Flip It Or Rip It: Breaking The Taboo

Last year’s disgusting abuse of Christine Sprankle did throw up one interesting topic of conversation: The folk game Flip It Or Rip It.

The actual process of play is a bit ambiguous to me – there are a few variants of the play form, but the basic central mechanic is that players choose whether to quit the game and keep their cards, or rip up a card and keep proceeding through the deck of cards. It’s often compared to Russian Roulette with Cardboard. The game doesn’t have a lot of play to it – there isn’t much strategy beyond deciding if you want to keep going and what that, individually, means to you.

Magic players seem pretty split on this game. Some engage with it, and don’t seem to comment much on internet forums, and some don’t, and think the first group are monstrous. Not only do they find the process monstrous, but they cite it as a moral failure, and compare it to a variety of related failings – comparing it to overwhelming wealth and privilege, blaming it for raising prices in the secondary market, and comparing it to drunk driving of all things.

I’m not here to advocate for it, but I’d like to present an alternate take, a take that maybe kinda gets lost:

Magic cards are things.

I can understand if you want your cards to be safe and sanctified and cared for. I can understand if you want to make sure that your cards, in your possession, are extremely well kept. That’s okay. But the cards, themselves, are not $50 bills. They are not gold or stock or precious gems. They are things, objects, and part of their thing-ness is that they can be destroyed, that they have the meaning to which we attach them.

And, the big reason why I talk about this… when you start to remember these are things, you remember that they’re things you can play with.

Magic is a rules-based game with a truly dizzying amount of complexity. It’s about fine inches and a rules structure that is absolutely massive. It’s a really, really interesting game, but that game is a game you can play with Magic cards. Know how I got started making card games?

I started making card games by taking Magic: The Gathering cards and modding them. By writing on them with a pen. By defacing them, by rendering them valueless. It was a way to make proxies, a way that was fluid and flexible and fast. Some cards got thrown in the recycling. Some cards got cut into tokens. And this was the dark magic of that sanctity: It stopped me viewing Magic Cards as cards, as pragmatic objects that can be used for things. It made them into Magic Cards, cards that were… well, magic.

And that magic kept me from seeing that the boundary between what I can do and what Magic does was a lot thinner than I thought.

And that creativity started with a quiet act of destruction.

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