Women in Magic
July 2, 2015 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Magic: the Gathering is a fantastic strategy trading card game, currently in it's 22nd year and more popular than ever. But as it becomes more mainstream, an ugly issue is coming to light: there just aren't many women players. The official company line is that 38% of players are female, although that number is not represented in high level play. Gaby Spartz's article 6 Things You Can do to Get More Women Into Magic puts the percentage of women in tournament play closer to 1-2% of the field. Spartz's article, as well as her followup 7 Counterpoints to My Women in Magic Article, has sparked a debate that has raged over the past few months.

A few weeks back, Meghan Wolff of casual Magic podcast Magic: The Amateuring wrote a mini-manifesto, complete with links to a number of female players' social media accounts and podcasts. Jim Davis wrote a tone-deaf response that seemed to be well meaning but demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of a lot of the concepts of equality in male-dominated fields. The article was quickly pulled and apologised for, but not before the community erupted in debate and a number of thoughtful response pieces were published. Wolff and her co-host Maria Bartholdi could only sigh on the followup episode of their podcast.

Today it came to light that as a means to make sure all players feel safe playing the game, they have given player Zach Jesse a lifetime ban from organized play. Jesse has recently been putting up strong tournament results, and it came to light that he had a 10 year old sexual battery conviction. While Jesse took to Reddit to explain the efforts he's taken to get his life back on track, many weren't comfortable with the idea of a convicted rapist achieving success in a community that is generally trying to become a safer space for all players. Jesse commented on the ban on Facebook (reproduced here on Reddit), and while no one would condone his past crimes, a debate is currently raging regarding whether a player's criminal history or reputation should affect their ability to compete.
posted by yellowbinder (101 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Although reading through the comments on these debates over the past few months has unfortunately shown me how far the community has to go, the whole thing has had the wonderful side effect of exposing me to a ton of fantastic women who are passionate about the game I love. I couldn't manage to work it into the post, but I do want to give a special shoutout to The Girlfriend Bracket podcast, put out by a wonderful group of cis and transgender women deeply involved in the community and competitive play.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:28 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've got no interest in podcasts or videos, but has anyone got recommendations for blogs and articles about Magic written by women?
posted by 4th number at 1:35 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's probably not of much value because it was so long ago, but I spent a good few years getting seriously into MTG back around Mirage and Tempest. I found a wonderful small card shop with regular tournaments attended by mostly adults, with a fair number of other women there. The environment was great, and a subset of us would work on building solid decks and going to Pro Tour Qualifiers.

It was after that shop closed, and the only other place in range was in the basement of a much larger game shop that was heavily populated by kids, that I stopped playing. There just wasn't the comfortable environment anymore. It was a disappointment, because the game was still fun, but having people to play with is at least as important.

A few years ago, I finally accepted that I was done with it, and sold off the card collection to a friend to help with a down payment on a house. He got one hell of a deal too, as I sold it to him for what I thought I could get for the whole collection from a game shop - not many opportunities to get a full set of Revised Dual Lands anymore, for example. (almost fainted when I saw a full set of mint ones on sale for $5500)
posted by evilangela at 1:39 PM on July 2, 2015


My wife played competitively for years before she tired of man-babies crying that her breasts distracted them resulting in her victory.
posted by StoicRomance at 1:41 PM on July 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


man-babies crying that her breasts distracted them resulting in her victory

That really happened? Like, not as a misguided "nice guy" compliment, but as an actual complaint to the judges? That's so gross.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:45 PM on July 2, 2015


No way is the 38% statistic correct, unless those women referenced only play with other women or Dudes Who Know Better Than To Say Anything. I wish there was a "Do you play if you can, why or why not?" element to that question.

Even the wives and girlfriends are frightened off by That One Asshole who feels compelled to comment "WOW LOOK GUYS A FEMALE!"

It must be ...wearying to be first a set of sex organs and an opponent a very distant second.
posted by oedipuss at 1:48 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Addendum: Creatively, the game is making great strides in depicting female characters in its lore and art. They recently published a great story The Truth of Names depicting a transgender warlord and how she is accepted as leader of her clan.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:50 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


One time I was playing Magic with some guy friends in a place where it was sort of unusual for people to be playing (foreign country, hostel with lots of expats) and guys kept coming over to our table and telling us how much they loved the game and wished they had their cards with them. Not a single girl did this. if you're a girl it's a great way to meet guys, at least.
posted by ghostbikes at 1:50 PM on July 2, 2015


rtr, it's pretty common (so I hear): More of an "I can't believe I got beat by a girl so I'm going to try to devalue their victory" kinda deal.
posted by 4th number at 1:51 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jim Davis's article was entirely terrible, and I was very disappointed that Star City Games would publish it.

Jackie Lee and Melisa De Tora are two of the most prominent women players and writers in the MTG community. Unfortunately they are both currently working at Wizards, which means they aren't writing regularly. That is, unfortunately for readers, but very fortunately for the game and for WotC.
posted by Maastrictian at 1:53 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


jesus fucking christ how is it even a question if a convicted rapist should be allowed in tournament play
posted by griphus at 1:54 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


rtr, it's pretty common (so I hear): More of an "I can't believe I got beat by a girl so I'm going to try to devalue their victory" kinda deal.

Yes, yes it is. There's definitely a significant number of players that have tied their self-worth and masculinity to their belief that men are superior at MTG (and likely many other things). It's fairly common among gaming in general, it seems.
posted by evilangela at 1:54 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jackie Lee and Melisa De Tora are two of the most prominent women players and writers in the MTG community. Unfortunately they are both currently working at Wizards, which means they aren't writing regularly. That is, unfortunately for readers, but very fortunately for the game and for WotC.

