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Magic the Gathering: What it Feels Like for a Girl

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This past weekend I attended Grand Prix Las Vegas, a Magic: The Gathering tournament that officially became the largest in history. It was massive. More than 7000 people played in this giant card game tournament at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Channel Fireball and Cascade Games hosted the event.

The best way I can explain Magic: the Gathering to those of you who don’t play: it’s like chess but the pieces cost actual money. Magic will always hold a deep place in my heart. I named my orange tabby cat after a Magic card (Aurelia the Warleader). It is a hobby I am passionate about, but unfortunately one that has its share of problems.

I have been playing Magic on and off since 2012. I first learned when my ex-boyfriend suggested we both try a new hobby, since graduate school was really immersive and scary. I agreed, and I played my first game in the laundry room of my dorm. We had no idea what we were doing, but it was still fun. Magic is easy to learn but hard to master, in my opinion.

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I believe everyone should be able to play Magic. There are many people (of all gender identities) that feel similarly. The problem with that belief is that harassment is sometimes built into the environment of gameplay. I have been in many game stores where this is not a problem, so this is not a generalization I want to make. I love the Magic community.

There are, however, “incidents.” But sometimes, it’s not even harassment. It’s just feeling like an outsider, like you don’t belong in the community. I’ve had opponents make snide comments. It’s discouraging when you are learning and have not picked up the skillset. I’ve had opponents stare at my chest the entire time we’re playing.

I wondered if would Grand Prix Vegas be like that, give its massive scale? The answer was no. I went with a crew of friends from my local game store and my boyfriend. We had a blast! No one treated me disrespectfully for anything but my choice in play style. But that’s a given. Magic players try to help each other get better, and usually that involves some level of geek bro mansplaining. Except they aren’t doing it because you’re a *gasp* woman, they’re doing it because they saw you make a mistake that a more seasoned player would pick up on. And these geek bros do it to each other! It’s a sign of respect to correct someone, to lightly poke fun at one another. This was new to me joining the Magic community, but as soon as I figured out it wasn’t an insult- it was much easier to learn from my gameplaying mistakes.

Grand Prix Vegas was a fantastic opportunity to play Magic alongside the greatestplayers in the world, to have my cards signed by my favorite artists, to eat way too much convention center pizza, and to bond with my friends. Channel Fireball, the event organizers, gave me a press tour. I got to ask many questions about the harassment of female players (or just anybody really- people can be jerks). If you find yourself at an official tournament facing harassment, you can always yell“JUDGE” and a judge will come over. From there, you can explain the situation. If this “in your face” method makes you uncomfortable, you can remember where the harassment occurred (was he two seats to your left during in round 6? your opponent in the first round? NOTE IT) and then report at the judge’s table when the round is over. But what if harassment happens at your local game store, at an informal event? I would encourage you to talk to the store manager/owner, sooner rather than later. Everybody deserves to feel respected and be comfortable enough to play.

If you have an analytical mind, enjoy chess, and like being mildly social- Magic is ahobby you will love. Next up for me is Grand Prix San Diego in August. If you are going to that event and want to challenge me, tweet me at @playwrightsara – I play most formats, except Modern.

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