It’s in the cards
My seven-year-old son is fond of playing three kinds of card games. One is called Duel Masters. Another is called Yu-gi-oh. The other is called Pokemon (after the popular Japanese Pocket Monster [abbreviated as“pokemon”] TV show). The cards bear elaborate illustrations. Each has a point value, plus lots of information printed at the tops and bottoms of the cards to accompany the illustrations. They are about the size of the baseball cards or hockey cards that I briefly collected and traded with my school friends when I was a boy. But these Japanese cards are not for trade. There is some sort of play to use them. I do not understand what the play is, but I observe that trading cards upon victory or defeat is not a part of it. I have tried playing Yu-gi-oh with my son, and Dual Masters, too. I have observed older boys at my work doing the same. But to date I have not intuited the rules they are playing by. Frankly, I don’t think my son knows the “rules,” either. I think he just makes up his own rules as we go along. From experience with adults he has an idea in his head of “playing” at cards with “rules,” but he doesn’t quite understand the concept.
Ken spends what seems like hours lying on his stomach in bed, or on the floor in our TV room gazing at his colorful cards and fingering through them. He is drinking them in with his eyes and memorizing every detail of the pictures and the printed information. I know it, and secretly marvel at the capacity of the young to memorize and learn vast amounts of information. He does not read books on his own, yet, and this activity passes as reading for him. The cards can be collected and arranged in small books, like photo albums, that consist of page after page of the collection. When arranged like this, they really do constitute his reading material.
The cards are not cheap. They are purchased at toy stores, and they don’t even come with complimentary gum, like I remember hockey and baseball cards doing. I have bought some for him, and he has used some of his own money - tooth fairy money and birthday money from his grandparents - to buy his own cards. In fact, he has spent most of the money that he has in the world - about 2,500-yen, or $30 Canadian - buying cards. I said to him, “Do you think you have enough cards now? Maybe you should stop.”
“No. Not yet.”