Female gamers have always been a rare breed. But that’s changing and the game of Magic is no exception. The number of women who play Magic is on the rise and they are beginning to change the way the community operates. Between Melissa DeTora and Jackie Lee kicking ass on a professional level to a more even ratio of guys to girls at local FNM’s, the gender landscape of this once predominantly male culture is shifting and many men are uncomfortable with the coming changes.
I’m sure most Magic players who attend tournaments at a local store have had encounters with one of these troglodytes. If not directly most have heard the stories of awkward stares, condescending attitudes, even completely sexist overtures made towards girls who have chosen to try their hands in an organized event. As an example, my wife (then girlfriend) decided to join me at an FNM at my local shop and had an experience that still makes me cringe. Since this was her first time coming to the store she wasn’t playing in the tournament and just came as a spectator. She decided to have a casual game with one of the guys who wasn’t playing a match. Another male player asked if they could play as well to which the first dunce responded “Sure, we can have a three way.” The lack of taste and social acumen here is incredible. She packed up immediately and sat down by me where I was playing and didn’t stray from my side afterwards. Her first experience of the Magic community was also her last. She has not been back since as she felt there were better ways to spend her time and honestly she’s 100% correct.
It is common enough that many women don’t bother attempting a second visit and relegate Magic to a purely casual experience. The fact that this is the most likely outcome is comically ridiculous if it wasn’t so tragic. For many players Magic is a refuge from a society that they do not fit into. We are actually considered to be nerds in the negative sense of the term by other gamers. We are outcasts among outcasts. The Magic community becomes a place where we can feel comfortable and accepted, free to express our geeky sides without fear of judgement. Which is why it is so hypocritically funny/stupid that the culture on average is so unwelcoming to outsiders, particularly those of the other gender. This isn’t an issue faced solely by women, it is pervasive in the Magic and gamer culture as a whole.
Magic is a game that I love but at the moment I would put the community somewhere between toxic and corrosive. Players tend to bash one another frequently online and in person and are intolerant of others and their opinions. Perhaps due to the exclusive feel and club like atmosphere of most stores, each local community tends to form multiple cliques within the greater whole. Integrating into a community can be very difficult for new players, male or female, since they face a similar situation to what they face during their day to day life. A group of people that are tightly linked and inimical to outsiders and people that are different. Women tend to take the brunt of this.
As MaRo write recently on his blog, we are each ambassadors for Magic. When someone decides to be a prick they are hurting the game, they are hurting the community, and they are hurting someone who just wanted to play. As a shop owner several years ago I saw this frequently in my store and in hindsight, this was one of the major aspects of my community I hated and wished I had done more about. It is even more pronounced today as women are getting into Magic more often and is becoming one of the major hurdles for local game stores to overcome. It should go without saying that a local game store should have a welcoming and friendly atmosphere but often this is not the case. Even if the store owner embraces this idea, their customers likely do not. As each local community is based around as game store, the store owner and their staff have to become the arbiters and manage the attitudes of the people who play there.
This issue of misogyny and general intolerance has to be addressed directly by store owners first and then by individual players. It only takes one player to make another person feel stupid or unwanted to begin the process of poisoning a community and owners need to be on top of this. Obviously it is in the store’s best interest to have a thriving player base but it is very common for store’s to just let their community evolve of its own accord, for good or worse. A simple policy of no bullying, no verbal abuse, unsportsmanlike conduct, and other such behaviours posted prominently and enforced vigorously would reduce the majority of the discussed problems. Even something as easy as saying “hello” to people as they walk in the door and engaging them in conversation can be enough to make someone feel welcomed and inure them to the attitudes and less than savoury players.
Basically, if store owners can create a safe environment for their players, we will be on a path towards making Magic a better game for everyone. If players who are a detriment to our culture are shunned for their behaviour towards others, we’ll be on the path as well. After all, we have all known how ostracism feels.
TL;DR: Women in Magic are awesome, store owners need to step up, douchebags need to stop douching it up or get out.