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Published on July 13th, 2015 | by Nicole Jekich

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Play Your Way: Women and Magic the Gathering part 2

Part 1 of this Women and Magic the Gathering article focused on the different ways women enjoy playing this popular CCG. I shared the stories of many women about how they came into the hobby, and their first experiences with Magic the Gathering.

This week I want to dive into the why- why more women aren’t playing Magic the Gathering. According to the Guardian, in 2010 only 10% of Magic players were female. I also want to show how local communities have gone about setting up their own safe places and fostered an inclusive community, which has helped raise the amount of women playing Magic to 38%.

When I asked women why they weren’t playing Magic the responses I got were similar to those their male counterparts would give. A lack of time and money are the main reasons why the women participants in my survey aren’t playing right now or aren’t playing as much as they would like.

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Is there anything preventing you from playing MTG? Would you play more Magic if…

“If I had more down time. Maintaining a household and an 8:30-5 forces you to choose your relaxing activities. Currently, I’m on a Left4DEAD2 kick. Other weekends, it’s MTG.”

“If I had more disposable income for tournament entry”

“I used to love playing the game, but i have slowed down a lot. My friends have a lot of over powered decks due to the new set and it makes it less fun. The cards are crazy expensive so I cannot really afford to keep up with them as far as buying new/good cards goes.”

“I would play MTG more, but my LGS is too far from my house.”

“At this current state I feel content, I play 2-3 times a week depending and joining in on almost every FNM at the local store.”

“I do want to, but since I have to deal with college and other personal stuff it is hard to do so. Also, there is currently no LGS in my city, and I hardly ever get together with my team to play, so I have to resort to Cockatrice (MTG app) which, honestly, it’s not the same.”

“Yes. Lack of babysitter for toddlers.”

“I would if the competitive decks weren’t so expensive.”

“I would play more if I didn’t have three jobs and school to schedule around. I like to play legacy and vintage and there are not many places that do that around me that fit my schedule.”

“If I wasn’t judging at every tournament I went to!”

“I’ll play Magic more when I finish my PhD and come back home. For now I play weekly or each couple of weeks with my partner at home. We design decks and test them for now.”

Time, money and interest are key resources in short supply that go into staying successful in an on-going game like MTG. Truth be told, I myself haven’t been to an official Magic event in over a year! We don’t buy into the new sets as they come out anymore, so I don’t have as much reason to go to PreRelease events, which was the kind of event I went to most often. I have hopes of getting an EDH game together or sitting down to draft from a pauper cube, but I have many other obligations at the moment- much like many of these women. Magic is one of the many hobbies that sometimes takes a backseat to more important things.

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Harassment

What I don’t like seeing in this particular question’s responses are the number of women who want to, or have played, MTG but don’t continue to play, or play less than desired, due to their previous dealings with harassment and unwelcoming interactions. This is especially commented on in the competitive scene. Also, the lack of comfortable MTG events at their local game store results in many of these participants playing less of the game.

“I want to play more MTG…But my local community is pretty small and toxic as well so it’s very angst-y for me to attend things like FNM. I desperately want to change this myself but it’s hard being the only person who wants to do so.”

“I would play Magic the Gathering more if I felt more comfortable around the people I am likely to end up playing with. At the moment, I have a lot of anxiety around my school friends, who are my most immediate playgroup, so I would play more if I could avoid them more readily. I would play more if I had less school work and fewer exams. I would also play more if my local gaming store offered more events.”

“I had more opportunities for casual, low – pressure play.”

“I would play magic more often if I had a local game store that I felt happy going to..[One of the game stores I visit] has an unkind player base (for example, one of the guys said “you clearly don’t know what you’re doing, honey” when I got mana screwed in a draft).”

“I would probably make time if there was a dedicated beginners group. I recently started a new job in a new area and, sorry to say, do not feel confident enough in my abilities to just show up at a FNM. This isn’t because anyone has ever been mean to me in the past, I at a FNM, I just don’t have that kind of social confidence as a socially awkward newb.”

The sexism in magic can be frustrating, and can definitely be a barrier. A lot of it is caused by the the young male players who are used to seeing that stuff in online gaming, and store owners who would rather ignore it than deal with it.”

