I've scoured my room over the last five weeks, and I've counted one plastic cabinet, three drawers, twelve fair-sized square boxes, eight longboxes, two shoeboxes, two candy containers, and any number of miscellaneous hiding places... all full of cards.
This is my collection of Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) cards, of course. I made a serious commitment to the collectible card game (CCG) back in 2000, and I've apparently accumulated a lot of stuff over the last six years. It's probably normal, I think -- everyone has a weird tendency to collect one thing or another in the course of their lives; Mine just happens to involve playing/trading cards.
L5R isn't even the first thing that started me on the collection habit. I started playing Magic: the Gathering in 1996, and even then I had amassed a sizeable bunch of cards then. (After ten years, I still play Magic, although at a greatly reduced rate.) L5R was an object of greater dedication, however, seeing as I followed the game's storyline quite faithfully, and that I ran a great number of tournaments for the local players.
It therefore probably came as a shock to everyone when I announced that I was retiring from the game. After the initial response, I expected people to start asking me for cards and supplies and such; Instead I got more than a few questions asking me why I was packing up and moving on. (This was more than a little ironic -- while I did plan to stop playing and collecting, I wasn't looking to sever my ties to the game completely.)
For the curious people out there, I made the decision to halt my normal L5R activity because interest in the game had simply petered out at home. My brother and sister had slowly gotten off L5R over the last few years, and without their constant availability for games, I was reduced to toting along a deck to the malls every Sunday. Moreover, that was if I was lucky -- my weekends had grown much more busy since my departure from work last July.
Yes, I was largely in it for the games, I suppose. Seeing the amount of game-related hypotheses I've written in this blog so far, that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Some people were in it to construct "killer" decks and crush any opponents within reach; I was in it for the fact that I could make anything out of a bazillion components and face a different deck configuration every time I played. CCGs are heaven for game addicts that way, I suppose.
L5R, of course, was good for readers as well: The game had a unique feature that allowed players to join major tournaments in order to influence some part of an ongoing storyline. The practice therefore allowed them to guide the rise and fall of certain characters, trigger or prevent cataclysmic events, and otherwise direct a story as they saw fit. The fact that the setting was crunchy enough to allow both fan-fiction and RPG efforts was just icing on the cake.
In other words, it's a game that involves: 1) Putting things together to see if the result works, and 2) Joining a bunch of other people in writing an epic storyline. You can see why I stuck to playing and collecting it for a long time, I think.
And now I'm giving it up. I don't know whether or not that means that a certain chapter of my life is closing. It'll mean more money in my savings account, at least.
I didn't plan to give the whole thing up completely, mind you. I still expected to follow the storyline, read through future releases for the RPG, even drop by the local play areas and say hello to old acquaintances. For that matter, I still figured that I was capable of running a few tournaments over the next few months... at least until the nuances of the game's rules finally crawled out from under my feet.
It seems that the game isn't finished with me yet, though. I've recently been offered a job running the local tournaments (where I was previously an independent operator), and I find it ironic that I would receive such an offer at the point where I've started selling off cards. I've been told that I was consistently good at my job, that I had earned the respect of a lot of people, and that some of the community wanted to see me continue the work. And that's a funny thing, because all that I wanted to do in the first place was make sure that everything went right. (Tournaments are much like decks in that way: You have to fine-tune them just as well.)
In any event, however, the offer looks pretty good. It was given by people whom I've worked with in the past, and whom I trust very well. (Yes, they're probably reading this blog, too.) And it looks as though it'll still allow me to maintain a regular office job, once I do find one.
It's strange, in a way. After everything I've put into the game, suddenly the game is putting something into me.
Right now I'm in the middle of sorting the remnants of my L5R collection. There are probably thousands and thousands of the little pieces of printed cardboard, and only a tiny fraction of them will probably turn out to be worth something. The ones I've sold so far were good enough to pay for Cable Internet access, after all.
Now it's just a question of whether or not I'll be good enough for the game, and worthy enough for the community.
Hopefully it won't take me six more years to find out.