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On the 19th of June, Jim Davis pub­lished an ex­cel­lent ar­ti­cle on Star City Games en­ti­tled “Women and Magic.” The piece re­flects a lot of what I think and what many other’s in the Magic com­mu­ni­ty think about the is­sue of women in Magic the Gathering: that it has be­come an overblown pan­ic and has lost touch with the roots of true equal­i­ty. His ar­ti­cle was brave, it was heart­felt, but most­ly it was right. For dar­ing to break from group-think on the is­sue, he was round­ly thrown un­der the bus in the face of an an­gry mob.

On the same day, Star City Games Online Content Coordinator Cedric Phillips re­moved the ar­ti­cle and is­sued a swift apol­o­gy due to an ap­par­ent back­lash by those who dis­agree with equal treat­ment. The apol­o­gy it­self is some­thing to be­hold; even though the ed­i­tor saw no prob­lem with the ar­ti­cle, has faith in the writer and had gone through mul­ti­ple in­ter­nal opin­ions that also agreed that the ar­ti­cle was fit for pub­li­ca­tion, there was an im­me­di­ate about-face when con­front­ed with any lev­el of neg­a­tive feed­back stem­ming from the usu­al de­mands of the per­pet­u­al­ly out­raged.

star city side 1What hap­pened here is clear, Star City Games and all the peo­ple who read the ar­ti­cle and saw noth­ing wrong with it ex­pe­ri­enced a mo­ment of san­i­ty — they right­ly agreed that “Respect in any com­mu­ni­ty is earned, not giv­en, and ma­jor im­pe­tus for me writ­ing this ar­ti­cle is be­cause I be­lieve women are every bit as ca­pa­ble of suc­cess in Magic as men are” as Jim Davis so apt­ly wrote. What they are apol­o­giz­ing for is the act of caus­ing of­fense and are scared to death of any­thing dam­ag­ing their prod­uct sales. Star City Games has no in­ter­est in whether the ar­ti­cle was right or wrong, it has an in­ter­est in tak­ing the eas­i­est path the pla­cate peo­ple into buy­ing their wares and in do­ing so have dealt a blow to a the en­tire com­mu­ni­ty. Even some of those who dis­agreed with the ar­ti­cle said it should have at least stayed up; I think at the very least, hav­ing a dis­sent­ing opin­ion on con­tentious is­sues is of the ut­most im­por­tance even if the ed­i­to­r­i­al staff want­ed to apol­o­gize for any of­fense caused and stick the piece full of dis­claimers. Jim Davis say­ing “I be­lieve that women should be treat­ed equal­ly to men” has be­come po­lit­i­cal­ly un­ac­cept­able. You are no longer al­lowed to speak your mind in a rea­son­able way. Even if I dis­agreed with Jim he still has the right to a dis­sent­ing opin­ion.

Read the com­ments on the orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle, the com­ments that got it tak­en down. The back­lash was based on the fact that Jim Davis dis­agreed with any form of dis­crim­i­na­tion in favour of a group. The com­ments rant in­co­her­ent­ly about “Male Privilege” and out­right state that they want to pre­vent com­pet­i­tive play in MTG from be­ing a mer­i­toc­ra­cy — all in­ter­spersed with de­mands the ar­ti­cle cease ex­ist­ing lest it trig­ger more peo­ple by dis­agree­ing with them. The com­ments were not mere­ly: “I dis­agree with this here is why.” They were main­ly “This of­fends me and should be re­moved!” A knee-jerk re­ac­tion de­void of counter ar­gu­ments. Jeering, moral pan­ic and the usu­al ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ism, but no real refu­ta­tion. In try­ing to get the piece strick­en from the in­ter­net those peo­ple re­vealed their biggest flaw. They want it gone be­cause they can’t com­pete on even ground in this de­bate. They fear some­one ex­pos­ing their faulty log­ic and ba­sic sex­ism in say­ing women should be giv­en pref­er­en­tial treat­ment. Many on­line Magic com­mu­ni­ties in my ex­pe­ri­ence are circle-jerks, they are places that only am­pli­fy the most ex­treme voic­es and shut out the rest — they are even hos­tile to­ward women who refuse to play the vic­tim.

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This is a state of ab­solute in­san­i­ty in a com­pet­i­tive game. Magic and any oth­er com­pet­i­tive ac­tiv­i­ty should be virtue be a mer­i­toc­ra­cy, that’s the point. The best decks and play­ers win the most games. Any oth­er sys­tem ab­solute­ly de­stroys Magic as a high lev­el com­pet­i­tive card game, it is the death of equal foot­ing com­pet­i­tive play and Star City Games just en­dorsed it by fold­ing spec­tac­u­lar­ly to the usu­al back­lash. Anyone who breaks from the group-think and up­sets the ugly un­der­cur­rent of the Magic com­mu­ni­ty is in­stant­ly burned in ef­fi­gy by an an­gry mob, cen­sored and then grov­el­ling, beg­ging apolo­gies are made by their cor­po­rate mas­ters. This is the same out­rage cul­ture we seen in many fan­doms, con­ven­tions and so called “geek spaces,” a tiny vo­cal mi­nor­i­ty hell-bent on warp­ing every­thing to meet their po­lit­i­cal whims.  No one can now say “We aren’t say­ing women de­serve pref­er­en­tial treat­ment” be­cause it is painful­ly clear that is ex­act­ly what they are say­ing — and any­one who says oth­er­wise will be set upon by the thought po­lice. This is the main func­tion of the out­rage cul­ture we see in oth­er parts of the in­ter­net: to re­move any voic­es seen as un­ac­cept­able by any means of at­tack.

