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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.

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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.