Yeah, there's some controversy about Wizards removing Lee and DeTora from competitive play by bringing them in house. They had supreme value as role models in the community so I can understand the point, but come on, if you're arguing that they shouldn't hire great players *because* they're women you're sort of missing the greater point.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm a software engineer. I don't play MtG with anyone I don't already know because, frankly, I get plenty of ill-socialized dudefest at my day job and I don't need it in a hobby. I've been reading these exact articles (and these exact tone-deaf responses from clueless men) about my career path for decades. The amount of umbrage you can generate from asking men to bathe daily and think before they speak never fails to impress, amuse, etc.

I wish these women the best! But I suspect that a lot of the best female MtG players out there are playing in private, with friends, because this sort of crap makes it No Fun to go to GPs.
posted by town of cats at 1:56 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


jesus fucking christ how is it even a question if a convicted rapist should be allowed in tournament play

Huh. I don't know the whole context but I have an opposite reaction. Someone who has already served their sentence should be free to participate in society.
posted by latkes at 1:57 PM on July 2, 2015 [35 favorites]


jesus fucking christ how is it even a question if a convicted rapist should be allowed in tournament play

That's actually a tricky question. How would you feel about a convicted murderer being allowed in tournament play?
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:59 PM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Huh. I don't know the whole context but I have an opposite reaction. Someone who has already served their sentence should be free to participate in society.

I'm also getting the sense that he's being used as a bit of a scapegoat to avoid actually dealing with all the baseline harassment in the community. Which is really problematic as well.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:00 PM on July 2, 2015 [23 favorites]


Regarding the MtG players are 38% female statistic: my personal play community that drafts every few months is 8 to 12 people, more than half of whom are women. Of that group, half of the guys have played in a sanctioned tournament and none of the women have. (Plural of anecdote is not data and all that, but that's my experience)
posted by Maastrictian at 2:00 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


The amount of umbrage you can generate from asking men to bathe daily and think before they speak never fails to impress, amuse, etc.

This. I love tabletop games and I love the hundreds of wonderful people I have met and become friends through them. Back when MtG was new it was a favorite activity for my then girlfriend and future wife to share with each other. But, even as a guy I struggle sometimes with the poor socialization in some circles.

I should give a shout-out to local efforts to broaden the community though, including some regular social/gaming gatherings with a broad inclusion of those who self-identify as women. It gives me hope for the future of hobbies I love.
posted by meinvt at 2:01 PM on July 2, 2015


No way is the 38% statistic correct

Um. Sounds right to me. I've played since magic came out, I think a lot of people, especially older plays only play socially.

In my circle nearly all the guys have played in a store. None of the ladies. Not the least of which is the common complaint "It smells like human garbage in there" and also insane-boy sexism.

As a guy I'll never play in a store or tournament again, for much the same reasons.
posted by French Fry at 2:03 PM on July 2, 2015


No way is the 38% statistic correct, unless those women referenced only play with other women or Dudes Who Know Better Than To Say Anything.

A ton of people who buy and play never even go so far as to get a DCI number, which you get when you play in Friday Night Magic, which is a pretty casual store-level event. I don't have exact stats, but they sell Magic at Wal-Mart.
posted by ODiV at 2:04 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Women don't seem to be as represented as they should be in Hearthstone competitive play either where a lot of the tournaments are online and you don't have to smell the disgusting sweaty gross nerds. There is definitely more to it than that.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:19 PM on July 2, 2015


One place I saw that the 38% number is from the DCI database. Actual large scale competitive play, I think it's about 10-12% female. Casual events like FNM or game day it could get close to 38%, depending on the shop. Our nearest local is probably 40% on game day, but I've been places for pre-releases that are about 20%.

Don't even get me started on Pro Tour because that is not indicative of anything resembling normal.
posted by fiercekitten at 2:24 PM on July 2, 2015


I used to play Legends of the Five Rings competitively and there was a much larger female representation - # and % - in those tournies than in the much larger MtG events that often happened at the same time. This was almost 15 years ago, though, so I'm not sure L5R is even still around at this point. I suspect the heavy narrative elements of the game drove off a lot of the "furious efficiency in all things!" Magic players - rewards for big tournies were not big cash prizes, but getting to name a Dojo or get someone elected Chancellor.

SORRY ABOUT YORITOMO ARAMASU, MANTIS CLAN
(NOT SORRY)
(KAMNAN FOR LLIIIIIFFFFFEEEEE)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:31 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm also getting the sense that he's being used as a bit of a scapegoat to avoid actually dealing with all the baseline harassment in the community.

That was my reaction too. "Well, we banned the guy with a rape conviction from a decade ago so I guess that's that then. Pats on the back all around!" It doesn't actually do anything, I don't think, to change the culture. It might even hurt it, because it sends this message that you have to actually have like a rape conviction before your behavior is a problem for women players.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:32 PM on July 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


The Angry Chicken (a Hearthstone podcast) had an episode where competitive Hearthstone player Karma discussed her experiences as a streamer and tournament player. I thought it was really interesting, made me a fan.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:35 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


jesus fucking christ how is it even a question if a convicted rapist should be allowed in tournament play

It happened in 2004, he pleaded guilty, did his time and he seems to have not raped anyone since.

Isn't this the very fucking point of rehabilitation?!? To say, "yeah, he fucked up, he spent time in jail, now he's a model citizen so let him get on with his life"?
posted by Talez at 2:37 PM on July 2, 2015 [16 favorites]


"furious efficiency in all things!"

Yes. This is why I don't play any multiplayer competitive games any more. There's this intense joyless min-maxing that is rampant. When I was a kid we used to play these games for shits and giggles, not as an extra job.
posted by selfnoise at 2:38 PM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


It might even hurt it, because it sends this message that you have to actually have like a rape conviction before your behavior is a problem for women players.

Reading the piece linked in the OP, the argument being put forth by Levin et al. is that allowing a convicted rapist to compete makes for a more hostile environment for women at these events, especially if something happens to them.

