Interview: Levi Coplen on Inclusiveness

During a StarCityGames Open tournament I was very pleased to meet Levi, a deaf Magic player that currently lives in Texas, but was born and raised in Oklahoma.

What types of events do you play? (FNMs, PPTQs, Pre releases, GPs)

I like to play Magic at random places where they host the FNM Standard or where more Magic players are at.

I like to play FNM Standard and Pre Release and sometimes PPTQs and GPs if there are available in local or state area.

Do you play a lot of events? Play occasionally?

I do my best to play a lot of events but it’s hard to attend the main events at outside of Texas such as PPTQs or GPs. Because I am a high school teacher who teach American Sign Language courses and don’t have an option to take a day off to fly out to another state or country for the major events over the weekend. Maybe I can do during the summer but, however, that would be annoying to see the workshops and Magic events at same time.

Please tell us a little about you and how you felt when you came in contact with the magic community.

Tell you a little bits about myself, I am a high school teacher who teach American Sign Language. It’s really hard for me to come in contact with the Magic Community because, unfortunately, Magic Community isn’t always Deaf-friendly access due to the lack of proper accommodation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people such as; subtitle on the videos by WoTC – Magic the Gathering or fliers or banners with need to know important information is during the Magic events.

How and why did you learn to play Magic?

Back to my high school year in around Fall of 1995, I was introduced by my friend to Magic the Gathering.  Being a fan of role-playing video games (RPGs) myself, Magic the Gathering is considered to be RPG to my eyes. After trying to play it with my friend, I became interested in Magic immediately. After that, I played MtG with a few friends at school for three years and then I graduated from high school. I moved to another town for college and didn’t find anyone to play Magic with, so I stop playing MtG for 14 years. Finally I came across a comic store and met someone who worked there who started communicating with me in ASL and told me about MtG.  I thought about going back to MtG once again after the long fourteen years of hiatus from MtG and soon realized that I was very regretful for missing out on lots of good cards from various blocks especially original Zendikar and Urza’s.  It was fantastic meeting a hearing person who knew sign language and played Magic, because he taught me lots of tricks and rules which I didn’t learn proper from my high school years such as stacking of abilities/spells and casting things in response. After that, I started picking up really quickly and start understanding about how Magic works.

Was it welcoming? Did you feel included?

Yes, I feel that MtG was more welcoming to me and I feel included by people in my current local gaming stores (LGS) after I started making friends and people started to get to know me. Unfortunately, it’s really hard for me to feel welcomed or included in any new LGS at first, which happens if I move to another town or visit the new LGS.  Because I don’t know what the people at LGS are talking about Magic related topics and what is really going on LGS lately.

What would make you want to play Magic at events more?

The reason why I want to Magic at events more because I want to build my experience against the pro players and I love a good challenge. I don’t want to be stuck in the local area and learn little or none from the people I play with. I also want to make the Deaf Community feel more included into Magic Community one day.

If there was one thing you could say to all Magic players, what would it be?.  

I have more than one thing to say to all Magic players.

1) Make sure to inform the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Magic Players about your step by step and kindly show your cards that you are casting to them. Don’t flash the card then put it into the graveyard or exile zone quickly.

2) Don’t talk to others in front of Deaf Players during the matches. You will be likely suspect of cheating. If you want to communicate with those Deaf players, just simply use paper & pen, your personal device assistance such as smartphone or tablet or even Boogie Board. The hand gesture may be help some but not always

3) Don’t continuously tap on the table while you are waiting because it’s really annoying and distracts the Deaf Magic players from playing.

4) Do not try to gain advantage over the Deaf Magic Players because of their Deafness. Treat them same as you want to be treated by others.

5) Please Google up on the word “audism” and you will be surprised to learn what the word “audism” means and what caused the audism. We, Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, always face the audism from hearing people almost every day.

What are some suggestions to help Wizards of the Coast and the Magic community become more inclusive?

For Deaf Community, I suggest that Wizards of the Coast and the Magic Community start making media clips for Deaf-friendly access such as captioning and on-site interpreters for official Magic events/tournaments if the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people ask for. The voice-generated caption on YouTube or any video site aren’t always accurate because what the voice-generated captioning translated some of what the people said into the captioning incorrectly. To give you an example, recently, when I saw the Instagram post from Mark Rosewater about the 2/10 common card, I didn’t understand what the post was all about while others found it very funny. I asked few of my friends who are involved in Magic about it and they explained me that “two ten common” sounds like Tutankhamun. I never thought about how it sounds like but I was pretty upset by that because I didn’t feel included in their puns or jokes that based on sounds. I wish that WoTC and the Magic Community were more inclusive to all people, not just Deaf and Hard of Hearing but also Blindness or Low Visual Disability, and even non-English speakers people.

What makes a Magic atmosphere welcoming to you personally?

That’s a hard question to answer. To be honest with you, I still struggle to be welcomed in any Magic atmosphere anywhere, specially the Magic events/tournaments and local gaming stores because of the communication barrier and misunderstanding between the Magic players and myself. Personally, I would like to see every Magic players and judges know sign language well enough to communicate with. However, if I am lucky enough to run into anyone who know sign language in the Magic events and tournaments, I would be shock and thrilled to meet another Deaf player in official Magic Events and Tournaments because it’s rare to meet another Deaf Magic player lately.

This article was written by Antonio Zanutto, L2, Campinas, Brazil

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