University of Michigan
News for Faculty and Staff

June 28, 2017

Library staff member creates narrative with card game

February 6, 2017

Library staff member creates narrative with card game

Faculty/Staff Spotlight

Topic: Campus News

Some people take up golf as a hobby. Robert Havey, who also enjoys time on the links, competitively plays Magic The Gathering. Havey has been playing the competitive card game for 20 years after learning from a neighbor.

From then on he was hooked.

"The game is so old now that as people get older and stay with it, like I have, it becomes like much more of a normal hobby to me — just a chance to meet up with your friends and play," he says. In fact, the friendships he's gained through playing the game have been so meaningful and long lasting that in the last year alone, he's attended three weddings of people he's met through playing MTG.

"The coolest part of it as I get older is being able to have these fun weekends. I got to go to Pittsburgh for a tournament this summer with a friend of mine who went to Carnegie Mellon, and he showed us the city. So it's pretty cool that I get to see places like that because of the game," he says.

Robert Havey is a communications specialist at the Bentley Historical Library and a fan of the competitive card game Magic The Gathering. (Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography)

Havey is a communications specialist at the Bentley Historical Library, running the library's Twitter and Facebook pages. He's also a regular contributor to the library's publication Collections, a twice-yearly magazine that covers pertinent historical events pulled from the archives. His last feature was an exploration of the origins of techno music in Detroit.

Havey describes his job as "going through the boxes of information and creating a narrative. Because a lot of it is information but not yet a narrative, which is what people care about more," he says.

One of the most enticing things Havey enjoys about his job: free and unlimited access to Bentley's archives. With shelves upon shelves of boxes containing about 30,000 linear feet of archives and manuscripts, 57,000 printed volumes, 1.5 million photographs and other visual materials, and more than 10,000 maps, the library's available narratives for Havey to curate are essentially endless. 

About 10 times a year, Havey takes the time to travel to MTG competitions around the country. He's traveled as far as Atlanta and hopes to someday play internationally.

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"The game is a combination of chess and poker," he said. "It's like poker because you get the random element of drawing a random card of the deck each game, and it's like chess because there's strategic elements of it."

Alongside his appreciation for fostering his friendships and traveling to tournaments, Havey says the game also satisfies his competitive drive. The tournaments themselves become quite intense, Havey says. "You play one-on-one, head-to-head and you play a similar number of rounds with people who have similar records until you have a top eight, which then begins elimination rounds." The prize in these tournaments is usually money — though there are not many people who use these competitions to make a living.

"The common wisdom is that the people who are smart enough to make a living playing Magic are smart enough to make a lot more doing something else," he says.

Much like he does at work, Havey creates his own narrative while playing MTG. With an endless array of outcomes to consider while playing, he says it's difficult not to draw the parallels between the history kept within Bentley's walls and the game.