“My boyfriend and I took first and second at an event in town recently. He received many congratulations, but I heard disparaging comments made about me – There are people who automatically assume I suck because I’m a girl, no matter how well I do. I’ve heard the “I lost to that girl because she got lucky” comments many times, and “I’m playing a girl, this should be easy.” 

“If it wasn’t 100% male at every single game store I go to. I live in NYC and I have never seen a girl playing MTG at any of the local game stores. I find it really awkward to go into events and I feel very much like an outcast.”

 

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I asked the women themselves if there are certain improvements that would like to see which might make them more comfortable with playing MTG in public, at tournaments and more often in general.

Are there improvement or changes you’d like to see in MTG game or brand? In the MTG community?

“I want WotC to do more to make it clear that Magic is an inclusive game that welcomes people of all genders, races, orientations, and creeds. I would also love it if WotC did a cycle of conventions for those of us who don’t want to do PTQs and other high-level tournaments.”

“I’d like to see a deeper understanding of women and treatment of the female characters as complicated humans rather than outlier strong bossy ladies or beautiful-yet-deadly seductresses (there’s been great progress in this recently). I would like to see more of the recent art wherein heroines are wearing reasonable armor rather than boobplate. I would love to see some active incentivizing of teamwork, of sportsmanship, and of generosity, rather than cutthroat hypermacho insufferable peening immature NONSENSE I encounter every time we try to play with strangers in a card shop. Grown people! It is so sad – it’s the reason I don’t advertise to others that I play Magic.”

“For the five years I have played I have been sexually assaulted and harassed countless times, and three different people have tried to rape me at tournaments and events. The general tone among most of the players is also a very sexist, homophobic and racist one. I would of course like this to change. And while I wish the community would be more welcoming, I also wish it would become better at excluding certain people. The times I have told people in charge about harassment and assault nothing have been done about it, and I had to continue playing against people who continually threaten or ridicule me.”

“Would like to see more girls of course. And recently there was a tour in my area and the winners was asked some questions including ” which female card is the sexiest “. Not very welcoming to women.”

“The majority of the people in the MTG community are super friendly. I have had a few horrible moments where someone has actually verbally abused me for being a girl (because they were mad I beat them in magic), but the rest of the people in the store stood up for me, which was amazing. I think there are a few un-accepting people in the community, but in my experience, the majority are just happy to have a friendly opponent to play this wonderful game with, regardless of gender.”

“Cracking down on sexism. It would be nice to see a stronger con presence by Wizards and an effort to bring female celebs that are into magic, like Felicia Day and Allie Brosh, to con events to get more women interested in learning.”

“I would certainly like to see more women play the game, especially at the competitive level. (One woman qualified for the most recent Pro Tour, and two qualified for the last one. That’s unacceptable to me.) I’m doing my part to increase visibility by putting myself out there (I write articles, co-host an all-female Magic podcast, and am currently shopping around for gaming computers so I can start streaming soon), but we really need more women to come forward and share their experiences in the community if we really want to affect change.”

“Apart from a larger female presence, and possibly tying into getting there, I’d like to see more gender-neutral language. I consume a lot of video, article and podcast content, and it always stands out to me that the majority of people refer to even an imaginary opponent as “he”. That doesn’t exactly make me feel welcome. It’s worth noting that this is starting to change in some places, but it could be a lot better.”

Magic the Gathering Dudes

WOTC’s Magic the Gathering events page is filled with pictures of men playing. Where are the female players?

Building an Inclusive Community

So what can you do? How do we combat these barriers to entry for a lot of women interested in Magic the Gathering? And how do you appeal to such a broad fan base with different interests and preferences? Well to start, make a safe space a priority. Luke stated in a previous article that safe spaces should be:

  1. Welcoming – When you see people you haven’t seen before, say hello, invite them to play a game with you!
  2. Patient – Many people are new to the scene, and some people just need a little more time than others.
  3. Accepting – You may not be the same gender, color, economic class, political party, sexual orientation or a many number of other things as someone else. This should not be a problem.
  4. Assertive – If you see someone being a jerk, please call them on it. There’s no need to be nasty (most of the time) but letting people know in a firm, clear manner that certain behavior is not acceptable helps everyone in the long run.

