Nicolas, our community manager in France, sat down with the man behind Magic: The Traveling, an ongoing project that involves playing Magic in unlikely settings and capturing it in photographs, to learn about what inspires him to spread the game so enthusiastically.
Nicolas: Please introduce yourself.
Ben: Hi, I'm Ben Ashbrook. I was born in Tokyo, Japan, to an academic mother and journalist father, spent my childhood in Boston, went to college in Upstate New York, then moved to California, where I live today. I'm a massive gamer and lover of all things sci-fi/fantasy, Magic above all else.
What do you do for a living?
What kind of Magic player are you?
A wildly enthusiastic one, since 1994. I'm strong believer that Magic is the best game of all time. I get smoked by the pros, but can hold my own in most other cases. I love it all, from the grandest Grand Prix to kitchen-table rivalries between friends. I don't put any form above the rest—it's all Magic and it's all fantastic.
How was Magic: The Traveling created?
I'll be honest—it was an accident; there was no grand scheme. I didn't want to go, but was pressured by friends to attend a really trendy club on a Friday night. I told them that if I had to be there I was going to play Magic in the middle of the bar. Sure enough, I gathered all the little candles and started drawing seven on a small table in the middle of the place. A picture was snapped and @mgcthetraveling was born.
Tell us about some of your photos:
Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. This was on my recent cross-country Magic tour. I stopped in a different town or city every day to play Magic with locals, and discovered wild battlefields across the US. There were three inches of standing water over the flats, but because of the sodium content, it didn't freeze—so we're in zero-degree water. We only got to turn four before bailing on account of imminent frostbite.
Zion National Park. Found a perch on a cliff side overlooking the entire valley. The views were incredibly humbling. A little slice of heaven.
My good friend Emma learning to play. I've never been the type to just sit on the beach and work on my tan. I need something more stimulating.
Me and my sister on a surfboard about 300 yards out from Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. The surf was unusually placid, so I saw the opportunity for a unique battlefield. Surprisingly we only lost one or two cards to the sea. Mahalo!
This is my effort at "leisure diving." Google it—there are some incredible shots out there. Drawing seven in midair with my morning coffee.
Hawaii again. Magic is a game that is so based in nature—something about playing in locations of natural beauty...it amplifies the gameplay in meaningful ways.
My good friends Will and Lauren got married at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last spring, and this was taken literally moments after their ceremony. Gifting the game of Magic was my contribution. I guess I should still buy them a tangible gift at some point. I should probably get on that...
A fishmonger in Belize. I became friendly with some locals and they took me out fishing. One of the guys actually played Magic growing up. Naturally, he and I hit the battlefield. I immediately regretted smooching this fish. Worth it? Unclear.
My sister and I playing on a wide river somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. We were on a road trip to see the redwoods and stopped here mid-ride. Found a flat, dry rock out in the middle of the current, waded in, and played.
I was at an event on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and happened to see these two on lunch break; it was a no-brainer. Calling a judge is most definitely an unwise decision in "scallywag Magic."
Can you tell us about the making of Magic: The Traveling? How do people react when you set up Magic: The Traveling shoots?
After the first few photos, I realized that I was flying a flag for Magic and gamers as a whole. There are some gamers who play behind closed doors and who are even a little embarrassed about the game they love. I want to blow that out of the water. We have the best game of all time in Magic, and should shout that fact from the mountaintops to everyone. When you wear your passions with pride and confidence, it's a beautiful thing that resonates universally. When I take photos in unique places and teach new people, I bring all my enthusiasm and passion for the game right to them. They see it, respect it, and ultimately come to appreciate it.
Anything else you want to say?
Since I cracked my first starter deck at the age of eight, Magic has brought a profound amount of joy to my life. I am a deeply passionate man, and when I love something or someone, I love in a big way. Magic: The Traveling is a way of sharing this passion with the world, my way of giving back to this game, to be an ambassador for something I love. I want to unite and ignite the Magic and gaming community as a whole, to grow our family and bridge gaps to the mainstream. I want to throw past stigmas to the wind and spread the joy Magic has given me with others, far and wide. "Find your battlefield" is our call to action. Let's get out and do what we love. I, for one, will never stop.