

Basically, the reasons mimicked the benefits to playing D&D: better math skills, developed imagination, and broader interpersonal skills.

These very well could be true, but in a workplace environment, I call baloney.

Stereotypes are horrible things to base an individual on, but sometimes there is a hint of truth. These statements are based on the idea that Magic: The Gathering is actually brought up during the interview process.

After spending six hours with 40 current Magic players during the Fate Reforged pre-release, I can certainly attest that there's plenty of variety in the community, so long as you're white and male.  For example, you may or may not have a beard or glasses.  It's quite all-encompassing.

"I'm a gamer!"  is something I have never said in an interview, UNLESS it was for a job at a local shop.  Even a decade and a half removed from being store manager at Griffon Games, my interviewers have seemed tempted to inquire about it, but I shoot them down quickly, harping on inventory and staff management, product promotion, and personalized customer service experiences.  Yes, somewhere in that last sentence I admitted I may teach people games in order to sell them product, so the assumption is not that I'm working there for a place to level my Paladin.

As someone who does the hiring process at work, I would much rather someone who admits to playing Dungeons and Dragons than Magic?  Why?   For starters, D&D is double Magic's age, which means it's had a longer influence on a wider swath of the population.   It's geek mainstream without the hundreds of late-night hours of sedentary "zone out"  that's more akin to World of Warcraft and computer games but definitely comes up regularly in Magic tournaments.  While this single-minded devotion might be good in certain professions, most jobs require some degree of adaptability that exceeds the direct strategy of Magic.  I want people who can work off a script  as well as off the cuff and too many times I've thrown a card down that isn't on the decklist of the day off the internet and players either outright panic or freeze up.

DB Extraordinaire - Whenever you get 32 people of a similar interest together in one room, there are going to be jerks.  A few you can pick out within seconds of observation, but some are hidden, almost passive aggressive.  I have enough of those within my department to begin with.  Magic seems to be the new kingdom for those rules lawyers, college frat boy, and master jerkwads who either perseverate on in-game minutae that doesn't matter or excessively laud over some month old YouTube video that was barely funny back there.  

And no matter how good you are at the job, I don't want you to be a dick.  That eliminated at least 10 out of the 32 players at the average tourney

Late night card forays and finances -  The old guideline in parenting is: Don't do let your kids do what you did when you were their age.  You were stupid back then.  Sure, I've had plenty of bleary eyed weeknight Magic sessions, and lived to tell about it.  I've spent money on cards that were overvalued, but that doesn't mean I want the same twenty-something decision making process in my business!

This should eliminate about 6 out of the 32, however some of these could be picked out by simply reviewing resumes.

You ain't all smart - A misconception of the stereotype of computer programmers and rocket scientists playing this game.  I've run into enough brain-dead knuckle-draggers A seven year old with certain decks can destroy the opposition.  I openly admit that the only person who blocked my path to my only 1st place finish was an eight year old kid with a goblin deck that hummed like a high-performance sports car.    Knowing what all the cards do, reading all the novels, following all the tournament results just makes you a dork, and every person can be a dork about the subjects they love.    Enjoying Magic does not mean you understand Calculus, can balance a checkbook, or comprehend anything beyond "the stack." 

That's another 8 or so.

That leaves 8 out of the imaginary 32 Magic players applying for the job.   Throw in extenuating circumstances and that might leave 4 decent candidates.   How does one get over the last hurdle and shine in an interview where Magic is mentioned.

*Accentuate the positives:  It's a long time hobby/I've been playing for a long time, It's great to play with my friends and even family.   Anything to show you're an engaging and social person

*Don't take the bait:  If I do drop an Aggro Green reference or some other terminology, don't chomp on the bit.   Nimble around the edges to acknowledge a non-work connection and wrap it up in less than ten seconds.  Unless you're interviewing for a retail position, or a job at Wizards, nobody really cares. 

*Downplay the negative: Unless the business sponsors an after work Magic league, don't mention dropping hundreds on single cards, or buying packs by the case.  Even if you are a regular at Friday Night Magic and love to go to Pro Tour Qualifiers, saying "I love to play, when I have the chance, thanks to demands with the family, significant other, trained surfing  otter, feeding the homeless" is a nice way to put things.  Of course, if you're on the Pro Tour and getting earnings, that might be a point to bring up in the interview, since you would needs fairly regular time off.

When interviewing, I simply want to make sure the competency on your resume translate to competency in the person to person interview.    I want you to have a life outside of the company, heck I don't mind if you have shared interests with your co-workers.

Just don't harp that you play Magic (paint Warhammer/run D&D) like a a boss.  Especially when I have the final say on whether or not I become your boss.

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