Magic: the Gathering has an… interesting culture. You know I’m going to talk about the inherent sexism within the game but I want you forget about that for a moment and explore a couple of things with me.
First, I want you to think of your favorite aspects of Magic. Everyone will think of some different things but I’m sure many of us will say something along the lines of, “Yea, I love playing against my friends.” “Going to a game store is fun and playing competitively against other people is exhilarating.” “Man, it’s challenging deciding how to change my side board with this new meta.” That’s, at least, what I’d say.
Second, remember those times you were less than happy about the game or perhaps remember something that made you quit for a while (we have all quit for a little bit before crawling back, believe me, I know). “This game is sometimes is really expensive.” “I feel like I’m doing really poorly I don’t want to do this anymore.” “The meta is terrible. The only thing anyone is playing is mono-red.”
Now imagine there was a third aspect to the game. Yes, you like playing with your friends, and sure the meta gets really annoying but sometimes you get really tired. Yes, tired.
Why did I say tired? I’m sure most of the people reading this article probably know me or know of me because I play at WNY Gaming from time to time. Most of you know I play competitively, but you don’t know that I play with a huge handicap. Let’s look at this short quote which I feel is a good introduction to my point:
“Remember, your audience is boys 14 and up.” (Cavotta, 2005)
The quote above was taken from an article written by Matt Cavotta. He is the artist of Firemane Angel, Master of Etherium, and my personal favorite Questing Phelddagrif (who doesn’t like hippos with wings). He was quoting from the style guides artists receive when they are accepted for commission so they know more about what their art is supposed to portray, what the characters are supposed to look like, and who their audience is. Now I’m not going to yell at Mr. Cavotta here. He can hardly be blamed for the direction the higher ups wanted him to take with his art. But I want to add some context for you here so you can understand something about this from my perspective.
The article I mentioned here was written in 2005. I was 15, the perfect age to be initiated into playing Magic. I had seen it around. Some of the boys in my school were even playing but that was the problem. No girls were playing, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the audience Wizards’ marketing targeted at the time. I will not mince my words here; I was a HUGE nerd in high school. There was no reason at all I shouldn’t have been playing this game. I loved games but I wasn’t playing this game, nor would I until nearly 6 years after that article was published. I didn’t get the chance to go over to my friend’s house to homebrew some mono-green stompy deck I would have inevitably made. I didn’t get a chance to play my deck with my friends during lunch period. I wasn’t playing Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, or any TCG for years. In these intervening years I missed out on a lot of games and experiences that I would find useful for the competitive events I would play in the future. Most of all, because myself and many other girls were ignored, I would miss something much more important: my community.
Don’t get me wrong I love all of you guys. But there is a huge difference between playing against a stranger that is a man and a stranger that is a woman. And if you don’t know about how women feel in a room full of men please have an honest conversation with the women in your life, this shouldn’t be news to you. I have to worry about beating someone and them getting mad because they lost to a ‘girl’. I have to worry about losing against someone and thinking that the game was easy because it was against a ‘girl’. I have to worry about the weight of representing a whole gender because I play a game where women are only ever 1-5% of the competitive Magic scene (Wolff, 2015). I look across a sea of men and I can’t help but think to myself, am I the only woman here?
I’ve gone to competitive Magic events and felt scared. No, I mean it, really scared. During one event my opponent was disqualified for cheating and lost his temper. Really badly. And you may have actually had the same experience too. I’ve become used to not having a full retinue of people that can
comfortably talk with this about. My female friends don’t play Magic and, let’s be real here, my boyfriend can’t fully understand my experience as a woman in this situation.
I want to play with other women. I want to wave and say “Hey girl!” to someone I know at a large competitive event. I instead go into card stores and everyone knows my name, not because I’m some kind of celebrity, but, because I’m one of the few women that show up to events.
Where have all the women gone? Why does the game I love not care to make a game that girls 14 and up might want to play? Why do I feel so alone in a room full of people that love the same game I do? Why am I so tired?
I want to finish this very personal article up with another very important point. I wish I could expand this article to talk about transgender, gay, and POC experiences but of course that’s not my story to tell. That’s one of the other reasons I wanted this to be the first article written by me on this site.
This article is a bit of a bummer but I feel like it frames what our group, the Buffalo Magic Sisters, is trying to do. We want everyone to know the unique hurdles that some of us have to jump over and hopefully we can be a good foundation for other marginalized groups who want a voice.
We are out here and we are strong, skillful players that deserve a place at the table. Let’s get there together.
Cavotta, Matt. The Magic Style Guide (Part 1). 2005. https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/savor-flavor/magic-style-guide-part-1-2005-09-07
Wolff, Meghan. Woman In Magic: the Gathering. 2015. http://www.starcitygames.com/article/31023_Women-In-Magic-the-Gathering.html