Is Magic for everyone?
This question has a very simple answer: Yes.
But, unfortunately, many players hear sexist, homophobic and racist slurs in places where Magic is played: for many of them this is a reason to never play again. This is why it’s time to talk about diversity, prejudices and what they mean for the game itself.
Although the dictionary defines it as variety and difference, these days we understand diversity as the mixture of cultures, lifestyles, and affective relationships that make up our society. What does all this mean? It means that on any given day, at every tournament, or wherever you might play Magic, we can find people from different races, sexual orientations, ages, and genders. Not to mention different religions, physical capabilities, and many other differences.
This diversity enriches our community, teaches us about different lifestyles and opinions, or even other ways to play. Diversity builds bridges among us and provides multiple benefits for everyone.
But all these differences are not without prejudices. Negative prejudices that often are spoken aloud or expressed with a very explicit body language. Prejudices that are not easily dismissed and have a negative impact on the play experience.
For example, what behaviors or comments we can observe at any given point at any store?
We can hear a group of boys saying to their friends “you are such a tool, a girl could win you”. I myself have been said that we girls don’t know how to play or that we go to tournaments to look at boys. Homophobic jokes are a recurring event, too. It’s pretty usual to hear things like “he f****d you” or “careful with him, he’s going to f***k you”. Being recurrent jokes do not make them any less problematic.
There are more examples. Kids that attend a prerelease, excited to play with the grown-ups, who open a rare card and then someone comes saying “look, this is a 7/7 dragon with flying, you’ll be unstoppable with this, let me trade it for that ugly golden card you just opened”. Or those players who are wary of people from other races because they think they’re going to steal their deck, or that because they’re from another country they don’t have the right to play in their store.
But this is not only about things we say or things we do, there are other things that can be problematic, like playing with tokens that depict semi-nude women, or playmats with sexually explicit images. Even playing with dice with a swastika.
These kinds of behaviors create an unwelcoming and toxic atmosphere that’s exactly the inverse of what MTG should be and definitely things that players should avoid bringing into the community.
On the other hand, we must be aware that each community and environment has their own habits, and things that are fine in one place may not be in another, so aside from these general aspects we should observe and analyze the community where we are at any given time.
It’s true that all we want is to have fun and that, sometimes, it’s a burden to control what we say and how we say it, but if we let everyone act without considering how their actions affect everyone else the chance of ruining the game experience for someone rises exponentially.
It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the places where MTG is played are welcoming and comfortable spaces for everyone.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines inclusion as the act of including, which in turn means to take in or comprise as a part of a whole or group. Inclusion is not just feeling comfortable in your environment; it’s feeling respected and valued for who you are, being supported by your community, and receiving everyone else’s feedback to improve yourself and become the best version of you. We should all feel motivated by our communities to improve ourselves; and in doing so, improve the community itself.
It’s important also to realize that not only we must follow these guidelines, we also need to stay vigilant about all these behaviors and not let them happen by dismissing them. If offenders see their behaviors called out by their equals it’s more probable they realize that these conducts are not acceptable.
What do the Magic rules say?
There always will be people who don’t agree with diversity, or who don’t want to control their words, or who think that bullying others is fun. That it’s not their problem if others get offended. We all know people who are like this, who create an unwelcoming environment and make everyone’s else game experience way worse than it should be.
Fortunately, to help combat this behavior we have rules at our disposal. It’s literally in the rules that govern all sanctioned Magic tournaments: the environment must be welcoming and inclusive for all genders, gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, races, or religions, whether it’s in-game or outside one.
Let’s take a look at how the rules define these behaviors and the penalties that players can get for not respecting others.
For non-competitive tournaments we have these rules:
A player whose behavior may be upsetting others or making them uncomfortable should be educated and asked to stop immediately. If they make no attempt to correct their behavior, applying a Game Loss may reinforce the seriousness of the issue. If this does not stop the behavior, or if a player is being threatening, aggressive or harassing other players, these situations are Serious Problems (Source: Judging at Regular Rules Enforcement Level).
This means that a player that engages in these behaviors can receive a game loss for that, but if he does not depose them or the situation escalates from that point they may be asked to leave the tournament and the store.
In competitive tournaments, however, the rules include these actions in the Unsporting Conduct section.
A disruptive behavior is defined as something that can affect the safety, competitiveness, fun, or tournament’s integrity in a significant way and can be categorized (from lowest to highest intensity) as minor, major, or aggressive behavior.
Unsporting Conduct is considered minor if, for example, a player uses strong language. The penalty for that would be a warning (Source: Infraction Procedure Guide – Unsporting Conduct – Minor).
Unsporting Conduct major is penalized with a Match Loss and is defined as this: A player takes action towards one or more individuals that could reasonably be expected to create a feeling of being harassed, threatened, bullied, or stalked. This may include insults based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.
- A player uses a racial slur against his opponent.
- A player takes inappropriate photos of another player without express permission.
- A player asks a spectator for a date, is denied, and continues to press the issue.
- A player purposefully obstructs another player with the intent of inducing physical contact.
- A spectator uses social media to bully another player.
The last level is called Unsporting Conduct – Aggressive Behavior and is defined as: A player acts in a threatening way towards others or their property (Source: Infraction Procedure Guide – Unsporting Conduct – Major).
The penalty for this is a disqualification and the offender will be asked by the tournament organizer to leave the premises. It’s important to note that, in this case, the safety of every person in the tournament is extremely important. No physical abuse or intimidation will be tolerated.
Thank you very much for reading. And remember: diversity, rather than an obstacle, is an enrichment for the whole community. And if you ever find yourself in any of these situations don’t hesitate to talk to the nearest judge, they are there to help you.
Some links that may be useful to learn more:
Special thanks to Judges for Diversity for their awesome work and for helping to make this community a better place for everyone.