In college, I was taking yet another psychology class. A segment of the class discussed relationships and friendships. One topic included a lengthy study on the most influential factors pertaining to friendships. There were four. The class stuck in my brain. My reaction to the four was met with harsh skepticism. Looking back on that moment, I believe it was due to my rebellious nature at the time of believing the world should work on principles. Those principles were not realistic. The ones of bosses should be nice to their employees, I should get paid fairly for my work, and people should treat each other with kindness. Freshman ideology. As a somewhat wiser man, the four factors are realistic. Various points in my life of gaining or losing friends can be attributed to those factors. Deep down inside a little bit of the freshman still exists and wishes my relationships didn’t revolve around such aspects. The old man part of me doesn’t look at them the same. Instead, I believe them to be more like the four most influential barriers to forming friendships. People simply allow outside influences to hinder a relationship. The four most influential barriers were money, location, time, and common interests.
It isn’t everything, but it sure as heck influences friendships. After my sophomore year, I decided to stay and take classes during the summer. I worked some and took classes. I had a lot of fun and spent more money than I should have. Not a whole lot of people stick around my college in those warm months. As time went on, I got to be close to a couple guys I was living with at the time. It was a good summer. Come fall, I made the decision to halt the fun and put a clamp on the wallet. The friends I had made liked doing things. Expensive things. Stuff I couldn’t afford. They continued to invite me for a while to their extravagant expeditions. I began turning them down because I couldn’t afford to go. Heck, down hill skiing was out of my price range. As time went on, I got invited a little less and we hung out a little less. At the time, I may have held a little resentment; now, not so much. It would have been selfish of myself to begrudge somebody just for the fact they could afford to go skiing or a Las Vegas trip. Reflecting on the friendships, I could have also made more of an effort to find activities I could afford and invited them to those functions.
In Magic, money can be influential in the friendships we form. A new player has little chance of keeping up with somebody who has been collecting since 1993. The power level gap will be just tremendous. Sleight of Mind will never compare to Ancestral Recall. Nothing will. As a Magic confession, I do find it hard to play with new players when my decks outclass their one deck. It can be a strain to make it an equal battlefield for both of us. All of us have been the new player. When I first learned, I was playing against a person who had all the power cards with almost a power nine. He would have had a full set but his mom washed his pants containing a Black Lotus in one of the pockets. I bought some cards to make my own decks. He constantly beat me. I could tell he felt a little bored with me. I was like a harmless fruit fly, but annoying. If I could have met his challenge, maybe things would have been different.
Keeping up with Magic friends who want to constantly draft or play nothing but standard can be challenging. It can be an incredible amount of fun. It can also get incredibly expensive. I have to laugh at moments during the Lorwyn Block. After a couple of games against my black/green elves, acquaintances would wonder why I wasn’t playing with Mutavault or Thoughtseize. I would reply I couldn’t afford it. Some people nodded, others gave me strange looks. The others seemed to not understand. It seemed somehow alien to them. Sometimes I wonder if people just don’t understand the aspects of being poor. I have friends that are like that. Car breaks down. I complain about fixing it. They ask me why I just don’t buy a new car? My wife and I get a good chuckle out of it. Sure, let’s just buy a new car. Why didn’t we think of such a concept?
Location, Location, Location
Seinfeld comes to mind when I think of location. I remember watching some special with Jerry Seinfeld. During the interview, Jerry mentioned the subtle punch line of the show revolved around the people in it were friends merely because of their proximity to one another. It was the joke. Under normal circumstances, Jerry would have never been a friend with somebody like Kramer. The thought amuses me. It makes me reflect on the numerous relationships I have had surrounding this aspect. I will admit I had friends only for the reason I was a roommate, worked, or in club with them. It amuses me for the fact I may have never been a friend with any of them if it weren’t for proximity. Looking back, it doesn’t exactly seem like a healthy basis for forming friendships.
Magic players are stuck in a similar circumstance. We want to play. We are also stuck playing with people in our vicinity. Admit it, some we like, others we don’t. In the end, games are played because we want to play. Playing devil’s advocate, location isn’t the worst thing in the world. Many of my friendships started with my close proximity to them. If it weren’t for this reason, I would have failed to make those bonds. I feel I would be short sighted not to appreciate the fact. I suppose Kramers will always exist in every playgroup. Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t be friends with the Kramers. I don’t think this means we should shrug off those relationships.
