Category Archives: Community

That Might Not Work…

Jackie Lee wrote an excellent article today. I wish she hadn’t written it for many reasons, but it was very good. She supported her position with facts, anecdotal evidence, stats and human psychology, and she laid it out well. I’m not her editor though, and I’m sure she’ll get ample praise for the column both because it’s good and because it “needed to be said.”

Did it, though? In my cubicle I am somewhat sheltered from the luxuries of cell reception, so I haven’t been able to follow the Twitter furore properly. While on my lunch break I did see at least one (entirely unsurprising) person talk about the onslaught of “white knights” to defend Jackie and her article, though why either should need that is beyond me. Jackie is more than capable of defending herself, if in fact she feels a need to do so, and the article stands on its own. My fear though is that all this article will do is exacerbate what is already a serious issue.

I’d venture that some people reading this have heard of Gary Quach. He was recently banned by the DCI for 6 months for what can only be described as hate speech against women in the SCG chat feed during GP Salt Lake City. This has apparently been going on for a long time but was only recently brought to the attention of Wizards and the DCI. How he got 6 months for hate-fuelled disgusting garbage when Gerald Freas got 18 for poorly-done “humour” with little to no malicious intent is a topic for another time and place. The problem is that Quach is far from alone on the internet or indeed in the Magic community. He and his ilk will read Jackie’s article…and either laugh it off or start behaving even worse than they do now. Bigotry is born of ignorance but ignorance is bliss and many people will refuse to leave that state of mind. The worst elements of our community (and I am loathe to include them in that group) are the ones who need to read this most…and they won’t care.

Others will read it and nod their heads sagely, agreeing with every word, praising Jackie for her courage and lucidity and calm in the face of such extreme adversity. Many members of that group will be male and will apologise on behalf of the gender for the behaviour of a few, either out of some desire to score points with a member of the opposite sex or a genuine distress at the poor behaviour of others. Some will even go so far as to call out and deride those who dare to disagree with anything Jackie says and suggest that they are in fact part of the problem being described.

Then there’s the majority, the ones who will read the article and think that it’s true, but don’t think it affects them. These are the people Jackie should be trying to reach, because in all likelihood it DOES affect them. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that the vast majority of people playing this game are men. Many of them have called people “bitch” or referred to a particularly dominant victory as “rape.” Some even get offended that people find this offensive. I really admire Jackie’s question: Why do you use these terms? Of course most people won’t have an acceptable answer to that, and they’ll go on using it just as they use “gay” to describe something negative or “owned” to describe a rousing victory in another fashion. More on that later.

Jackie’s points, while well-researched and supported, work only in an idealist society. Alas, we don’t even LIVE in one, let alone play in one. The ONLY way that women will become accepted as commonplace in the competitive Magic scene is for them to BE commonplace there. I wish this weren’t the case but Jackie’s own story about the etymology of “bitch” is a good illustration here. Women won the right to vote and then had to put up with vicious verbal backlash for years thereafter. We are seeing the emergence of female pros in Magic and unfortunately it will take time for that to be accepted by The Great Unwashed, as Edward Bulwer-Lytton would no doubt refer to them.

One thing Jackie did not address is how the treatment of women in Magic seems to be an extension of the treatment they receive in the internet community at large. The Mos Eisley of the internet, known as 4chan, is famous for this. I could go on for hours about the psychological reasons behind the misogyny displayed by the socially maladjusted denizens of the internet, but it’s been done time and time again. There is a lot of overlap between Magic players and internet junkies, and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. Not every “nethead” is a raging bigot, far from it. The large overlap between Magic and the web though makes it inevitable that some of this negative element will bleed into our community, and we all know the effect that a bad apple has on the bunch.

I’ve been called a “white knight” more times than I can count. It’s rather offensive actually, this idea that defending someone’s position is a bad thing and worthy of derision. Outside of Magic I do a lot of human rights and equal opportunities work. With all that said, I have on more than one occasion called something a bitch. I’ve joked with female friends in ways that Jackie in her article calls damaging. That makes me, by her definition, a contributing factor. That comes as something of a shock to me. In Canada the Aboriginal peoples have had a very tough time of it. One of my good friends, who is actively involved with his people and represents Aboriginal issues on a national stage, has a saying: “If you want to help me and my people, ask me how. Don’t just do.” So I have asked, and I’ve been told simply that I should treat female players as I do male players. I don’t get that impression from Jackie’s article.