It's not a terribly persuasive argument for two reasons:

One, it doesn't actually address the hostile environment issue in any substantial way - women aren't feeling safe at these locations because of a baseline of harassment that is condoned, not because a convicted rapist is being allowed to compete.

Two, said non-solution is also amplifying another major social issue - that of social opprobrium towards convicted felons driving them out of participating in society.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:47 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


jesus fucking christ how is it even a question if a convicted rapist should be allowed in tournament play

Huh. I don't know the whole context but I have an opposite reaction. Someone who has already served their sentence should be free to participate in society.


I don't consider obvious that someone with a rape conviction (or any other) shouldn't be allowed eventually. I don't consider it obvious that they should, either - it's not as if it's a civil right to play in magic tournaments. When I looked him up I found an article from the paper at his law school "outing" him and basically asking "why did we admit a sex offender on scholarship?" and I dunno about that bit. Like maybe they really thought he was striving for redemption? Or did he conceal his history until it was exposed? I also find that he was charged with rape (of an unconscious fellow student), plead to a reduced "aggravated sexual battery" (still a felony) and only served three months of an eight year sentence. Obviously he didn't come up with the plea deal or decide the terms of his punishment but I understand why it might feel like he dodged full accountability for a major, major crime - in a way that he probably wouldn't have if he wasn't a smart white guy.
posted by atoxyl at 2:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't consider obvious that someone with a rape conviction (or any other) shouldn't be allowed eventually. I don't consider it obvious that they should, either - it's not as if it's a civil right to play in magic tournaments. When I looked him up I found an article from the paper at his law school "outing" him and basically asking "why did we admit a sex offender on scholarship?" and I dunno about that bit. Like maybe they really thought he was striving for redemption? Or did he conceal his history until it was exposed?

The amount of prejudice that ex-convicts are faced with I blame no-one for trying to hide their past in ways that aren't forbidden under the law.

I also find that he was charged with rape (of an unconscious fellow student), plead to a reduced "aggravated sexual battery" (still a felony) and only served three months of an eight year sentence. Obviously he didn't come up with the plea deal or decide the terms of his punishment but I understand why it might feel like he dodged full accountability for a major, major crime - in a way that he probably wouldn't have if he wasn't a smart white guy.

Assuming there is impropriety at work, none of that about the system is solved by banning someone from a Magic tournament.
posted by Talez at 2:59 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


atoxyl: "Or did he conceal his history until it was exposed?"

Apparently it was basically his application essay to the law school.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:04 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Obviously he didn't come up with the plea deal or decide the terms of his punishment but I understand why it might feel like he dodged full accountability for a major, major crime - in a way that he probably wouldn't have if he wasn't a smart white guy.

So, is the answer then for us to now impose the judgement that the legal system so clearly failed to do so, and impose an indefinite social exile on him? And if so, what about other convicted felons? Should we sit in judgement on them as well?

I get why you feel the way you do (I agree that he got a sweetheart deal based on his class and race), but I also think the argument being put forth here by Levin and Gentile is playing with Pandora's Box.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:07 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


A ban on competitive Magic play is not even close to "indefinite social exile" are you serious?
posted by ODiV at 3:15 PM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's not "us" imposing the judgement, it's the publisher of the card game, who runs these tournaments as promotional events, and yeah I can see why they'd prefer to avoid the optics of a convicted sex offender being the face of competitve M:tG.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:16 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


I get why you feel the way you do (I agree that he got a sweetheart deal based on his class and race), but I also think the argument being put forth here by Levin and Gentile is playing with Pandora's Box.

I didn't say I support his ban or that I oppose it - I'm trying to discuss it in a fair way.

I agree that it's a symbolic gesture, possible diverting attention from systemic issues. And he didn't decide on his own how long he was going to be incarcerated. I'm just saying it's not like the dude got out after eight years and is struggling to get on his feet and now they won't even let him play magic cards.

Apparently it was basically his application essay to the law school.

Somebody at the University of Richmond must have really believed in him (for one reason or another) - it's probably not easy to be admitted to the bar with a conviction like that.
posted by atoxyl at 3:25 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not "us" imposing the judgement, it's the publisher of the card game, who runs these tournaments as promotional events, and yeah I can see why they'd prefer to avoid the optics of a convicted sex offender being the face of competitve M:tG.

It's worth noting that Patrick Chapin, a longtime top player who received video coverage at the last Pro Tour, is a convicted drug dealer. Some convictions are less damning than others, apparently.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 3:26 PM on July 2, 2015


Speaking of people banned from Magic tournaments: Behold CrackGate (possibly NSFW) or as I like to call it "backpacks & asscracks". And people wonder why there aren't more females...
posted by MikeMc at 3:28 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure "Hasbro thinks selling drugs is less bad than raping people" is much of a gotcha
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:29 PM on July 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


jesus fucking christ how is it even a question if a convicted rapist should be allowed in tournament play

Ostracism from society has very concrete and negative effects on recidivism. Your "that's obvious" attitude is why people convicted of sex crimes are sent to shanty towns and will re-offend without a support network. Why people with a predilection for pedophilia who desperately need help while not acting on it are unable to seek help.

And no, my post in no way condones or encourages sexual assault in any form. Quite the opposite. I follow the science to drop repeat offenses.

Also no, equating being banned from mtg tournaments is not hyperbole to link with social ostracism.

This does nothing to address the actual problems in gaming culture. I've played at all levels of magic, and it is a problem. It's just PR for WotC to fire their guns in the air and say "We got 'im!"
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:36 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


This does nothing to address the actual problems in gaming culture. I've played at all levels of magic, and it is a problem. It's just PR for WotC to fire their guns in the air and say "We got 'im!"

"Mission Accomplished!" -- George W. Bush, May 1, 2003
posted by Talez at 3:38 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the early 00s I (a woman) used to hang out with a bunch of Magic pro-wannabes who went around the local competitive circuit & once in a while to a Pro Tour. I actually loved the competitive approach to the game and I found it much more fun than playing casually, so it was a good fit for me.