Somehow, I fathom some formula should exist for this section. Time + Person X = Friendship. It almost makes me think of couples getting married for the sole reason they have spent a certain amount of time together. Time + Relationship = Marriage. Warning, dangerous territory. Anyway, many relationships are built upon time. It makes sense. Why should a person be a friend with somebody who doesn’t spend any time with them? My personal opinion, it matters and it doesn’t matter. I have friends I haven’t seen in eons and I am still very good friends with. It can be years before I see them again. When I do, time seems very insignificant. The bonds are still as strong as they were before.
Time again for a Magic tangent. Making friends in Magic can be difficult. Especially, when time is considered. Every time I have moved to a new location, making Magic acquaintances reminds me of Gorillas in the Mists. The movie is about Dian Fossey. She was scientist who went to Africa to study mountain gorillas. The reason I bring it up because in order to be accepted by the gorillas, she had to spent a large amount of time within the group. It took a long time before she was accepted as one of them. She didn’t do anything particularly exceptional. She just spent a very large amount of time among them. I don’t think people or any other animals are much different. The more time is spent within the group the more a person will be considered part of the pack.
What is the point? If a person wants to make friends, a person has to spend a certain amount of time with other people. I think people believe too much their actions will facilitate friendships. Nope. Sure, being nice and etc. will help, but certain people just need time. I find it disheartening when I notice players getting upset at their hard work at friendships falling flat. Honestly, don’t take it personally. People are gorillas. Spend enough time around them, don’t be a jerk, and a person will soon have friends. I make a point at times to show up at an FNM for this simple aspect. I don’t have time for the tournament or draft, but I make sure I make an appearance. It may not be long. The point is I was seen. I did the same thing in college. During college, I made sure to make an appearance at a party or two for a little bit. Not long, just enough to be seen to keep the status quo. It gave the illusion of spending time with people.
Shocker, I know. The sad part is that it was fourth on the list. Instead, I want to talk about a somewhat relevant pet peeve of mine. I get annoyed when people use the term friend loosely. A certain amount of people I know have like a billions friends. Friends, really? A true friend to me is someone who will be there when I need them. I call it the three o’clock in the morning test. If I called a real friend at such a time, they would drop everything to help me out. To me, that is a real friend. Acquaintances are people I know. I feel like too many are afraid of admitting certain people are acquaintances. I have a ton. Nothing wrong with this in my book. I have a lot of acquaintances at work, but I don’t consider them my friends. They are acquaintances. Why distort the fact? The third category is what I refer to as brothers/sisters in a sort a fraternity/sorority aspect. I consider Magic players as my brothers/sisters. They aren’t necessarily an acquaintance or a friend. They are my brothers or sisters. Military personnel fit keenly in this category. It doesn’t matter if two soldiers have failed to meet each or have anything in common. Soldiers are connected by a common thread. They are brothers/sisters. They are comrades in arms. One of the reasons I find Magic so cool. In Florida, I can go to a store and sit down to play a game with somebody I don’t even know. Awesome.
My biggest problem with common interests is some people rely on it too much as a crutch. I joke sometimes if it wasn’t for sports, guys wouldn’t be able to talk to one another. If I don’t talk about sports, a conversation will be hard pressed to find. How’s it going? Fine. The weather is nice today isn’t it? Yup. Did you catch the game last night? Yack, yack, yack, yack… Many professions are like this as well. Farmers in particular can be bad at chit-chatting with unless I bring up farm talk. Bring up farm talk, I can sit there and chat with a good old American worker all day. I feel like this is a dangerous trap to fall into. Magic players are similar. Talking about Magic can sometimes be the only way to converse with my brethren. Fine, I guess, but there are just so many other things in life to talk about.
Friends Forever and Ever
Forming relationships are integral part of life and many facets impact the strength of those bonds. It is one the reasons we spend time on the forums as people. Human beings by nature want to connect to others and make friends. The study itself included many other variables on friendships. Each had an influence on the relationships between people. However, the four above had the most impact on any given relationship. In any case, I hope everyone can find the kind of healthy relationships they are searching for and maintain them for years to come. Hopefully, those barriers will not be influential in the relationships we form in this game called Magic.