Yu-gi-oh!: Not just a kids game?

Orlando Santiago


Yu-gi-oh!, The Trading Card Game. One of many Japanese imports that has caught the imagination and adoration of American kids everywhere. The excitement of brand new card releases, the glory of pulling that exclusive Ultra-Rare from a newly open pack, the desire to compete in the next tournament and win it all, fuels a desire that few, if any Japanese import has ever had. But it's not just kids that are swept up in this card collecting craze. Even I have the fever to grab the next new pack and make the best deck ever, to show the dueling world that I can be the best duelist ever. But I'm not like all the other kids buying every card in sight. In fact, I'm not even a kid. I'm actually 32 years old.

You heard it right, I'm 32. When adults my age are planning for early retirement and pulling on their hair about how they are going to make their next mortgage payment, there I am, collecting, trading, and building the next great dueling deck. What am I doing? Aren't I too old for this? Aren't I embarrassed when I go to the counter with 5 or 6 booster packs, hoping the cashier has change for a $50? I should be, but I'm really not. I've always been a kid at heart. I have a big comic book collection, and went to college to learn traditional and computer animation. In fact, that's how I got started with YU-GI-OH! It was the cartoon. I was real impressed with the anime. See, as a child, I saw all of the old amine shows, even before it was called anime. Starblazers, Robotech, and Voltron were the early introductions of this new artform to America, and all throughout my teens and young adulthood, I kept watching every new Japanese import with enthusiasm. Akira, Ghosts in the Shell, Vampire Hunter D, and then, YU-GI-OH!

When I saw the cartoon for the first time, I thought to myself, "WOW, I wish I had this when I was a kid!". The cartoon was real impressive, the art was spectacular and the concept was so unlike any American cartoon. And then I found out that there was a card-collecting game directly attached to this cartoon, meaning that any kid in the world could relive the battles that they saw on the show, own the very same card that their favorite character used. In essence, the child becomes that very character. It offered an interaction with the show that was totally unheard of before. I thought it was great. I would have loved to have a card-collecting game like this in the 1980's. But alas, the time had passed, and I was just too old to be playing a "children's" game. But all that changed one day. In an instant, I was caught up in the excitement of collecting these cards and found myself interacting with kids a third, a quarter my age, and they thought it was totally fine. The reason that I found myself being carried away with YU-GI-OH! was because of one event that changed my life forever. It was the birth of my first-bon son.

My son, Cameron. A chip right off the old block. If I didn't have any children, I would have never got even 1 card. My son Cameron LOVES YU-GI-OH!. At the age of 4, he was watching the cartoon every Saturday, and never missed an episode. He would wake me out of a sound sleep and yell "DADDY!! YU-GI-OH! is on!! Come watch it with me!!" I'd wipe the sleep from my eyes, stumble to the television, and Cameron and I would share a bowl of cereal, and watch Yugi Moto save the world. One morning, weeks before his 5th birthday, my son turned to me and said, "Dad, I know what I want for my birthday. I want YU-GI-OH! cards." So like a good parent, I honored his request and bought him his first packs. Then I thought, "Well, if he ever is going to be in one of these tournaments one day, he's going to need more cards." That's how it usually starts doesn't it? First you buy one, then some more, then some more. Eventually you have a collection and wonder how it got so big. But it's all been worth it.

Now, Cameron, age 7, can duel with the best of them. I was able to build him a real impressive Warrior-themed deck, while I duel against him with a Zombie-themed deck. (NOTE: if you want to see the decks, they are posted on the ADVANCED DECKS format under the titles "LET SLIP THE DOGS OF WAR and RETURN OF THE DEAD EARTH) I am so impressed with his level of skill. Not only can he come up with some killer combos, his reading, math and comprehension skills are improving every time he plays. Since parts of the game requires mathematical skills (for calculating life points and such) and reading (to properly execute effects and thing like that), he's learning every game. I can't complain about a game that's fun, and it turns out, educational at the same time. Not bad for a "kid's" game.

I am so glad that this is something that we can share together. When he grows up, he'll have fond memories of his childhood, enjoying quality time with his father, showing him that it's OK to have fun as an adult, and to cherish every moment with each other. How can a parent have any complaints with that. I have two more sons, Julian and Christian, fraternal twins, that are itching to learn to play YU-GI-OH! with their old man. I'm going to have a family of duelists!!! And to be honest, I'm not ashamed at all about being a fan of this card game. I look at it like this: Kids didn't create this game, Adults did. Kids don't sell this game, Adults do. This is something I can share with my boys, and be proud of them when they master it. I plan to take my son to the next big tournament when it hits Philadelphia next year. I will be by my son, cheering his success, consoling him when he loses, and if there isn't a age limit, maybe I'll be dueling too. Wouldn't it be cool in the finals if father and son go head to head for the title? Could happen you know. Until then, you'll see me at the counter, 5 booster pack in one hand, a $50 in the other, and a smile on my face.

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