I remember during one of the seasons I played there was a fairly well-known female pro (one of the only ones, though her name escapes me now) who showed up to a tournament with a low-cut shirt. To my eyes it was a pretty normal type of shirt that a woman who is dressing up a little would wear, but the Magic community LOST IT'S SHIT over this incident. People circulated pictures of her, photoshopped images of her breasts onto Magic cards, discussed her relative hotness and expressed outrage at her attempt to manipulate poor lonely Magic nerds with her sexuality.

I also noticed that pretty much any woman who showed up to a Magic event was fair game for creepshots followed by discussion on all the forums of whether or not she was attractive or about how she wasn't that good at the game or she was just there because she's XX's girlfriend.

So I noped out and never went back. I could not stomach subjecting myself to all of that bullshit, knowing that pictures of me would be up on the internet in a hot minute to be critiqued by all of my peers.

Flash forward to now, I do play Hearthstone competitively because I will never have to appear in person at any tournament and my identity is as good as anonymous. I don't stream so no one knows I'm a woman and that's just fine.

(Also, previously)
posted by annekate at 3:39 PM on July 2, 2015 [18 favorites]


I can see why they'd prefer to avoid the optics of a convicted sex offender being the face of competitve M:tG.

This seems questionably legal and from my standpoint certainly unethical.

I can see banning someone who harasses other players during games, who is being investigated for a current sexual assault charge, who makes public statements proclaiming that rape is OK, etc.

This person's history should have no bearing on his participation in a public forum like this. Say I as a long-time feminist and (duh?) anti-rape person.
posted by latkes at 3:41 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


People circulated pictures of her, photoshopped images of her breasts onto Magic cards, discussed her relative hotness and expressed outrage at her attempt to manipulate poor lonely Magic nerds with her sexuality.

I also noticed that pretty much any woman who showed up to a Magic event was fair game for creepshots followed by discussion on all the forums of whether or not she was attractive or about how she wasn't that good at the game or she was just there because she's XX's girlfriend.


THIS is the stuff that should be getting hit hard. Picking a random scapegoat with a criminal conviction in his past seems like total evasion.
posted by latkes at 3:42 PM on July 2, 2015 [15 favorites]


Again, these are promotional events run by a toy company.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:43 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also no, equating being banned from mtg tournaments is not hyperbole to link with social ostracism

Beg to differ, I guess?
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:44 PM on July 2, 2015


It's worth noting that Patrick Chapin, a longtime top player who received video coverage at the last Pro Tour, is a convicted drug dealer. Some convictions are less damning than others, apparently.

I mean, duh? If you're going to mention that you should mention he wasn't, like, selling some weed but smuggling thousands of Ecstasy pills across the Canadian border. I think many of us here still don't think of that as such an terrible thing to do. Stupid, sure.

He actually had some things to say about this issue. You could argue expecting people to think of you differently in light of the conviction is different from expecting to be banned from competition. There have been people banned for crimes committed at tournaments before but I don't know about outside, years ago. I don't know if Chapin would have been treated as well as he was upon his return to MTG if he hadn't been highly respected and influential before he went to prison though.
posted by atoxyl at 3:45 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Questionably legal"? Felons aren't a class protected under the Constitution.
posted by gingerest at 3:52 PM on July 2, 2015


Ostracism from society has very concrete and negative effects on recidivism.

We're talking about literally one person being banned from one particular brand of card game's competitive events.

THIS is the stuff that should be getting hit hard. Picking a random scapegoat with a criminal conviction in his past seems like total evasion.

So you think they just looked among the top-level competitors with felony sexual convictions for a random scapegoat? It's also possible that they're doing multiple things at once. Not that I know for a fact they are (I'm not them), but "there are more effective actions" does not mean "don't do anything else".
posted by ODiV at 3:54 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


if you're a girl it's a great way to meet guys, at least.

only if you value quantity much, much higher than quality
posted by NoraReed at 3:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


The DCI (the governing body of tournament magic) has nothing in its extensive rules that says you can be banned for being a convicted felon or for having committed sexual crimes in your past. Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn't.

If they believe having convicted rapists at their tournaments is a safety issue, the rules should be amended and enforced universally.

But for me, it is a pretty dangerous precident to arbitrarily give a lifetime ban for someone who didn't break any of your stated rules.
posted by shovel_mage at 3:56 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Quantity has a quality all its own.
posted by gingerest at 3:56 PM on July 2, 2015


Stupid, sure.

Well that's actually unfair. I'm making it sound like a one-time thing by a guy who liked drugs and money and didn't know what he was doing - it was a real ongoing operation from what I heard. But it's the sort of thing that's much easier to call "a mistake." He did a few years for it for sure and has talked about it pretty openly.
posted by atoxyl at 3:56 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


But for me, it is a pretty dangerous precident to arbitrarily give a lifetime ban for someone who didn't break any of your stated rules.

"But you didn't say no raping!"
posted by ODiV at 3:58 PM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


We're talking about literally one person being banned from one particular brand of card game's competitive events.

No, we're actually talking about society's views on criminals who have served their legally mandated sentences and have not indicated that they will reoffend.

To link it to another event, it's similar to saying we were actually "just talking" about Ray Rice punching his fiance instead of a whole host of other issues. Or that the woman who was propositioned in an elevator at a conference was "just talking" about that particular instance.

These things have context, and we are not "talking about literally one person", but a precedent for how we socially police people in our society and the counterproductive way we treat people.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:59 PM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Speaking of people banned from Magic tournaments: Behold CrackGate (possibly NSFW) or as I like to call it "backpacks & asscracks". And people wonder why there aren't more females...

'cause they're worried about getting creepshotted by Mr. N. Beard McBlacksweats?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:00 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


THIS is the stuff that should be getting hit hard. Picking a random scapegoat with a criminal conviction in his past seems like total evasion.

