Thank you for taking the time to read the first of many of my weekly posts titled, Eternal Optimist. I am going to dive in to topics that many gaming articles tend to ignore – health and taking care of your mind/body. This is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart and since I’ve been gaming competitively on and off for most of my life, I feel like I have a resume of improving myself that I wanted to share with others. Keep in mind that I am not by any means saying I’m some sort of perfect individual, but I hope that my experiences and anecdotes resonate with you and potentially INSPIRE you to make some changes – no matter how small.
First off, I want to share a little of my background. I grew up in a small coastal town in Oregon and loved gaming from the get go. My first experience was walking into a local game store at the age of about 12 and deciding to play in my first Friday Night Magic. I bought a sealed deck (at the time they were 60 card, 5 color decks) and went 0-5 (0-10). I was fascinated with the decks my opponents were playing and didn’t even win a match until about a month in. This didn’t deter me as I increased my collection and improved my play – eventually winning my first FNM about 6 months later with a burn deck during the Kamigawa era (splicing a Glacial Ray onto a Lava Spike sometimes gets there!).
Years went by and I played competitively at different games – World of Warcraft, Disc Golf, debate team, Starcraft anything I could sink my competitive claws into I was there. Years went by and MTG fell by the wayside. That was, until I was in college at Oregon State and my roommate, and best friend, asked me as I was reminiscing one day about playing MTG, “what is stopping you from starting back up and making the Pro Tour?”
I stopped. Well, nothing really. We talked a bit about it and I, in a roundabout way, decided that I was going to go for it.
What does, “going for it” really mean? Here is where the first lesson comes in and it’s a mistake I see too many players make. When I decided I was going to make the Pro Tour there was no other option. I was obsessed. I practiced 8-10 hours a day on Magic Online, thought about MTG basically at all times, grew away from friends, ignored my health, let my studies slip, and poured my soul into the game. My practice eventually culminated into 13-0’ing a 900-person PTQ and my dreams were fulfilled. I finally made it. After winning that last match my adrenaline wouldn’t stop, I threw up, and had one of the worst migraines I have ever experienced. I slept for 16 hours afterwards and woke up glowing. I MADE IT.
I would argue that the most solid card player can do what I did if they followed that model. Is that healthy? Is that something you really want to put yourself through? I did, and I don’t regret a thing about it. This, in a nutshell, is why I am doing a column about physical and mental wellness. I want to explore what we can do different, as gamers, to increase our potential to reach our goals while not foregoing ourselves. Any fine player can spike a PTQ after practicing a limited format like it’s your full-time job. But I would argue that there is a better, healthier way I could have gone about that. I want to share my thoughts, experiences, and ideas with you. We’re going to explore ideas including, tilt, health, positivity, tournament preparation, burnout, balance, and so many other things. We’re going to explore exercises, both mental and physical, to help you perform at the highest level whether gaming at your local game store or your computer desk. I’ll be using resources from two personal trainers who are close to me, HammerheartSC.com and tgrosspersonaltraining.com. I have a Public Health degree with a focus on mental health, so YOU BET we’ll be diving deep into topics relevant to my collegiate studies.
I sincerely hope that you join me on this journey. It’s going to be a different one, and I know that we won’t agree on everything. My ultimate goal with this is to get you thinking about you, your health, and what it takes to take your game to the next level.
“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we will not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” -Buddha
Mitch “Magikarp” Gross