The thing is, female players are NOT just like male players. I’m not talking about the obvious biological differences, but instead the number of them to be found at any given tournament. One of my ex-girlfriends once stopped by a PTQ to drop something off to a friend of mine so he could bring it over to me. She walked into this room on a university campus and said she instantly felt 120 sets of eyes on her. She was the only woman there. When a man succeeds at such an event, there is fanfare for his achievement. “Bravo! You have done something few have done before you!” When a WOMAN succeeds, it’s my belief that there should be MORE fanfare. Yes it puts them more in the spotlight, but we WANT that. One of the key tenets of equal opportunities is proportional representation. We may never reach that in competitive Magic but we can certainly do better than we are now, and touting every success of a woman is paramount to that taking place.

I really hope I am wrong about this. I’ll be doing a podcast with Jackie and the crew from RamenCast in the near future, and I look forward to having a discussion about it without character limits and such getting in the way. Those of us who don’t have an irrational fear of losing to a girl or mommy issues would all love to see more women playing the game at the highest level, and I for one can’t wait for the time when the topic isn’t a topic any more. Alas, we’re not close to being there yet. Pointing out all the little things that people do that are intimidating or distasteful to women is, in my mind, more likely to cause it to increase than decrease.

Apologies that this entry sounds so jumbled. I’m really just trying to get everything into words and published while the issue is still at the forefront of the collective conscience. I’ve already been asked what the solution is, and to be honest I think the best one is a reactionary approach. Tout the successes, call out the bigots and encourage the up-and-comers. Any community that wants to diversify has to be welcoming to the new elements, but invariably there will be the “there goes the neighbourhood” crowd whose impact needs to be minimised and whose conduct should be publicly shamed. “A Field Guide to Interacting With Female Magic Players” just isn’t going to do anyone any good, I fear.

Now, as an aside and without meaning to detract from Jackie’s article or the issue at hand…how many black people have made a GP or PT top 8? I count 4: Rashad Miller, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, David Williams and Cedric Phillips. They’ve done better than women (I believe all 4 have PT top 8s, though I could be wrong on that) but the number is the same as far as I can determine. Are black people subject to the same degree of bigotry in Magic circles as women are? I don’t think so, no. But how many of you have used the word “owned” to suggest domination? Were you aware of the origins of THAT particular word in that sense? Slavery, I’m afraid. Very rarely though will anyone chastise you for its use. If we’re going to start watching when we say “rape” (which I wholeheartedly agree is unpleasant) and “bitch” (which might be taking it a little far, but if it offends then so be it), perhaps we need to stop saying “owned” as well. While we’re at it, let’s dump “gay” too, huh?

Tagged , , , , ,

Dreamcrushed

I failed.

I’m not used to typing those words, or saying them for that matter. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I put my all into everything that I do, and that failing is just not an option. This single-minded doggedness has been both a blessing and a curse: it has got me my job and my home, but it often means I won’t listen to advice when I get an idea in my head, as that on some level translates to a failure to succeed on my own.

When the changes to Organized Play made Planeswalker Points the be-all, end-all for Magic players everywhere, I set my sights on qualifying for SOMETHING. Sure a Pro Tour was probably out of the question, but Canadian Nationals wasn’t…was it? Well, maybe. But with all the supplemental changes, I ended up with a clearly-defined goal: 300 points from December 26 to April 1, and I would qualify for Canada’s World Magic Cup Qualifiers (WMCQ). Winning one of those seemed unlikely at best, but it was a goal and a chance to prove that I belonged with the best of Canada’s Magic players, despite living in an isolated part of the country.

I knew I was in tough. With a very low likelihood of any events carrying a multiplier, I would need roughly 23 points a week which is about 7 match wins in 2 events. Every 3 additional events let me lose an additional match, but given the fact that our FNMs are always 4 rounds and our Saturday drafts always 3 rounds, it was going to be a very, VERY tough assignment. Nothing new to me! Tough assignments make it all that much sweeter when you complete them.

My quest was aided by the opening of Midgard Gaming, a second LGS that would allow me to play 4 times a week should I be so inclined. Five free points a week would mean I only needed 6 match wins from 4 events…not too hard, right? Plus there was a Game Day in the season, meaning a chance at double points. Plus a prerelease and release, which would give me multiple events in a single day. Yeah, this was looking better and better!

