(Here's my post over at the Writing Blog.)
I've spent some time over the last few years observing and learning about the game Magic: The Gathering, mainly because I like understanding the minutiae of how its game mechanics work.
Something about its flavor, though, has always bugged me somewhat.
The players play lands, summon creatures, and play spells. Supposedly, they're magic-users called planewalkers or planeswalkers. While this isn't so problematic, the fact that players can summon "legendary" cards that represent historical figures starts to make it kind of weird.
Then there's the fact that it takes all the magical power of an entire "land"-a mountain, a plain, an island, a forest, or a swamp-to create a single creature or spell.
And these all-powerful planewalkers, who can draw power out of entire lands at a whim, are threatened-can even be harmed-by some itty-bitty little critter like a goblin or a bug?
If one imagines that these are ceremonial battles, it becomes slightly less strange... except that they're still essentially huge-scale wars.
Then there's the fact that the largest creatures in the game are only a small order of magnitude more powerful (in terms of stats) than the smallest-a Phyrexian Colossus, a war machine somewhat larger than a typical school building, is only "eight times bigger" than some lowly bug (it should be numerous orders of magnitude larger).
When you get down to it, though, the fact that the players rely on external sources for the energy necessary to use magic combined with taking alternate turns really takes the flavor out of it.
There are other ways to do it. I've seen one (the game Duel Masters, while clearly inspired by M:TG, has a distinct gameplay edge over the older game-never mind that it's from a rather kiddy anime series), and I have an idea for another that would be even more "flavor-correct" than that. (I'm not sharing here-I'm going to share once I've perfected the idea and have a chance to market it. It sounds fun in my head, if for no other reason than because it's just so different from most of what I've heard of on the market.)
In the meantime, well, I still enjoy Magic: The Gathering; I just think its flavor is off.