What the, over­whelm­ing­ly male, mob that got the ar­ti­cle tak­en down is do­ing is deeply pa­tron­iz­ing and based on a mis­guid­ed sav­iour com­plex. The Magic play­ing women I know are ap­palled by bow­ing down to a dam­ag­ing mi­nor­i­ty. This act has ac­tive­ly dam­aged the chances of more women feel­ing com­fort­able in high-level play. The mes­sage is clear: no mat­ter how good you are, we feel you need to be giv­en an ad­van­tage to com­pete with men. It’s an in­sult to all those who have bro­ken through to the top ta­bles on tal­ent alone. In the minds of this un­der­cur­rent in the Magic com­mu­ni­ty, there is no way a women could com­plete in what they see as a “male” en­vi­ron­ment, and their pol­i­tics in­sist that out­right favour­ing women in some­how not “sex­ist,” and in ca­pit­u­lat­ing Star City Games is agree­ing with them.

star city side 2This stance com­ing from Star City Games is as laugh­able as it is mad­den­ing; they are the sin­gle biggest third-party for mak­ing Magic less af­ford­able. You want to know what would get more women into MtG? If the game cost less to play.  Do you know who makes the game as ex­pen­sive as hu­man­ly pos­si­ble by their busi­ness prac­tices? Star City Games. So them pre­tend­ing to be a cham­pi­on of di­ver­si­ty and ac­ces­si­bil­i­ty of the game is down right hyp­o­crit­i­cal. As I hope to ex­plain in a fu­ture ar­ti­cle, the way Magic cov­er­age is done is fun­da­men­tal­ly bro­ken, hav­ing the big card re­tail­ers also be the pri­ma­ry source of opin­ion on the game is a bla­tant con­flict of in­ter­est and Star City Games is at the heart of that. Star City Games’ cov­er­age comes sec­ond to their re­tail busi­ness and any­thing that would jeop­ar­dize that — even if it is per­fect rea­son­able and sane — is quick­ly snuffed out in favour of easy and smooth PR. Anything to keep the sales rolling in. They don’t care about women or po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness be­yond the mon­ey they think it can make them and would en­thu­si­as­ti­cal­ly take the op­po­site stance if they thought it would be an eco­nom­ic boon to them. But if Star City Games think this will do any­thing above fur­ther tar­nish­ing their brand then they are sore­ly mis­tak­en, re­cent­ly push­ing back against out­rage cul­ture has been met with cheers.

If any­one from Star City Games or Wizards of The Coast is read­ing this, here is the stark truth: bow­ing to these peo­ple will kill Magic the Gathering as a com­pet­i­tive game. The ma­jor­i­ty of play­ers do not want to play a game or read cov­er­age dom­i­nat­ed and warped by a small group ded­i­cat­ed to out­rage cul­ture. Once the ideas of “White male priv­i­lege” and “Equality of out­come” start tak­ing hold in com­pet­i­tive play, your game will no longer func­tion com­pet­i­tive­ly and will be­gin to col­lapse.

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You are say­ing to fe­male play­ers the fact they have a vagi­na is far more rel­e­vant than their skills at the game will ever be, that in your world they are not wor­thy of com­pet­ing in a true mer­i­toc­ra­cy and that iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics trumps tal­ent every time. What the an­gry mob they so round­ly ca­pit­u­lat­ed to wants would cause the com­plete death of com­pet­i­tive Magic play in its cur­rent form and re­place it with a “pro­gres­sive stack” where worth is mea­sured not on skill but on per­ceived op­pres­sion — a game where the “Marginalized” are giv­en pa­tron­iz­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion awards and told they can’t com­pete on a fair terms. Competitive play will sim­ply cease to be com­pet­i­tive.

Most of all, this at­mos­phere in the com­mu­ni­ty is some­thing main­stream fe­male Magic play­ers want no part in.

Magic the Gathering: A Look at Magic Origins
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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in en­gi­neer­ing. He writes long-form ed­i­to­r­i­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games me­dia and in­ter­net cul­ture. He also does the oc­ca­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly col­umn about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our in­ter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven me­dia and sus­pi­cious of un­ac­cou­table au­thor­i­ty but al­ways hope­ful for change.