I have neither drank alcohol nor done a single type of extracurricular drug in my life.
It’s always weird to say that. At best, it comes off as some kind of elitist bragging. At worst, it’s just an obnoxious statement signaling some kind of faux superiority. But there’s a point here, so hang with me!
There are various reasons why I never have engaged in such reportedly enjoyable activities, and they range from the benign (I just never had any urge to, and at this point it’s just kind of “my thing” in life) to the… somewhat less benign (oh my god, so much addiction and problems thereof in my immediate family). Regardless, there is one thing I know. If I ever started doing drugs? I would do ALL THE DRUGS EVER.
Let me explain…
It all started in my freshman year of college when I woke up one Saturday morning. Who knows what I had been watching the night before, but when I turned my TV on in the morning, it was set to the channel upon which the Pokemon cartoon show aired. Feeling too lazy to change it and intending to do more web-surfing than anything else, I just left it on as background noise.
And then Pikachu talked. You know how it goes. “Pikachu Pika!” or whatever. And maybe I was particularly jovial that morning, but every time that damn electric mouse opened his mouth, I cracked up. “Pika Pika”, indeed. It just slayed me.
Shortly thereafter, I just dove in. Got myself a copy of Pokemon Red through totally-legitimate-and-not-at-all-downloaded-onto-my-computer means, played the hell out of it, and never looked back. From Red and Blue through Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby, I played hours upon hours of Pokemon games and watched, well, a bit of the show. I did give up on that halfway through Johto, but man… I played the hell out of the games is the point.
What I never did do was play the Pokemon Trading Card Game. I never knew anyone who actually played that beyond just collecting the cards because they looked neat, and I had no interest in getting them myself; unlike the video games, there was no way to enjoy them on my own. With having been at the very end of my teenage years when Pokemon really hit, it was hard to find peers that shared the interest. So I stuck to the Gameboy and DS games, and they were all I ever really needed.
What I did get into shortly thereafter, though, was the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game.
With YGO, it was a lot easier to find people who would engage in the game because, while dorky, it was at least not marketed SOLELY to children. It was geared towards idiots of all ages who had way too much damn money! So I had exes and buddies and cousins and all kinds of folks to amuse me on this. I was really into Yugioh for quite a while, and I would even attend both local and regional tournaments while also playing casually at home. For a stretch of my life, there was little else I really wanted to do in my free time than play god damn Yu-Gi-Oh cards. And I was not just buying the cards; I was COLLECTING the cards. I always felt that I just needed… a few… more… packs… and I would have everything I needed.
And when I did have everything, I needed, that was no longer good enough! THEN, I needed higher rarity cards, and what’s more… I NEEDED THEM IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE. You see, in English/American tournaments, ANY card released as part of the TCG version of the game (not Asian, which was OCG) was legal, and BY GOD, I was going to be the guy with three ghost rare German copies of Stardust Dragon in my deck. So I would go onto online trading sites and swap cards with folks the world over.
Eventually, YGO became too tedious even for me, and I traded the bulk of my collection for various other junk–a Wii, an Xbox 360, a 3DS, various games, a bunch of comic books–but I always left myself a bunch of my cheap, fun stuff so I could play again… so if you ever do want to, just let me know…
But that was it.
Until a few weeks ago when Andy and I were on vacation with his family.
Because, you see, while I had never gotten into the Pokemon card game, Andy’s kids both have. And they were into it hard, as children tend to be. And they needed someone besides each other to play with, so being the cool Mr. Stew that I am who at least has a rudimentary understanding of Pokemon, I was like “Okay, teach me, and I will play with you”.
It was fine. It was FINE. They taught me how to play wrong, and because of that, most of our games ended in running out of cards, but it passed the time when no one was out in the pool or doing vacation activities yet for the day. There were so many other things going on, I never thought much of it.
After vacation, Andy and I had a few hours to kill before Chad was available to record one weekend’s show, so I thought… instead of making the kids give me their cards to figure out, I will stop at Target, plunk down a small amount of money on starter decks, and I would have my own cards with which to play. Wouldn’t they think that was neat?!
In the ensuing weeks, I have spent… somewhat more than a small amount of money on Pokemon cards. I had forgotten how buying and opening packs is basically my equivalent of heroin. Actually, that’s not accurate. Packs are essentially the gateway drug–Ritalin or Adderall or whatever–that gets me to heroin, which is apparently high-rarity cards from Austria or someplace.
All of this is either balanced out or buoyed–I can’t tell yet–by the app that lets you play Pokemon cards online. You see, when you buy cards, you get a code card to get a digital pack as well, and you can build decks and buy more digital packs with prize points from winning online games. So on one hand, playing online helps me NOT want to buy “real” cards because I can get that dopamine by spending fake money online. But on the other, bigger and stronger hand, if I buy real cards, I ALSO get pretend cards, and that’s like two birds in the hand! So many birds! In this analogy, the birds are Pidgey.
So I am already at that point where I can feel myself thinking that if I just… get… a few… more… I will have all the cards I need. I am QUITE LITERALLY, chasing the dragons.
Also, the online game? It means I basically don’t do ANYTHING ELSE these days. I’m surprised I even wrote this article. Chad knows how I feel, at least.
So it turns out I have something of an addictive personality. Oddly, I have never felt this way with comics, and that makes me… sad, maybe? Comics have more value than stupid cards (I don’t mean that, cards; I love you so much), but I’ve always been able to drop individual titles or even bulk reading at all with great ease. But man, collectible card games? I am the sucker they had in mind when they invented this shit.
Is this enough words? Good. I have to get back to playing online. I’m just a few new cards away from winning more consistently, you know? Just… a few… more… cards…