Especially in the Seattle area, I’ve see a lot of support of safe spaces and growing gaming communities at stores and public events that make inclusiveness their top priority. Inclusive conventions GeekGirlCon and the upcoming OrcaCon are also on the rise.

lady planeswalkers society

The Lady Planeswalkers Society is a great example and a growing an inclusive and supportive community based around Magic the Gathering. The LPS focuses on teaching Magic The Gathering and bringing new players into competitive play. The founder, Tifa Robles explains LPS’ mission better in this article on Wizards of the Coast:

“One of the main purposes for the group is to teach people how to play Magic, especially people who might not feel as comfortable jumping into the regular tournament scene to learn. I wanted to take out as many potential obstacles as possible. This includes taking away the highly competitive vibe that most tournaments have and making it more casual and inviting.

Since its establishment in 2011, LPS has more than 50 chapters across the state, country and the world! With the growing popularity of MTG across the world, organizations like LPS are crucial to bringing more women into MTG. In this recent Guardian article about Magic the Gathering’s rise in popularity, the states show more women are playing:

“…In 2010, an estimated 10% of Magic players were female. Now that figure stands at 38%.”

To learn more about this organization and to learn how to create your own LPS chapter, please visit the Lady Planeswalkers Society’s website, follow them on Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you for reading! I will be back with a follow up article detailing the different ways to play and enjoy Magic the Gathering and how the game is evolving to become more inclusive.

 

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About the Author

Nicole Jekich

came from humble beginnings as a Boise suburbanite with a love of Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. She attended an open board game day three years ago and is now an avid gamer and fantasy artist. Her interests are primarily in Dungeons & Dragons, dice placement and Roman-themed tabletop games. Nicole is also a fan of playing games that let her release her inner barbarian. Her favorite game currently is Far Space Foundry.



5 Responses to Play Your Way: Women and Magic the Gathering part 2

  1. Pingback: Across the Board Games | Reviews, Kickstarter Updates, Community Discussion

  2. Bibble says:

    “I would play Magic the Gathering more if I felt more comfortable around the people I am likely to end up playing with. At the moment, I have a lot of anxiety around my school friends, who are my most immediate playgroup, so I would play more if I could avoid them more readily. I would play more if I had less school work and fewer exams. I would also play more if my local gaming store offered more events.”

    “I had more opportunities for casual, low – pressure play.”

    “I would probably make time if there was a dedicated beginners group. I recently started a new job in a new area and, sorry to say, do not feel confident enough in my abilities to just show up at a FNM. This isn’t because anyone has ever been mean to me in the past, I at a FNM, I just don’t have that kind of social confidence as a socially awkward newb.”

    “If it wasn’t 100% male at every single game store I go to. I live in NYC and I have never seen a girl playing MTG at any of the local game stores. I find it really awkward to go into events and I feel very much like an outcast.”

    Including these things under the heading of “harrassment” is extremely dishonest.

    • In the paragraph preceding those quotes Nicole said, “Also, the lack of comfortable MTG events at their local game store results in many of these participants playing less of the game.” It’s not just Harassment, though that was a large part of the responses.

      • Bibble says:

        Then there should have been a separate heading of “Lack of Comfortable Events” rather than shoehorning all those things into “Harassment” and pretending that trying to avoid one’s school “friends” is a systemic problem in the community. Or that preferring casual play and being socially awkward are female-exclusive problems. Or that a store’s clientele being predominantly male means females will automatically be harassed.

        • Kelsey King says:

          Regarding your last sentence, and speaking from experience, it’s not quite that women assume that they’ll be harassed at predominantly male events at every attendance. But once it’s happened once, or twice, the FLGS no longer feels friendly or even worth the risk of harassment.

          Part of it is that, over time, some (most?) women start to feel wary around large groups of men, regardless of situation or location due to repeated negative interactions in that kind of environment.

          Personally, attending exclusively male events alone (and in a new location, like a FLGS I’ve never been to) makes me feel very uneasy. While this unease lessens after every positive or neutral encounter in that location, if harassment happens in that location/context later, that space no longer feels “safe,” despite repeated positive interactions.

          It’s not that we assume all men are harrassers, or that we’ll be harassed at every event, but when we’ve been harassed in that context or location before, it’s no longer as fun because it feels like you have to have your guard up. Which can be exhausting.

          Make sense?

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