Given how many people here think that having the face of the sport be a guy who raped a woman while she was too drunk and sick to move is an acceptable compromise because the alternative might, I don't know, make the guy sad, or single handedly destroy his ability re-integrate into society (after having gotten a $30k scholarship and having served 3 months of an 8 year charge), I do not think your dichotomy of "scapegoat" or "changing the culture" is a true one.
posted by kagredon at 4:02 PM on July 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


'cause they're worried about getting creepshotted by Mr. N. Beard McBlacksweats?

It's creeps all the way down man. I played a lot of Magic when I was a kid so believe me I'm not stereotyping with no reason when I say you really can smell a Magic tournament.

Given how many people here think that having the face of the sport be a guy who raped a woman while she was too drunk and sick to move

I don't follow this stuff anymore but from what people said about his (tournament) record he's a guy whose biggest accomplishment is top 8 of a recent big tournament, which put him in the recent (closest thing pro MTG has to a) spotlight and started the whole thing. He's not a "face of the sport" though he could have been on the cusp in some alternate universe.
posted by atoxyl at 4:13 PM on July 2, 2015


These things have context, and we are not "talking about literally one person", but a precedent for how we socially police people in our society and the counterproductive way we treat people.

The context is right up there in the rest of the FPP.
posted by ODiV at 4:20 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


He's not a "face of the sport" though he could have been on the cusp in some alternate universe

Sorry, yeah, should've said "potential face of the sport" or maybe even just "prominent figure in officially sanctioned events", which is closer to what I meant; I was kind of following on pbo' comment up thread.
posted by kagredon at 4:23 PM on July 2, 2015


I kind of wish the Zach Jesse thing had been a separate thing because there are really two posts here:

1) The effort to appeal to more women in Magic.
2) Questions about rehabilitation, crime, and the difficulties many convicts face in being re-admitted to society.

These are both interesting topics but they don't fit all that well together.
posted by Justinian at 4:28 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


I question whether Zach Jesse is really an edifying or representative test case for discussing your point 2. Seems to me this is a post very much about point 1 that a handful of people seem determined to derail into 2.
posted by kagredon at 4:31 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


That seems like support for the idea these topics should have been divorced rather than opposition to it?
posted by Justinian at 4:34 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love Magic. Love the game. I think it's one of the best games ever made; I've traveled to other countries to play it.

Wizards made the absolute right decision in booting this guy from the game. It boggles my mind that there is even any discussion on this. It's a game, not a right. They don't have to put in their tournament signups "no rapists, please". He will not starve to death if he is banned from playing a fucking game competitively.

(Also, thanks to those that aren't taking the "stinky nerds" cheap shots.)
posted by festivus at 4:37 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been in the situation of the organizer here: a man who was convicted of a sex crime registered to attend a conference I'm organizing.

It's a fairly easy decision to make if you follow a simple principle: the principle of least harm.

Say we allow him to come. What's the potential harm? Well, he'll almost certainly make women at the conference feel unsafe; I know several wouldn't attend if he's there. Worst-case, he might harass or assault women.

Say we turn him away. What's the potential harm? One guy doesn't get to come to a thing.

Like I said, it's an easy decision.
posted by jacobian at 4:38 PM on July 2, 2015 [14 favorites]


Say we allow him to come. What's the potential harm? Well, he'll almost certainly make women at the conference feel unsafe; I know several wouldn't attend if he's there. Worst-case, he might harass or assault women.

Say we turn him away. What's the potential harm? One guy doesn't get to come to a thing.

Like I said, it's an easy decision.


And what happens when everyone makes that easy decision? Repeatedly?
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:41 PM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


> And what happens when everyone makes that easy decision? Repeatedly?

Luckily, we live in a patriarchy where most people will choose the comfort of men over the safety of the women, so your hypothetical situation is just that -- hypothetical.

Look, if you want host events with a big RAPISTS WELCOME sign, have at it. I'm not gonna, and I feel pretty damn good about that.
posted by jacobian at 4:43 PM on July 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


One really easy thing Wizards of the Coast could do to show they're down with the cause: replace their company photo with one where the women are standing upright.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:43 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


NoxAeternum: "And what happens when everyone makes that easy decision? Repeatedly?"

What happens when women forgo attending/participating in events because specific men with very problematic sexual histories are there? Repeatedly?

"Nah dude just deal with it he did 3 months it's fine"?
posted by erratic meatsack at 4:45 PM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


(I probably should clarify that the part that feels good is the prioritizing safety over comfort, not the turning someone away. That part feels crappy, even when it's right right decision.)
posted by jacobian at 4:46 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


And what happens when everyone makes that easy decision? Repeatedly?

women feel somewhat safer and are slightly less likely to be sexually assaulted at events that they pay to go to, though the risk is still significant, since the percentage of rapists who actually get caught and prosecuted is super fucking low
posted by NoraReed at 4:49 PM on July 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


If you have any interest in watching Magic online, Spartz is pretty fun to watch and so is Elantris.
posted by ODiV at 4:50 PM on July 2, 2015


Speaking of people banned from Magic tournaments: Behold CrackGate (possibly NSFW) or as I like to call it "backpacks & asscracks". And people wonder why there aren't more females...

Argh, that link is a little bit fat shamey. As a large man plumber butt can sometimes happen and it's really embarrassing. Clothes can be really awkward. A discreet tap on the shoulder rather than broadcasting the image to the world would probably be appreciated.

That said, large men, if you are going to an event where you are sitting in a flimsy chair without a full back where you will spend the entire time leaning over a table...tuck in your damn shirt. You will feel more comfortable. Everybody else will feel more comfortable.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:53 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Seems to me this is a post very much about point 1 that a handful of people seem determined to derail into 2.

