I've mentioned before that we do YuGiOh tournaments at the store every Friday night at 7pm. We have a pretty large group of regulars for those tournaments, ranging in age from about 9 up to about 45 (we have some parents who turn YuGiOh night into a family event). What I hadn't realized was just how big a thing YuGiOh night was to a lot of our players, both old and young.
"This was an awful week," one ten-year-old said with a sort of world-weariness you'd expect from someone five times older. "School started back, I got in trouble at home, my television quit working...." His voice trailed off with the implication that the litany could continue for quite a while. "This is the only good thing about the whole week!" he said with renewed vitality.
"I know what you mean," a young regular in line behind him said. "I start looking forward to this on Monday morning!" Hard to believe that a pre-teen's life is so demanding, but apparently it is... and apparently the chance to spend a few hours playing YuGiOh is their primary respite.
The conversation continued, and it became clear that several of the kids built their whole week around YuGiOh. A parent admitted that the tournaments were such a big thing to their kids that they used the tournament as an incentive for good behavior--if the kids didn't do what they were supposed to, they wouldn't get to go to Dr. No's on Friday night.
I knew that our players had a good time, which is why they kept showing up week after week--but I had never considered just how important the tournaments were. Thinking back on my childhood, I remember events that were probably insignificant to others but had tremendous impact to me; I now realize that these tournaments, which none of us think all that much about, are the sort of moments that many of these kids are going to remember for years and years to come. It's not the game itself, it's not the store itself--it's the magic of the moment, the excitement of being with a group of people who enjoy the same thing, the entertainment of spending three or four hours playing a game with kids like you and with adults who don't think there's anything odd about the game that you're playing.
Sometimes we do Very Good Things and don't even know it.