Game Day For Jersey Shore’s “Magical” Community

Gamers flock to local card stores to play in casual matches or tournaments. (Photo courtesy Nova Games)

  BRICK – It’s a Wednesday, and 27 duelists from around the region are facing off to determine who will be champion.

  Many are strangers, some are long-time friends, others even come from the same family. That night they all had something in common – playing their favorite trading card game.

  They were all in a Brick hobby shop’s weekly Yu-Gi-Oh tournament. Decks were heard shuffling, strategies were thrown around. Cheerful laughter and banter rung around the tables after the announcer gave all the COVID hygiene announcements.

  Above all the cheers of victory and groans of defeat, something else stood out – a father asking his son if he had fun.

  Walter Ward, 51, started playing the game around the end of 2003 when it became popular here in the United States. He remembered that his son, who primarily was into Pokemon, developed an interest in Yu-Gi-Oh when the anime was released for western audiences.

  “I got into the game with my son,” said Ward. “I learned how to play with him.”

  He believes that the stores where the trading card community thrives are great places to meet new people and feel welcomed no matter a person’s background. Also, part of the fun is the competitiveness that these games promote.

  The impact of the trading card scene spans worldwide, and has shuffled around the Jersey shore for decades. Magic the Gathering was the first of its kind, started in 1993 and going strong today. It incorporates fantasy worlds similar to Dungeons & Dragons. Pokemon is another popular one, where players collect and duel with “pocket monsters,” just like in the show. Many other licensed properties, from Star Wars to My Little Pony, have been adapted to card games.

  Multiple stores around our county give access to enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds to express their hobbies by trading, collecting, building decks, and then challenging each other with a healthy dose of competitiveness and the occasional saltiness.

  Trading card games also help to improve a good bit of tactical thinking, math, and imagination skills due to their spectacular art.

  Joseph Coppinger, 22, who started playing when he was 10 years old, shared how he was enamored by how cool the monster cards looked, and that everyone can play their own deck.

  When it comes to beginners starting out in the game, Coppinger and Ward share similar advice for new players. When newcomers find something that they like and want to play with, they should stick with it and take the steps until they learn how to play it with ease.

  Tournament events provided by the local game stores are the perfect spot for beginners to get a grasp on the game, Cottinger said. During those events, they will be able to see players using different decks and tactics, as well as meet new people. Most stores post their gaming schedule online or in the shop.

  A piece of advice he also gives out to parents who might have kids that are interested in the game: “Let them go to events and talk to people… let them have fun,” said Cottinger.

  Just like Ward enjoys spending quality father-son time with his boy while playing Yu-Gi-Oh!, he suggests that this can be a great way for parents to get involved with their kids.

And while it might be a challenge at the very start of a person’s dueling journey due to a learning curve, the trading card scene here at the shore has created a close-knit community where everyone is welcome.