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Back In My Day – Oh! It’s Yu-Gi-Oh!

Monday, 1 September, 2014

Words by Christian Orkibi
Illustration Sarah Haris

The popular 1998 TV show Yu-Gi-Oh! tells the story of a young boy who is possessed with the spirit of a gambler after messing around with an ancient rubik’s cube. He then becomes overly obsessed with collecting playing cards and begins shouting at people, telling them that the cards will save the world from monsters…

Screw it, I’m just going to talk about the card game.

If you went to school at any point from 1999 – 2006 then you probably love, hate or are confused by Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. I’ll start with the basics.

Within the show there is a card game called Duel Monsters. It is played on a holographic table and consists of two players battling their own collections of monsters against each other. The monsters fight and die as holograms and each have a total amount of points which will destroy them if they lose. If, after a series of battles, the player finds themselves open for attack with no monsters in front of them, they are open for a direct hit on their own life points. Once your life points are gone, you lose.

Unless you play while really high, the card game is basically a non-holographic version of Duel Monsters. There are spots on the board for monsters, graveyards, life points, hit points and special card zones. The special card zones are used for spells (it’s levi-O-sa) and traps. These are put face down and sideways. When they are played, they are flipped and turned vertically. So if, for example, the opposing player uses the ‘Ravenous Bug Blatter Beast of Trall’ card, you might reveal a secret ‘Bag of Marbles’ card stored up under your sleeve and trip the monster down a cliff. Okay… so that’s not actually a move, I just made it up. Points if you get the reference though.

When I was at school we had this neat little alcove just behind the library where all the, ahem, highly attractive and socially adept nerds hung out. Blood was spilt and legends were made. Although Duel Monsters wasn’t originally a trading card game, it still didn’t stop us from wading through pocket money to buy the legendary cards. If you managed to get your hands on a level seven monster, you were essentially the Walter White of the Yu-Gi-Oh! schoolyard.

At its last count in 2009, Yu-Gi-Oh! was ranked the world’s top selling card game with 22 billion cards sold. Speaking of the game’s effects outside of Japan, Yu-Gi-Oh! has been the subject of various controversies. Several of the playing cards feature symbols that could be construed as violent or satanic and had to be removed for the western version. We don’t want little Timmy sacrificing a goat in his bedroom… he might get possessed by the soul of a gambler. *Slow clap*

Though the game has changed considerably since I first started playing back in 2001, the rules and strategies are much the same. Rare cards are still rare, the monster graveyard is still a depressing concept and kids still fight over their version of the rules. Duel Monsters made children like me fascinated with Japanese mythology and artistic culture. It gave my geeky friends something to do outside of class and it’s still a widely popular topic of discussion between us today. In modern media Yu-Gi… Oh!, I’ve run out of space.