Within the confines of a shadowy tower, secreted far away from common eye or ear, there was a dimly lit room. The flickering of the candles showed an ornate black oak table, immaculately varnished. Upon the edges exquisite gold filigree lined this furniture, fit for any lord within the realm. At this table sat a man, lost in thought, meticulously picking through his vast mind and considering each idea that came through it. He looked to the seat across from him. Upon it lay a mystical scroll. Penned upon the parchment, with a magical quill, there was a tumultuous splotch. It had been the creation of several mystical pigments, which allowed it to move across the scroll like a modern Rorschach test. It could communicate by arranging itself into various symbols, and others to show emotion that would belie common ink. The thinking man considered the scroll, they had been together since he was but a child, always along with him did this scroll go.
The man was of bilious humours, as usual their third member was late.
The door soon opened and through it walked a man cloaked in mystic symbols, his clothes denoting him as a conjuror. He took off his fancily tailored cloak and sat down at the third seat. All were now present.
"You're late" the thinking man stated.
The sorcerer pushed back his hood, revealing a corpulent bronzed face, adorned with short, dark hair. "I apologize, I was just commiserating with the secret cabal in the halls of Ry'Son."
"We must discuss the state of our kingdom. The Southern Region of K'Ryu. Though we had been able to stage lucrative jousts, pocketing much of the coin for ourselves, our vaults are almost empty. In our current state, we could not even afford to bring over the skilled knights of the far east." stated the thinker.
The ensorcelled ink moved into the shape known for annoyance and slight anger.
The kingdom was known around the land as an area for the knights to both learn, and test themselves against one another. There was also the Guild of the Tinkerers. Individuals lauded as being masters of crafting the weapons for the knights. Filling out the population were many individuals who merely lived around the kingdom to talk amongst themselves.
"Yes I agree, generally we take most of the money raised for the jousts, paying a pittance to both the knights and the owner of the pitch. It is not enough though, as my coin has run low" replied the mage.
The man who could oft be lost in thought replied angrily "If you could ever quit the consumption of those blasted sandwiches we would have much more currency!"
The magical man's face curled into a sneer as spittle began to appear upon his dry, cracked lips. "I WILL NOT BE DENIED MY COMFORTS!" he shouted, pounding his hands upon the table.
He then thought of the sandwiches, made of succulent roast pork, and cloaked with an glorious savory sauce, placed between two pieces of hallowed bread. Merely thinking of the sandwiches brought him almost to climax.
The table, being large and sturdy did not shake, nor consider tumbling over. The robed individual slumped back into his seat, exhausted. He was not used to using his engorged form in such rigorous activity. "I assume you have a plan?" the man wheezed.
The other man pondered for a moment, and stated "We need more money from the people. Our realm has lately been full of young knights, who, learning from an inferior school, have been asking such basic questions that it has driven most of the older knights away. And let us not speak of the general population. They are scum that have become as like Hellbeasts across the land. They delight in nothing more than criticizing our every action, and have become aware of our profits upon the jousts. I suggest we begin to tax the populace.'
The ink upon the scroll moved into the shape known to both as one of extreme greed.
"NO." The wizard shouted. "Attempting to tax this rabble shall only make them complain more! They already hurl so many messages of aggression, I fear were we to attempt to have them pay they would raise such a clamor that it would make anyone guard their purse."
The thinker knew that his magical friend was correct. He would have to consider another way to wrest the coin from the people of the kingdom. Suddenly an idea came to mind. "We shall announce that we are closing the kingdom" he said evilly.
The scroll looked quizzical, as did the magician.
"If we close our coffers will be completely bare!"
"No, no, you stupid fat idiot. We won't actually close, we just want the people to think that we are going to. Asking someone to pay for something they already have is difficult. State that you are unable to no longer pay for upkeep and maintenance and they inexplicably will become more generous"
The pudgy face of the wizard slowly, but surely, began to process what the man had said. He then grinned. "We must think of a plan" he said in the most devious of ways.
"We shall upon the town board, post an announcement that the kingdom will be laid waste in but a mere thirty days. It shall be cryptic and without explanation."
"And then we charge them?"
"No, we provide no answers, allowing the townsfolk to become upset and begin offering to help in anyway they can."
"What of Zacharia the scribe, or Perthepolis the enforcer? They are two of our most prized generals, what of them?"
"We tell them nothing, allow them to be just as blindsided as the rest. Then we can laugh at their attempts to quell the populace."
The sorcerer thought for a second. "What of the short man? He could open the gates of Ry'Son to all the common folk. What do we then?"
The thinking man laughed "We shall treat them as we always treat them, with pure contempt. Should anybody attempt to say anything out of line, we shall bar them from the hall of Ry'Son."
"What of the rest of the plan?"
"Patch of ink, is your spy network still intact?"
The scroll moved its pigment to state in the affirmative.
"Good, we shall send an electronic missive where we shall post a bloated sum of what it costs to maintain the kingdom."
The wizard smiled "We shall say it costs twice, NAY THRICE, the actual cost."
"Then, after this missive has been posted, we shall let the populace consider things for a time. Then ink, you shall have one of your spies respond to our missive stating that they can assist with maintaining the kingdom for a mere pittance. Then oh how the people will rejoice, for once again they will be able to have discourse with one another. Then, and ONLY then, do we ask for assistance with this endeavor."