I'll take some of the blame for that since I've been digging up stuff about that story. It's just that it's so easy to start the "what should a community do in this situation?" debate there. Whereas the answer to "does MTG need more women?" is "you're damned right it does" and the answer to "well, what's the problem for women getting into the game?" is "the behavior of Magic players, mostly."

I'm a classic white nerd guy and the only form of MTG that really appeals to me this point is online .

(Also, thanks to those that aren't taking the "stinky nerds" cheap shots.)

I did take this shot but I'm not doing it to be cheap and dismissive - I am after all the guy who is talking all about Patrick Chapin. I have a lot of friends who play the game still. If we weren't talking about a world as small as Magic this would be name dropping but I'm dimly acquainted with a real face of the game and he was a good guy back when I was in middle school and he was in college and going to my hometown card shop. But I also remember back then there was always a particular sort of player who was not just poorly socialized but a real petty asshole.
posted by atoxyl at 4:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Argh, that link is a little bit fat shamey.

Well, I wouldn't exactly call the guy posing in the pics "slim" so I don't think that was his intention (it certainly wasn't mine), I think it was more about the sheer number of cracks on display.
posted by MikeMc at 4:58 PM on July 2, 2015


"Nah dude just deal with it he did 3 months it's fine"?

I'm not going to talk more about this part because I don't know exactly how this happened - and Chapin's story is a little beside the point anyway - but it sure does seem like something is wrong with the system when the Ecstasy dealer serves three years (I wonder how many he was sentenced to?) and the rapist three months.
posted by atoxyl at 5:01 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


We stumbled across a new-ish game store in a nearby community and decided to pop in and see what they had.

There was a sign in the window that said, "MtG Tournament, Just For Men, Friday 6 PM."

And I was like, WTF, is this a backlash about women-only tournaments? Wait, do women-only MtG tournaments exist? Or was it an actual "no girls aloud" thing?

Since I'm an old-lady busybody, I asked the guys behind the counter, "What's up with the Just For Men tournament?" and one guy laughed nervously, and said, "It's just an in-joke. Because there aren't a lot of ladies. A joke on the Just For Men hair stuff."

"Ah," I said. And looked at them, and the sign, and back at them.

But I don't play Magic, so.
posted by BrashTech at 5:05 PM on July 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'll take some of the blame for that since I've been digging up stuff about that story. It's just that it's so easy to start the "what should a community do in this situation?" debate there. Whereas the answer to "does MTG need more women?" is "you're damned right it does" and the answer to "well, what's the problem for women getting into the game?" is "the behavior of Magic players, mostly."

At the risk of stepping further into Meta territory, I want to clarify, because I also got a (polite, thoughtful) memail from another person with a similar point of view--it's not that I think discussing the ban itself is a derail, because of it's relevant to ask "how should a community that wants to be more welcoming to women deal with a situation like this?" and I think there is plenty of space to talk about whether this is an effective or sustainable way to deal with this, what could or would change going forward, etc. But presenting it as a question of how to reintegrate convicts into society seems very odd to me, because by all indications, Zach Jesse has had enormous success at reintegrating into society, pursuing further education and employment. There is a world of difference between "our private company does not want you participating in our promotional events" and people who are unable to find a stable housing/employment/etc. for years on end, and conflating them is a poor way to discuss either.
posted by kagredon at 5:13 PM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Sorry one more thing - obviously you shouldn't need a man to speak up for women in Magic but this (from back in 2012) just showed up while I was reading about the various personages that have been mentioned.
posted by atoxyl at 5:14 PM on July 2, 2015


It seems as if you can treat Jesse's case as an abstract, or treat it as a specific instance that involves a real person.

If you are happy with adopting the principle that anyone convicted of sexual assault should be banned for life from public events attended by women, anything else about Jesse is irrelevant.

If you think the question of whether he should be banned depends on things besides his conviction, you might investigate his behavior since he committed the assault.

According to the information linked in the original post, he continued his education, he was admitted to law school and awarded on scholarship based in part on a application that explained he hoped to use his conviction as an inspiration to improve himself and his community.

While in law school, he was elected to the Honor Council and after graduation, he successfully applied to have his civil rights restored. He's been married for four years, and does volunteer work on behalf of the homeless and at a legal aid clinic.

In his competition at Magic: The Gathering events, he hasn't been the subject of complaints of inappropriate behavior.

I think these facts are salient to the question of whether he deserves a lifetime ban, and unless there are additional relevant factors I'm unaware of, I don't think the sanction against his participation is justified.
posted by layceepee at 5:19 PM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


It seems as if you can treat Jesse's case as an abstract, or treat it as a specific instance that involves a real person.

Two real people.
posted by griphus at 5:26 PM on July 2, 2015 [24 favorites]


I've pondered the idea of going to FNM, but I haven't for a few reasons. My boyfriend (lolz what a cliche) got me into Magic a few years ago, and my interest in playing has come in spurts and dropped off, to be picked up again a few months later. But basically I only play with him, or once or twice with a friend of ours who's really into Magic. Here's why:

1) We only really play a bunch of pre-purchased event decks against each other, in different combinations. We have 12 so far, acquired a couple at a time, so there are a lot of possible match-ups. Part of that is a desire not to drop loads of cash on the game, even if constructing your own deck is a big part of it.

2) I'm not super fun to play against. I used to be a lot worse, but I sometimes take a while to weigh a decision and/or have to look up rulings before I make a play. It's worse when it's a deck I don't know very well yet, and I don't invest a ton of time in practicing. I also occasionally make a bad move and want to retract it, and my boyfriend is nice and lets me if no new information has since been revealed. He gets to do the same.

3) I'm not going to be very good, and I'm afraid of this happening out in the wild.

4) The lack of other women makes it pretty unappealing. I'm already the only female engineer at work, and I just want to be around women sometimes, dammit. "Be the change" is tiring when it's not happening fast enough, and being on the front line sucks even when no one is consciously sexist, like at work.