I’d overlooked a couple of things though. One of those was my travel schedule, which is not light. Sure I can play Magic while on the road but it’s not always possible or practical, and I have yet to figure out how to sanction an event on a plane. I’d estimate that flying cost me 3-5 events over the course of the season.

The second thing I overlooked was the biggest hurdle: I don’t play the best deck often enough. You’ll never catch me saying that rogue decks and brewing are bad, but when you’re in a race against the calendar and points are your number one priority, perhaps you shouldn’t be taking TurboFog to Game Day. Yes, I really did that. I also played Big Red Heretic’s Punishment at FNM and went 0-4 one week. I knew the decks weren’t great going in BUT I wanted to play them, and I got a lot of enjoyment out of doing so…briefly. It’s like the guy on a diet who buys a big bag of potato chips and promptly eats the whole thing, his brain screaming at him throughout that he should not be doing this. Shut up brain, I want yummy synthetic-bacon-flavoured deep-fried potato slivers! I don’t care that they’re bad for me, I love them!

Sadly, the losses piled on like the fat would have from those delicious, delicious bacon potato chips. Through sheer volume, (I guess) play skill and refusal to stop trying, I was still within striking distance…with luck and a prevailing wind. With one week left in the season we had finally managed to schedule a Grand Prix Trial (GPT), bringing with it a 3x multiplier. I was in the top 5 in the province at this point and a good showing at the (likely) 6-round event would mean that a couple of tournaments in the final week would push me over the finish line – just. I started looking in to flights to Montreal in April and Toronto in June, the two closest WMCQs geographically speaking. I was sitting on 235 points, and going 4-2 at the GPT would net me 45 of the 65 points I needed even if I didn’t make top 8. Twenty points in a week was nothing, especially if I could run a few 8-man grinders on the last day to help people qualify.

Again, I was overlooking something: a GPT requires a sanctioned judge, of which there are 3 in town. Neither of the other two judges was in contention for a WMCQ spot, so I thought I could convince one or both of them to judge the event and let me have my shot at…well, not greatness but respectability. I could go to the mainland and proudly wave the Newfoundland flag, showing that we ARE just as good as the Ontario and Quebec and Alberta players…we just don’t have the opportunities to show it. A fine plan, presuming the judges were amenable.

And, you know, that they show up.

Whatever else I regret, whatever else upsets me about my failure to reach 300 points, I do NOT regret judging that event. I place my role as a judge and community organiser far, FAR above my role as a player. They can play Magic without me, I can’t judge without them. One player went past the 300 mark due to the GPT (shout out to Extra Balls!), and that alone made it worthwhile. That we also got our store to Advanced WPN level and that the players immensely enjoyed the event just added to the satisfaction I got from watching and judging Magic all day. Besides, with some dedication and some winning on my part, it wasn’t over JUST yet. I had 7 days to get 65 points.

It WAS over, though. A 3-1 finish at FNM was a fine start, but a snowstorm on Saturday and a lack of midweek Magic (couldn’t get 8 people together) crushed the dream nicely. Sunday’s draft was never going to be enough, and with nobody else having the desire to grind until midnight there was just no way I was qualifying for a Qualifier. When it finally sunk in that I had failed, I was crushed. My good friends Mark and Ken tried to console me, to little avail. Even the fact that it was WrestleMania night wasn’t shaking the devastating feeling that I just wasn’t good enough. Every friendly rib from Jay Boosh and Nina, every sigh of frustration from Smitty and Justin Richardson, suddenly came back to me in a whole different light: am I just bad? Bad at Magic, bad at deckbuilding, bad at dedicating myself to a goal, bad at listening?

Several bottles of cider and a 4-hour pay per view event later, I came to one inescapable conclusion: the errors were all mine, and they were all fixable. I clearly had the ability to win games of Magic. That I gained over 180 of my 250 points in the last 6 weeks of the season suggests that my deck assessment skills are improving. I’m on the right track. Alas, that track is a very long one, and the 2013 WMCQs seem a long, long way away. I have to balance my commitment to my community with my desire to succeed on a personal level, and I will not sacrifice the former for the latter. We don’t know what the qualification standard will be for next year yet, but I’m saying here and now that it does not matter.

I’m crushing it. I’ll be there next year, representing this little province and our small but tight community. And I’ll be bringing half of them with me. Look out, Magic world. Newfoundland is coming, and we’re coming strong. And me? I’m leading. Failing again is not an option.

Tagged , , , , , , ,