Tuesday, August 30, 2011
My Brief OkCupid Affair With a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player
This story sounds nice. It is satire, about a boy enjoying the company of a boy because he's a nerd (like so many of us!) that he met online. But that's the point: Judging people on shallow stuff is human nature, but the magic and power of online interaction is that you can connect with really awesome people, regardless of where they live. One person's Magic is another person's fingernail biting, and online you can find people that you have a lot in common with.
Earlier this month, I came home drunk and made a Google+ profile. What the hell, I thought. I'm busy, I'm a gamer, and everybody's doing it. Sure, I'd heard some stories, but what was the worst that could happen?
Two weeks into my Google+ experiment, it had broken me down. It was like the online equivalent to hanging out with the coolest people in the world. Every time I signed on, I was hit by a barrage of awesome messages. "Check out this cool game idea." Or "I really liked your last post, let me tell you my thoughts on that." So when I saw an IM from a guy named Jon that said, "You should talk with me :)" I was relieved. He seemed normal. I gave him my name. "Google away," I said. Then dinner was ready, and I signed off without remembering to do the same.
We met for a drink later that week. Jon was thin and tall, dressed in a hedge fund uniform with pale skin and pierced ears. We started talking about normal stuff—family, work, college. I told him my brother was a gamer. And then he casually mentioned that he played Magic: The Gathering when he was younger.
"Actually," he paused. "I'm the world champion."
I laughed. Oh that's a funny joke! I thought. This guy is funny! But the earnest look on his face told me he wasn't kidding.
I gulped my beer and thought about Magic, that strategic collectible card game involving wizards and spells and other detailed geekery. I played Magic in high school and loved it. Haven't played in years but I still remember the good times. But before I could dig deeper, we had to go. Jon had bought us tickets for a one-man show based on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's life story. It was awesome because not every guy you meet is that open to new experiences. Most just want to go to some dumb movie remake.
The next day I Googled my date and a wealth of information flowed into my browser. A Wikipedia page! Competition videos! Fanboy forums comparing him to Chuck Norris! This guy isn't just some professional who dabbled in card games at a tender age. He's Jon motherfucking Finkel, the man who is so widely revered in the game of Magic that he's been immortalized in his own playing card.
Just like you're obligated to mention you're divorced or have a kid in your online profile, shouldn't someone also be required to disclose any indisputably geeky world championship titles? But maybe it was a long time ago? We met for round two later that week.
At dinner I got straight down to it. Did he still play? "Yes." Awesome! How often? "I'm preparing for a tournament this weekend." Awesome! Who did he hang out with? "I've met all my best friends through Magic." Awesome! I smiled and nodded and listened. Eventually I even felt a little bit bad that I didn't know anywhere near as much about the game as he did. Here was a guy who had dedicated a good chunk of his life to mastering Magic, on a date with a guy who barely figured out how to use a Blastoderm effectively. This is what happens, I thought, when you leave things out of your online profile.
I later found out that Jon infiltrated his way into dates with at least two other people I sort of know, including one of my co-workers. Cool! I didn't know those people liked magic too! This could happen to you. You'll think you've found a normal bearded guy with a job, only to end up sharing goat cheese with a guy who takes you to a one-man show based on Jeffrey Dahmer's life story. What a cool twist of fate! I wish every date was so interesting.
Maybe I'm a weirdo for calling it that way. Maybe I should be more shallow and focus on petty things like my own personal interests, uber alles. I'll own that. But there's a larger point here: that judging people on shallow stuff is human nature; one person's Magic is another person's fingernail biting, or sports obsession, or verbal tic. No online dating profile in the world is comprehensive enough to highlight every person's peccadillo, or anticipate the inane biases that each of us lugs around. There's no snapshot in the world that can account for our snap judgments. That's why you should be open minded to new experiences.
So what did I learn? Don't Google the shit out of your next online date. You might meet someone interesting!
If you don't get the joke of this post, DO use the power of Google. Cheers!