"They will donate in droves! And then, perhaps, we have them pay to even remain in the kingdom!" the mage chortled uncontrollably, his rubenesque frame jiggling as he did so.
It was decided, this would be their plan of action. The ponderer picked up his scroll, and he and the magic man left the room.
Last week my M:TG community buried one of our own. Sam Sanders was in an accident on some road in Greer, Arizona. The details get iffy after this. Hows and whys got lost amongst the shock and tears of the sudden passing. It seems unfortunately appropriate that my best friend and I found out in the middle of a tournament. I met him playing competitively, I traveled with him to play competitively, and we even talked shit to each other competitively. This red headed bastard passed away inside a vehicle hundreds of miles away from all the people that cared for him. His death dragged away the last bit of innocence we had. Before this my community could measure life before and after our store closed. Now our history is decidedly marked as before Sam’s death and after. Well…fuck. With Evo a few days away some of you are going ask why talk about an M:TG player in the odd corner of El Paso/Las Cruces. This is an easy answer: because the last place you want to get reacquainted with people is at a funeral.
In two days time, the biggest fighting game tournament on the damn planet will get started. A lot of people are going to get caught in the excitement of the sports storylines. Infiltration winning a second time would be something cool; Chris G winning the big one even though he doesn’t care is also something; Mad KoF vs Bala runback is up there with the last two. The real story behind Evo is the amount of friendships that it has kept alive. For years there have been people who attend Evo exclusively to hang out with online friends or get games in in the “Bring your own console (BYOC)” area with the other three guys that play the same game. This part of Evo has gotten downplayed over the last few years. While it is important for the hobby to crown a champion, it is just as important to keep those bonds alive. Some travel for glory, some travel for competition, some travel to learn and some travel just to meet up with Sam Sanders again.
We get to hear a lot of stories about these games. Whether it is TO drama, player drama, it is always some type of drama. We rarely talk about how powerful we are as a small group. Emotions are intensified with small group. Our drama sometimes is larger because it goes through a lot of people so quickly. Nobody fucks up in this community without a majority of it knowing. Similarly when we laugh, we are laughing just as hard. Our experiences are increased a thousand fold, an unknown maestro directing our energies in different ways simultaneously. We react explosively, a symphony whose sections are playing different parts, rhythms, dynamics which sometimes in time and tune. We are intense.
These amplified emotions make each member’s part that much heightened. When Sam died, we all knew which instrument was gone forever. There was no more mean shit talking, no more great player and no more light hearted laughter. That’s one L we hold way to close to our chest and too heavy on our arms. Because it wasn’t just that he did all that. It’s that part of the M:TG community which greeted me when I came to the U.S., was there when I graduated high school, took me on my first road trip, titty bar, got me drunk on my 21st, and when was there to make the end of one shitty week that much better is gone for good. Sam wasn’t there for some of those, but the community was.
Losing elements of that community just makes the sound much smaller. The community doesn’t need an incentive to help its members, we just do. When one of our own lost his mother, we were there. When one of our own had a bad break up, we were there. When my wife had brain surgery, they were there. Tough time finding a job, house set on fire, moving to a new place, or just having a really shitty day, and we’ll be there.
Sometimes we don’t make that connection. There are times where the fighting game portion gets overshadowed by the community part. Nothing has ever stopped time or life from happening. So when life happens, it happens when you’re with a group of people who share something with you; whether slinging cards or throwing hadoukens. When life happens, this community will have your back. These games rotate faster than you realize. Four years ago Daigo won Vanilla SF4, two years before that Dreamcasts were an Evo console and longer than that it was just a bunch of friends in some arcades. Throughout each of those changes, the friendships have endured, the community endured. From time to time the maestro keeps us in line and we all play in unison. The rest of the time we argue about who is offkey, offtime, playing the wrong piece, the wrong game or playing on the wrong console.
While you’re at Evo, say hi to somebody. Go to the BYOC section and play some games. We are single handedly one of the easiest communities to get into: all you need to say is “Can I get next?” Whether or not you endure is dependent on you. I won’t make any promises about the likability of anybody in your local community. A lot of us aren’t perfect, some of us are scumbag and some are insufferable twats. While a few assholes exist, as a whole we are helpful and incredibly tight. If you want to learn we will help and when you are having a shitty day we will help some more. Hang out with your local crew and do something dumb, greet some friends and make some memories; find the people for your character’s subforum and kick it with them, talk some shit, make a bet or two. Strengthen the bonds that keep us together. Video game media will focus on the champions but hardly ever on the real winners. It will never talk about those friends that said hi to each other again, sitting down for games with the guy you haven’t seen since 05.
There’s more to Sam’s death than just telling people to make connections. To some extent I feel a bit of survivor’s guilt: the man was such a positive person that my faults are amplified. I could be a better person but I fail. But while you walk through Evo, don’t miss a chance to just hang out. My community had to lose Sam in a fucked up way. The OG SRK community had to lose Dasrik and MummyB. I can put some damn good money on the fact that nobody regrets those friendships…even if they lead to an eventual loss. My M:TG got a reality check: we are not letting ourselves get out of touch anymore. Don't go out of touch: Go play, connect, have fun, get mad, make friendships, make friendships survive...because when the community grows and endures, the symphony plays louder.
Samuel Patrick Sanders, this one's for you.