Card Craze

Card Craze

Everyone's lining up to play Yu-Gi-Oh!.

n an age of video games played at warp speed on computers, it’s quite a surprise to watch children playing a card game, and playing with trading cards. In a virtual double throwback to the days of bubble gum, Mickey Mantle baseball cards, and an afternoon Lone Ranger matinee, everyone it seems is playing Yu-Gi-Oh!

Every Saturday afternoon, 20-30 children, mostly middle school-age boys, line up across tables at the Penn-Daw Books-A-Million store to play Yu-Gi-Oh! A spin-off of a popular Japanese comic book and cartoon series, the game is similar in concept to other card games in which individual card values and strategy are important.

The big difference is that the players use their own, customized decks of trading cards, not too far removed from the more familiar Barry Bonds and Kobe Bryant sports trading cards. Actually, it's not removed at all, since Upper Deck manufactures and distributes Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, as well as traditional baseball cards. There are serious marketing forces at work, since players can buy or trade for more powerful cards and thus, win more games. The bookstore, of course, sells those cards.

"We started setting aside two hours every Saturday last fall," said Chris Fisher, manager of the Penn-Daw store. "A few adults come, but it’s mostly kids, some as young as six, but more around 12 to 13." Fisher clears copies of best sellers from two long tables near the checkout counter, making way for 10 or so pairs of players. Those not playing gather in knots to trade cards or watch games. The buzz among the players peaks when someone plays a rare, extremely powerful monster card.

"You have to think," said Adam Baez, 12, when asked why he liked the game. Games are won and lost on a point system and the numbers are large. Fisher sets out pads of paper and pens for the kids to do the math, but some bring their own calculators.

THE COMIC BOOK origin of the game featured a boy named Yugi, whose grandfather introduces him to an ancient Egyptian card fighting game called "Duel Monsters." According to Upper Deck’s website, "The game pits different mystical creatures against one another in magical duels on a shifting battlefield filled with traps and magical pitfalls."

Most book and comic bookstores sell Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards. Upper Deck’s web site is has thousands of Yu-Gi-Oh! Listings, with some cards offered for more than $50.