This week in Magic: Sexism in MTG

Edit: (Sims) Hey everyone. This can be a touchy subject and I ask that if you leave a comment below to be respective of others’ opinions – whether or not you agree with them. Thank you. 


mtg card back

I first learned how to play “Magic: The Gathering” in fourth grade. It was during snack time, and a bunch of my friends were gathered around one person’s desk. I had no clue what was going on, but whatever it was, looked fun. There were these cards on the table, I could see images of mountains, forests, islands, swamps, and plains. I could see images of dragons, goats, bees, and orcs.


The only ones who were around the table, at that time, were boys. The girls in the classroom stayed on their side of the room and ignored us. Some of the other guys who weren’t interested thought what we were doing was boring or for nerds. It wasn’t a surprise and that was the behavior that was pretty much expected at the time.


I was in fourth grade in 1994. It has now been 20 years since I first experienced the game, and sadly, not much has changed since then. Sure, I’m older, fatter, and am only slightly better at the game then when I first started. However, from my perspective, it’s still a lot of guys gathered around a table casting spells at each other. Those who play still carry the stigma that what we do is uncool. As far as girls go, well that issue was actually touched upon today in an article published by The Washington Post.


The title of the article was, “Growing fantasy-game universe collides with entrenched boys’ club mentality.” I had to read it a couple of times before I finally understood what was being said. Let’s sit back and allow this to sink in. “Magic: The Gathering” is an exclusive club for boys. Sadly, yes. Think about it the next time you go to your next FNM. When the first round pairings go up, take a look at how many people in the tournament are female.


Blinded by the light

I’ve always thought of “Magic” as a game of non-exclusivity. In college, I was part of the “Magic: The Gathering” Club. Yes, I said club. We filled out the paperwork and everything. We could even have school sponsored drafts if we wanted to. Our club had almost 20 members at one point and we would “take over” the commuter cafe at UMass Dartmouth. One day, I had a friend come up to me. He didn’t play the game. I remember him telling me how great I and everyone else was because we just didn’t seem to care what people thought of us. If you asked me, I didn’t even think people noticed us playing.


The point is, I felt special at that moment. I thought we were making a “statement,” and doing away with the whole nerd title. We were’ actually kind of cool. Little did I know that we were still being exclusive even though it wasn’t obvious to us.


One of the guys in the club would bring his girlfriend every now and then. She would even play on some occasions. Looking back on it, every time she did play, she never seemed like she was comfortable. I didn’t think much of it. Maybe she was out of her element because some of us played more competitively than her. Sometimes all that card flicking and hand shuffling can look a little crazy and intimidating from the outside.


It never dawned on me that maybe she didn’t feel comfortable because she was the only girl at the table. Of course it was not an intention to make her feel this way, nor did any of us even think about it at the time.There is this concept of “treating her like one of the guys” or even “making her one of the guys” to make her fit in. Why do we have to make something that she’s not? We should have tried to bring in more girls to play with us.


No excuses

I have no excuses for what we did. I can go on saying that we didn’t have any ill intentions towards females, but the fact of the matter is we didn’t reach out. Sure, we were non-exclusive in the sense that if anyone wanted to join we didn’t hesitate in letting them in. The initiative was not there. While others may have thought we were this courageous group for playing a “nerdy” game in such a public setting not caring about what people thought of us, we still failed as a “community” group in that we didn’t try to pull in people to diversify us some more.


It’s always the little things that matter the most. So, what can we do about this now – in the present?


A few possible solutions

That was then, and this is now. So what can we do as a community to try to fix this? Let’s make this clear, it’s been 20 years for me in my experience, and, therefore, I do not expect this problem to go away overnight. Let’s start with babysteps.


Gaming stores used to have this promotion where if you brought a friend to an FNM (they had to be new of course; no DCI number), then your entry would be free or you got some free pack. It was different at every store. What you received didn’t matter, the point of the promotion was to encourage bringing new faces. This could be a great way to bring a friend, who is a girl. It could even make for a great date night!


Something I have been a fan of is the Lady Planeswalker Society. This is a Seattle based group that was started by Tifa Robles. She is the wife of Mike Robles who was a former Community Manager at Wizards of the Coast. I would love to see a local chapter come about. I have no idea if one exists in Massachusetts. If it doesn’t this would be a great opportunity to start one. The New England area is a very competitive area for “Magic.” Having a group here would be a great opportunity. The awesome thing about this group is that they promote themselves as “A welcoming, friendly community for women (and everyone) MTG players of all skill levels to learn and battle!” While they may be a female focused group, they make sure to mention that even guys are invited.


The wrap-up

This is a really difficult subject to tackle. I also know that this was more of a rough start to the discussion. My hope is that I did it some justice in around enough words to keep you interested, but no more to bore you to death. Once you’re done reading this, maybe you and some friends can continue the talk.
The article that was published by The Washington Post today was interesting. Do me a favor and scroll down to the comments section. Count how many of those comments actually address the issue at hand. Not many of them. In fact, many of the comments attack the writer for inaccuracies and other minor tangents.


The article addressed a major flaw with “Magic: The Gathering,” and that flaw is the lack of female attendees at major tournaments. I felt it was a bit skewed, but not at all incorrect. I didn’t know about that thread regarding Feline. Now that that I know about it, it’s just another pile of dirt from the hole men are continuously digging themselves when it comes to women.


For the women that are reading this, I like to think that there is a slight glimmer at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. The game definitely has some of it’s female standouts besides Feline. There are also Melissa DeTora, Carrie Oliver, and, most recently, Jadine Klomparens. These women have proven themselves on not just a local or national level, these women have been recognized on a world level. As a guy, let me say we know you can play the game, and you can play it well.


Speaking from my own experience, I once played against Melissa in a local tournament, and it scared me. Part of me even accepted the loss when I sat across from her. Needless to say, I won the match. I remember how mad she was (probably due to her competitive nature) and how much of a bumbling fool I was after trying to shake her hand and say, “Good Game.”


If you haven’t gotten it by now, my message for everyone is to reach out. Reach out and pull people in. It’s easy to say the door is open, but sometimes you have to show them in.


One of my favorite sayings in regards to “Magic” is that you’re only as good as those you surround yourself with. If it makes me a better gamer, male or female, I want you around me. I guess the invitation has always been in the mail. As guys, we just forgot to put on the stamp.


About the author

Simeon is now the Community Manager for Battleground Games & Hobbies. If you have any questions or inquiries, then you can reach him at He is also an avid gamer who loves to play board games and video games. He graduated college with a degree in Political Science, and now serves the public by writing about games. You can check that out here. Don’t forget to “like” him on Facebook as well. It’ll update you on all of his newest content. Best of all, you can follow Simeon on Twitter (@SimeonCortezano) for some real time hilarity. Thanks for reading!


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