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May 22nd
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Spellbound

ae3 game1Mythic Games invites wizards of all ages to gather and compete

On a Friday evening in Downtown Santa Cruz, a battle between wizards is taking place. Utilizing magical spells, items, and fantastical creatures, these wizards—known here as “planeswalkers”—wield wit as a weapon and brandish brainpower as brawn.

The venue is Mythic Games on River Street, the event is “Friday Night Magic,” and the game is Magic: The Gathering. With an emphasis on “gathering,” the event encourages the participation of younger players by offering kids under the age of 16 the opportunity to play for free.

“They know they’re going to lose to the older players, but they still want to play, and they learn from playing the older players,” says shop owner Reuben Timineri about the weekly event, which is just one of the ways the shop is seeking to build a community of game lovers.

Timineri, who took over Mythic Games at the beginning of March, has been playing role-playing games, strategy games, and board games as far back as he can remember. He first came to Santa Cruz because he wanted to open up a game store. “I was looking for opportunities, and this place became for sale, and it seemed like just what I was looking for,” he says.

Since Timineri took over, Mythic Games has expanded from a Magic: The Gathering-only shop to include some board games, role-playing games, and miniatures games, like Warhammer and Dungeons & Dragons, and has begun hosting a number of events in order to get locals involved. But the most noticeable change is the recent expansion into an adjacent space, which means more room for game play.

“The expansion was something that we always wanted; more play space means more players for events, and we can hold bigger tournaments,” says employee Peter Schafer, one of the shop’s original founders.

“We had a group of friends that kind of organized in my garage for awhile,” says Schafer. “We would play Magic every Friday … and then one summer we were just kind of casually talking about having a store in Santa Cruz. We just wanted a place to hang out, and so a group of three of us got together and started up about a year-and-a-half ago.”

What began as a group of friends in a garage is now a small but passionate community. “When you have a good community of people playing any game, it just makes it that much better,” says Timineri. “And I definitely prefer the in-person play as opposed to online play; you have communities of people playing online games, but it’s not the same thing—you’re not engaging on a personal level.”

Casey Ferraro, 12, and Jack Heavey, 14, knew each other from school when they started coming to Mythic Games around the end of last summer, but not as well as they know each other now. Face-to-face gameplay has also enabled them get to know players outside of their own age bracket.

“We play with a bunch of different people,” says Ferraro, who has been playing since about age 10. “If you play in a tournament, sometimes you’ll play against people who are younger than you, sometimes you’ll play against people who are really old; it’s really diverse in age.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool because you get to meet a bunch of different kinds of people, and they all have different backgrounds, so it’s a pretty cool community,” adds Heavey, who has been playing since about age “7 or 8.”

In addition to the social benefits, the games challenge players to put their brain to the test. “You have to exercise analytic thinking skills like math and reading,” says Timineri.

“You have to think—if you’re not thinking, you’re not winning,” says Erik Brady, 21, a student at San Jose State University. Brady has been playing Magic: The Gathering for only about 10 months, but recently finished third in a tournament of about 220 participants—narrowly missing a spot on the professional tour. According to Schafer, among the roughly 400 players in the world that are in the pro tour, Santa Cruz usually has one player every season that qualifies.

That said, “It’s more of a social thing than a competitive thing,” says Brady. “I’ve met so many friends here.”

And that, above all, is what matters most to Timineri. “I say very often the most important thing to me is that people are down here having fun,” he says. “You can just see how much fun everyone’s having, and how much they’re enjoying their hobby.” 

Mythic Games is located at 149 S. River St., Santa Cruz. Call 600-7451 or visit gomythic.com.

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