Inspiration – Magic: The Gathering

Note: This inspirational entry is way outlandish, and at the far end of what I envision the form of the final field guide. Wildlife Treasury is closer to what I imagine this project to entail, both in terms of form factor and content. These posts are an attempt to pull back the curtain on the design process.


Magic: The Gathering (or MTG or simply Magic) is a turn–by–turn card–based game where players face each other, draw cards, and try to kill their opponent by causing damage. Each player assembles a deck composed of spells, artifacts, creatures, and land cards (with different land types). New cards are continually produced and released, creating a complex ecosystem of collectors and players, with detailed rule systems.

If this sounds geeky and complicated, it is.


Ok. So I was (am) a bit of a nerd/geek growing up. And while I used to collect baseball cards, they just sort of sat there. While collecting things connects to a deep part of my wanting to complete things (this this project itself and my inspiration on Wildlife Treasury), baseball cards didn’t always feel useful.

So enter Magic, where you could put together a deck and face off against people; create customized decks and quickly experiment on gameplay; and create deeper backstories to these illustrated cards. I also played Dungeons and Dragons and Mechwarrior. Magic took less time and provided a more casual gameplay environment.

Like I said, I was (am) a bit of a nerd/geek.

The world of Magic is sprawling, and while the rules seem complicated, they are fairly simple once you play a few times (have you every tried to explain the rules of Baseball, Euchre, or Bridge to someone?). These simple rules create deep complexity and variation, much like cities themselves.

Points of Inspiration

  • Subscription and expansion sets allow growth and extension. Since I’m not going to get all parts of street furniture and urban typologies published on the first pass, this is a useful conceit.
  • Iterative play: there are a lot of gameplay options. A lot. Which increases complexity but allows for customization.
  • Beauty: some of the cards are quite striking and are pieces of art into themselves. How might I use beauty and illustration (besides photography) to make the everyday pieces of the street feel important and beautiful?
  • Story: each card contains a bit of a story, taken together feed into a larger universe. What is the story – explicit or implicit – should I tell?
  • Cult: Magic continues to have a cult following, how might I build a tiny cult around street furniture?
  • Typology Game: wouldn’t it be cool if there was a game based on these street furniture typologies? Where instead of killing your opponent, your aim is to make the street better? Could there be a card game based on the same research? Would people play it? Maybe.


More inspiration

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