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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. SweeneyTrading Card GamesTraditional GamesMagic The Gathering,Star City GamesOn 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…
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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.