5) Latent prejudice about the people who do play a lot. That's my issue to get over, and it'll probably be fine, but one of the articles in the OP specifically does call out hygiene. Plus I don't deal well with social awkwardness. And constant internal questioning of if someone is being surly or overly nice because I'm a woman. Bah.

For the record, I wouldn't feel comfortable in social spaces where I knew there was a convicted or accused rapist (to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but that's where I'm starting), but I agree that it's a bit of a derail. I don't know where the line is on "serving time" and "re-integrating into society" when it comes to violent crimes where I could statistically be a victim in my lifetime (and have had brushes with threatening situations), but it's really not Zach Jesse keeping me out of my local FNM.
posted by j.r at 5:27 PM on July 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Questionably legal"? Felons aren't a class protected under the Constitution.
posted by gingerest at 3:52 PM on July 2 [+] [!]


Yeah, you're right. I hadn't thought about what I said about legality correctly.
posted by latkes at 5:42 PM on July 2, 2015


I guess one thing this thread (if not the fpp itself?) brings to light is that there are various ways that feminists can think about what should happen to someone who has raped someone. (I don't really care what anti-feminists think about this - they can fuck off.) But I'm a feminist, and I care a lot about rape, but I don't think that automatically any man who has raped someone should be banned from say, a social club I am part of, or a gaming group, or whatnot. Nor do I think that about anyone who has, taken to the worst extreme, killed someone.

The behavior that the person is displaying in the present tenths matters, their attitude toward their past behavior matters, but their previous behaviors shouldn't (in this feminist's view) be used to restrict someone in a context like this one for the rest of his life. This seems like the whole basis of the idea of Double Jeopardy. Not to say that a Magic The Gathering tournament is a court of law, but the reasoning, the ethics behind the principle of protecting people from being endlessly prosecuted for the same crime is a sound one that I think should inform our society in it's many contexts.
posted by latkes at 5:49 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wanted to learn Magic when I was in high school and it was all the rage. But I couldn't really get anyone to teach me because "you're a noob and we're so advanced we can't play with you," essentially. In retrospect, maybe they did me a favor because I sure as fuck am not going to take up gaming now and get my life ruined because I dared to be female in MANSPACE.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:49 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is anyone else sort of flashing on "Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series" a bit, incidentally?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:11 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The issue around women in magic seems like one of those things that will always be an issue. I was into the game in middle school, and I got back into about three years ago for a short bit until my work schedule picked up and I couldn't carve out time for it. Example, from SCG in 2011. SCG also had a line of card sleeves with nonsense like "I'd tap that."

I feel bad for the people who make Magic because I think they don't have a lot of options. The culture really hinges on local card shops, and WOTC's relationship to those stores is mostly just a supplier. Maybe they could create a ladies play weekend promotion? It would be interesting to see how retailers would react to that. Certainly banning a single person isn't going to have a large effect on the culture.
posted by lownote at 6:16 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Say we turn him away. What's the potential harm? One guy doesn't get to come to a thing.

Except that this is horribly intellectually dishonest, because if you decide this is a good rule to apply then the actual harm is that anyone who has ever done a thing we don't like is ostracized from all kinds of events, regardless of whether or not they're rehabilitated or are a person who would still do that thing.

People who are arguing that it's only "literally one person being banned from one particular brand of card game's competitive events": do you actually think that it's obvious that a convicted rapist who has apparently not reoffended for a decade should be banned permanently from playing competitive Magic and that it's equally obvious that this person should suffer no other social consequences? If not, what is your actual stance, and why did you feel that you needed to misrepresent it in this way?
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:19 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


So what's your rubric, IAmUnaware? It's better to give an abuser the benefit of the doubt, and ignore the women who would feel unsafe having him around? The privilege of a man to go wherever he wants outweighs the right of women to be safe? If the principle of least privilege is "intellectually dishonest" as you say, what criteria do you suggest instead?

I love that you think it's "intellectually dishonest" to prioritize many people's needs over one person's, yet your (apparent) choice to prioritize a single men's comfort (and an abusive one at that) over many women's safety is apparently totes logical.
posted by jacobian at 9:28 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


For numerous reasons, I don't think it's just or even feasible to say that a former rapist should never be allowed to go somewhere where a woman might feel unsafe because of his presence. Also, not all women are the same or have the same feelings about being in a room with someone who once raped someone. (I'm sure we've all been a room with someone who once raped someone, given it's frequency.)

I'm curious if there were women who asked that this person be banned, because they felt unafe? Or if this is a purely theoretical reasoning...
posted by latkes at 9:51 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's just to deny offenders access to housing, jobs, places of business, education, etc. Even if it makes people feel less safe, some things are essential to life and to further rehabilitation.

A gaming event though? Ehhhhh, I think I'm okay with organizers making that call for themselves.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:40 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


People who are arguing that it's only "literally one person being banned from one particular brand of card game's competitive events" ... what is your actual stance, and why did you feel that you needed to misrepresent it in this way?

I'm the person who used this wording you have in quotes so I guess I should respond. I didn't say anything about what's "obvious" though. I used the wording I did because it's not like there has been a wave of bannings or anything approaching any sort of pattern as far as Wizards of the Coast goes. People are making it out to be complete societal ostracisation of an entire class of people when there has been literally one person banned from Magic under these circumstances recently (ever?). I don't feel like this is some huge slippery slope. Maybe I'm wrong and they'll come out with a policy tomorrow about past sexual offences and competitive Magic.

As far as my "actual stance" goes why on earth would I have to agree to something as broad as "it's obvious that a convicted rapist who has apparently not reoffended for a decade should be banned permanently from playing competitive Magic and that it's equally obvious that this person should suffer no other social consequences". This can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and that seems to be how WotC is handling it and will continue to handle it. If this is really a question about wanting me to find a stance that works for society as a whole to reduce recidivism and help reintegrate ex-convicts while also minimizing harm, then I'm not smart enough for that.

