When you hear the word Yu-Gi-Oh it probably takes you back to a simpler time. A time when the likes of Brexit, climate change and all the other shit stuff didn’t exist. At some point between the ages of six and ten, a considerable portion of your life will have probably been spent trading Yu-Gi-Oh cards on the school playground with your mates. And there is no shame in admitting that fact. If you were to suddenly wield a Dark Magician from your deck at break you’d be the most popular person in school, until some little bastard stole it that is. If you have completely no idea what I’m on about then let me remind you with Yu-Gi-Oh’s official definition:
“Yu-Gi-Oh! is an exciting universe based on a card game played with Monsters, Spells, and Traps. The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise includes manga series, television series, several video games, the Yu-Gi-Oh! TRADING CARD GAME, and more!”
Are the waves of wholesome nostalgia flooding in yet? The hairs on the back of my neck stand erect when I think back to the unparalleled excitement I felt whilst opening a booster pack. Even the smell of the cards was a thing of rare beauty. It wasn’t uncommon to witness hoards of little humans taking big old huffs of their decks from Monday to Friday. Nothing weird about it. Once upon a time, Yu-Gi-Oh was the dog’s bollocks.
Alas, no longer is Yu-Gi-Oh held in such high regard. As a 22-year-old graduate, If I was to be caught sniffing a Yu-Gi-Oh booster pack I’d probably get sectioned. You see, the sands of time have dealt Yu-Gi-Oh a heavy blow, inflicting the once- revered card game with a stigma. To brandish a Time Wizard today is not cool whatsoever. It is the antithesis of ‘cool’. The opposite of hip. The converse of chic. A travesty maybe. An opportunity definitely.
“A lethal engine of destruction that wields two well-honed blades”
After graduating this summer I was intent on mixing things up a bit in an attempt to avoid descending into madness. Returning to my hometown infected me with the notion that I was regressing, in that my situation post-uni was to be no different to pre-university. Ergo, I set upon a strenuous quest to restore my faith in humanity. The gym was nothing new. Sex, drugs and rock and roll were well acquainted with. No. the answer lay not in them but in a card game: enter Yu-Gi-Oh.
I’m not sure what it was that made me think of Yu-Gi-Oh; maybe the stars simply aligned and there is a god after all. Regardless, the moment I considered Yu-Gi-Oh as an antidote to my quarter-life crisis was the moment my life changed for the better. I immersed myself into the universe that Yu-Gi-Oh had to offer. After learning how to play the game I realised why we never actually played it as 7-year-olds. It’s complicated as fuck. The fact that the instructions are directly translated from Japanese probably doesn’t help.
What’s potentially the most tragic aspect of this whole palaver is the fact that once I’d learnt how to play the game, there wasn’t actually anyone for me to play the game with. I kid you not, I spent more hours than I’d like to admit playing against myself. But I loved every second of it. Eventually, I managed to persuade my old man into playing against me, providing him with yet another reason to kick me out.
“The descent of this mighty creature shall be heralded by burning winds and twisted land. And with the coming of this horror, those who draw breath shall know the true meaning of eternal slumber”.
-Obelisk the Tormentor
My evenings were swiftly becoming consumed by Yu-Gi-Oh, delving into another world – a world full of mystery and wonder. The ultimate stimulation I shit you not. I was emancipated for the first time in a long time. Not because I was happy. But because I was doing something unexpected of me. I was going against the grain of society. I felt like I was giving the finger to the fashion overlords. Engaging with Yu-Gi-Oh is a form of rebellion in this day and age and it’s this sort of freedom that cannot be attained through politics or economics.
The thing is, there is no one trajectory that we’re all meant to follow. It’s refreshing to acknowledge that what you’re doing isn’t what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s mentally taxing to constantly reassure yourself that your lifestyle is in accordance with everyone else’s. You end up burdening yourself with unnecessary pressure when instead you could be enjoying a much deeper sense of fulfilment from doing things you actually want to do.
People become far more interesting when they open up about things they enjoy. It shouldn’t matter that you don’t derive the same amount of pleasure from something as someone else. That’s not a good enough reason to deride esoteric hobbies. They spice things up in a rather dreary world. And it’s attractive to be passionate about things you enjoy, so fuck what people think and be yourself. Sub-cultures such as Yu-Gi-Oh are an expression of freedom and should be celebrated, not laughed at.
We’ve been socialised into believing some arbitrary, unbinding convention that compels us into perceiving niche recreational pursuits such as Yu-Gi-Oh as ‘nerdy’. The symbol of freedom isn’t a dollar sign nor is it a hammer and sickle. It’s a Blue Eyes White Dragon.
Written by Joe Tomsett