Anyone who’s ever eaten at the Rathskeller, or any other dining facility in the lower level of Student Union Building I, has probably noticed the crowd of people that usually forms just outside the doors of the RAT. To the average passerby, that’s all it is — a group of people huddled around, playing a card game. But what game could possibly keep people so invested that they find themselves in the same place most days? One word: “Magic.” Magic: The Gathering is a popular card game played by an estimated 12 million people around the world, in which players assume the roles of warring mages as they summon creatures and cast spells to attack their opponents, draining their life until only one man is left standing.

“If you were to try and sum up Magic in 10 words or less, you couldn’t,” said sophomore economics major Nathan McBrady. “There are just too many styles of play.”

Indeed, Magic is a game that is easy to learn yet extremely difficult to master. Here at George Mason University, it’s less about the competitiveness and more about having fun with friends.

“I was just wandering around, looking for Chick-fil-A,” said freshman computer game art and design major Rudy Wielman. “I came in here, I think, the third week of last semester and just started playing.”

The group that hangs out outside of the RAT is non-exclusive and welcomes any and all players, even if they’ve never picked up a deck before.

“I had never played till I sat down and said, ‘Hey, this looks fun. Could you teach me how to play?’” McBrady said. “Anyone can just come up to this group and want to learn how to play, and someone will give them a deck and teach them how.”

Despite the game’s popularity, a negative stigmata endures, one that is often applied to Magic players in much the same way as it is to players of other fantasy-based games.

“What people need to understand about this game is that it’s played across every age spectrum, every major, every race and every gender,” said junior Latin America studies major Brett Oye. “If you go to tournaments, you’ll play against anyone from electrical engineers to doctors. And as long as you’re willing to laugh and not take it serious, you’ll have fun playing it.”

Whether you play video games, fantasy football, LARP or any other activity that requires participants to enter a fantasy world, we all role play at some point. And while some of you may laugh and make snide remarks, take a moment and think about this: Most Magic tournaments offer over $200,000 in cash prizes to winners, including $45,000 to the top player.

Not bad for just a card game.