Monday, July 4, 2011

magic players are straight white males

A few weeks ago an article about Magic players and their treatment of women made the rounds to mostly positive reception. One of the reasons I mostly dislike it is that it seems to ignore what I feel are the more interesting issues: why are Magic players such morons around women, and why are nearly all Magic players male?

Magic isn't a product that many people will hear about for the first time from a TV ad and go out to buy. A more experienced player has to introduce the person to it, like with heroin, and for a while the newcomer will only be playing with that person, like with bondage. This means that Magic is a game spreads mostly through social circles. Magic's demographics are dominated by straight white males at levels that make the past Standard season look like a joyous time for deckbuilders, and it's because the only people these straight white males ever hang out with are other straight white males, so the game will only ever be played by straight white males. I'm not trying to say that Wizards should change their marketing strategy or try to encourage diversity in some other way because that would be completely pointless. Instead let's all collectively acknowledge that this is the way it was/is/always will be and that it sucks terribly. People have a natural affinity for people that look and act like them, but the Magic community takes this to a level of uniformity above and beyond normal social groups.

There's nothing inherent about Magic or women that keeps the two apart. Both Harry Potter and especially the Twilight series are phenomenally successful fantasy franchises that, to different degrees, are supported by large numbers of women and girls. "What house would you be in?" is still a good pickup line on most women 15-30. The success of Title IX sports at the high school and college levels should be indication that women don't have much of a problem playing a game competitively.

All- well, both- of the people I've taught to play Magic have been female. My ex-girlfriend asked me to teach her, and a friend of hers who had never heard of the game said it sounded interesting as well. The stereotype about female MTG players is mostly true: a way larger portion learned from their significant others than the number of men who learned from theirs. This shouldn't be surprising, really, since it falls in line nicely with the reason not many women play Magic in the first place. Male gamers don't really hang out with women that often unless they're dating. The lack of tact that these gamers have w/r/t issues of gender, race, and sexuality are understandable if still excusable for the same reasons that the girls I taught to play weren't immediately at pro-quality levels of play. It's just a lack of experience. Gamers have no idea what to say or what not to say due to a lack of familiarity with people outside their social circle.

The only way that this will ever change is if the average Magic player starts talking to more people as well as being generally less obnoxious so that they make a wider circle of friends. Because of this I'm not predicting any huge changes in the future.


Imaduck said...

Failed pick up lines: "Hey, how would you like to spend your Friday nights in a room full of sweaty, antisocial nerds playing an expensive fantasy card game?"

Seriously, people make this problem sound way more complicated than it is. We're geeks playing a geeky competitive card game. Go ask some D&D players how many beautiful women are throwing themselves at them. I'm sure you'll get roughly the same results.

Unknown said...

My FLGS is a relatively sociable place, but more people there are just not-unfriendly to new people who walk in to check the place out (including girls) rather than actively friendly.

I think that describing what you're doing when you're playing a game in which you pretend to be a wizard can be a little embarrassing for, well, everyone above the age of 10. A quick tip for describing the game: it's Pokemon for big kids (the fact that Magic came first is trivia). Joke around, ask what the person's favorite Pokemon is. Mine is Psyduck.

MustHaveBeen said...

Hi! I'm the author of said blog post. That's an interesting take on the situation, actually, since the whole reason I didn't address the issues of demographics and behavior is that these seem to be ones that have been discussed the most. That's what I was trying to get at when I said that the topic has been written about over and over again. :) Just serves to remind me that different experiences lead to different perspectives. To clarify, the post had a sole purpose of making a few people giggle, and by my own admission lacks the kind of careful reading required to have any sort of cogent point attached. I hope I succeeded in making a couple of people laugh, at least!
On to your points, while I agree that tactfulness may be a learned art in the same way that a player may acquire nuances in skill, I would argue that there is a difference between intent and error. Therefore, while one may argue that a lack of familiarity with a situation could lead to tactlessness due to ignorance, this is often not the source of the offense. In many cases, it is the intent of an individual to be offensive, rather than a social misstep. I can't make sweeping generalizations about the population here, but in the case of my gamer friends they are almost always aware if something they've said is offensive or hurtful, and they also know why. If someone says or does something without knowing that they've screwed up, I think most people are willing to give them some leeway.
An interesting post, and I hope you'll give me another chance to make you laugh without worrying about the point--I try my best not to have one. ;) Have a pleasant evening!

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