Again though, I would note that as far as excluding "anyone who has ever done a thing we don't like", WotC overwhelmingly hasn't. The laser focus around the Internet on the one case in which it has feels a little suspect given both current online gaming-related "activism" and the nature of the felony in question.
posted by ODiV at 11:22 PM on July 2, 2015


MTG is one of those things I thought about getting into; it looked fun and I like fantasy stuff. But like so many things, the near-certainty that I would by default be treated with hostility or derision because I'm female pushed me towards "nah." Are there all-female (or female-identifying) groups? I don't think that's a total solution, but if I was determined to play, I'd seek one out just because I'd feel more welcome.

Every game should be able to welcome in a diversity of players of all types and as beginners.

( I have a lot of feelings about the derail topic that is going on simultaneously, but they boil down to: can we just not, once again, on a thread dealing with women's issues, derail into how unfairly a man was treated? Please?)
posted by emjaybee at 11:29 PM on July 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Are there all-female (or female-identifying) groups?

I don't know how widespread it is, but Lady Planeswalkers Society is a thing.
posted by ODiV at 11:34 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


the near-certainty that I would by default be treated with hostility or derision because I'm female pushed me towards "nah."

Women are in a very strange space at the moment in gaming. I have an anecdote from last night, I consider myself a retired HOTS player (currently ranked 99.75 percentile) and hadn't played for 2 months, and a longtime buddy asks me to play and I say yes, and he has a cute female streamer with him, I check and she's rated 14.00 percentile. To put this in context, even a 10 percentile gap is considered huge. Him and apparently a few other high rated players have been playing with her and coaching her for the past month (as she streams on Twitch) and they're all top rated players, and they're all super nice and warm and welcoming despite how abysmally bad she is, HOTS is a 5v5 game and we were literally playing as a 4v5 for that series of games. I mean, they wouldn't normally even give the time of day to a 90th percentile male player and probably curse them out for being so bad. Women are, in my experience - at the top of the top ranks - like top 1% of players - treated like unicorns and put on a pedestal, which is a highly distorting environment. This isn't unusual: actually just look at all the male / female streamers on Twitch.

And I don't doubt that lower down the rankings, like in the vast middle ground of players below the 50th percentile, her being female would paint a giant target on herself (which is probably why she hangs out with us). So either you're treated like shit, or you're treated like a unicorn, and there's nowhere you can be treated equally.

It's probably related that (as far as I know) there's never been a female participant in all the years of LCS, GSL Code S or DOTA2 TI.
posted by xdvesper at 11:50 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


While the Jesse situation is definitely intertwined with the ongoing conversation regarding women and Magic, and none of these thing happen in a vacuum, I should have foreseen the degree to which it would pull focus from the rest of the post. While I don't think any of the discussion here has been unfair or not valuable, I am sorry to have saddled a discussion about how women are treated with a sizeable sidebar on how a man, and one who has behaved badly, is being treated. My bad on that score.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:58 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


The enormous ego of this rapist is beyond belief.

In Canada, his career would have been over before it began as a lawyer. Only a sociopath would even bother with law school knowing they would almost certainly never practice.
posted by Yowser at 3:32 AM on July 3, 2015


Yowser, Alice Woolley seems to disagree with you.

I used to play Magic when I was younger, and would absolutely enjoy playing it again if I had the money. Although all my friends plays 40k. And yeah, it's always been coded as heavily male-powergeek, even moreso than board games or rpgs. Not that I approve of this, mind you.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:03 AM on July 3, 2015


I'm deeply involved in the Magic community and the tournament scene, as a judge and a player. I don't know this guy personally, but he's at least an acquaintance of some of my friends, and from what I've gathered, while he didn't overtly advertise it, he never tried to hide his past either.

We know that something like 98% of rapists aren't actually convicted, so there are (statistically) a lot of dangerous men in the crowd, but they've banned the one guy who's likely safer than a lot of these unidentified men, the guy who'll actually admit to having been a problem. By setting this precedent, they're only making more real that fear that reporting rape can "ruin" the perpetrator's life.

The Magic community has huge strides to make in making tournaments more friendly to minorities, but solution is grassroots engagement and actual dialogue. Not picking off easy targets and then refusing to make a statement beyond what the lawyers approve.

It's really not about this guy's right or privilege to play, it's about the manner in which he was removed, and the choice to remove him rather than doing things that actually matter and actually serve to make women feel safer in tournament Magic.
posted by explosion at 6:43 AM on July 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


women feel somewhat safer and are slightly less likely to be sexually assaulted at events that they pay to go to, though the risk is still significant, since the percentage of rapists who actually get caught and prosecuted is super fucking low

Is the logical conclusion here not to have women's only tournaments then? So no one will have to feel threatened?

Or perhaps we can vet each individual male player individually, maybe character references or something, in order to establish that they aren't a threat? I mean, there's more than one person here who's pointed out that Magic players, as a group, are generally people of low character.

I have no doubt that a Magic tournaments can be forbidding to women, are probably rife with sexual harassment or that the majority of rapes go unconvicted. But if pointing out that a rapist who has served his time ought to be able to go about his business is ignoring or diminishing the broader problems women face in the Magic community, then I think it's probably fair to point out that the large majority of rapes are committed by acquaintances and that one rapist typically commits more than one rape. Meaning that a Magic tournament held in a public space is probably not "statistically" full of rapists and dangerous men, and is likely significantly less dangerous than your average house party where you know all the people.
posted by Maugrim at 2:27 PM on July 4, 2015


Unfortunately, I didn't get to see this post in time as I was away judging this weekend. I spoke to some of the judges at the event, and the universal reaction I got was that WotC have made a mistake here.
posted by salmacis at 3:21 PM on July 6, 2015


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