Women in Magic the Gathering

Women are making a name for themselves in the Magic the Gathering Community but this doesn't come easy.

April 29, 2019

Women in Magic The Gathering

“Last year at the Indianapolis Open, I had one of the worst experiences I have ever had. My opponent sat down and said, ‘Oh no, the last time I played against a women they had to call a judge for harassment.’” said SCG Tour Pro Kat Light.

Women who play Magic the Gathering have had to face some difficult obstacles while playing the game that they love. Whether it is a case of sexism or disrespect, women have to put up with a lot that men don’t have to face while playing Magic.

Kat Light concentrates during a match at Star City Games Tour in Cincinnati.

It’s not just paper Magic where women face discrimination. There have been many streamers and content producers who have faced tribulations for simply being a female who plays Magic. MTG Nerd Girl is a popular Magic content producer who was recently invited to the Mythic Invitational, which is the biggest tournament in Magic’s history, and online comments belittled her skill and talent.

“If MTG Nerd Girl were a guy, she wouldn’t have her job.,” a YouTube user commented on a video.  “She was LITERALLY chosen (like all women who play Magic to try to gain attention from guys, which is a 100% of them) because she is female.” in regards to her selection for this highly prestigious tournament.

Facing Issues

Not every woman Magic player has had some kind of horror story happen to them, but many say they identify gender discrimination to be a problem in the community.

Becky Adlman is a pro player and member of Team Tempest.

I’ve had one or two small experiences where someone made a comment and I wasn’t quite sure if it was meant in the way I was  yeah you’re fine perceiving it and let it go pretty easily. While my personal experiences haven’t been too bad, it is important to recognize that it is still a huge issue within the community and work together to be better,” said Adlman.

Even through these obstacles, many women choose to stick it out because they love the game. Players has their own stories on how they started playing Magic and why they fell in love with the game.

Light has taken a heads on approach with the mental and social side of the game. Magic is a game of strategy and many players love this aspect of it.

Ally Warfield decides her next move competing at Star City Games Tour in Indianapolis.

“I immediately fell in love with the game because of the interaction of the people. I love people, and the ability to like use critical thinking in a competitive format. I’ve always played sports, and I’ve always been very very competitive, but now I got to use my brain to be competitive. I just, I love that. I love the deep pool of knowledge for Magic and constantly learning and there’s no cap for ceiling and I really love that aspect of it,” said Light.

Other players have fallen in love with the game for the opportunities it has provided them that they may not have gotten beforehand.

“I started playing seven years ago and think what really made me fall in love with the game is going to all of these events and cities because I really love traveling,” said Allison Warfield, another Star City Games Pro.

Many players fall in love with one specific deck or style of deck and that captivates their love with the game. In Magic, there are many strategies that you can use to win the game. Becky Adlman is known for always playing the card Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in her decks.

Video by Emily Eliotte

I learned what Magic The Gathering was in 2013. I was 16 years old, and a friend I worked with bought me a duel deck and he showed me the basics of the game.  I think I fell in love with my first modern deck before branching out and really falling in love with the game. Once I found happiness with a deck (Valakut) and comfort in my ability playing I was able to genuinely enjoy other formats and archetypes,“ said Star City Games Pro and Team Tempest member Becky Adlman.

The Female Generation

Many times these women don’t realize the influences that they have on other players. For them, Magic is a game that they love and they are at these tournaments to perform to the best of their ability, but by playing at a high level they gather fans of all genders.

SCG Pro Becky Aldman shuffles up as she gets ready to play in round 5 of the SCG Open in Cincinnati

When interviewing Kat Light, she responded to what it was like to be one of the most prominent players in the game and throughout her answer she stopped and emphasized the word prominent.

“Prominent? Oh yeah I forget, because I’m just another person and because of my friends, I am where I am,” she said.

Some players understand the influence that they have on the community.

“It is a good feeling to be a person that other women can look up to,” Warfield said. “Representation is very important. I know I’m not a super high-level player, but I am someone that people just getting into Magic can look up to and it is awesome and humbling.”

Other players recall being on the other side when they were not at the professional level yet.

It is incredible to be part of something bigger.”

— Becky Aldman

 

“I think back to the times I’ve seen women succeeding on camera and wanting them to win before anyone knew who I was, and it’s still unreal to be on the opposite side of it for other people. If being on camera, doing well at an event, or even just being seen while playing at the hall makes even one person feel more comfortable or makes them think “Wait I want to do that!” like it did for me, then I’m happy.” said Adlman.

With professional female players and personalities like Light, Adlman, Warfield and others they inspire not only women, but the next generation of players.

“I started playing Magic The Gathering in 2016. My brother introduced me to the game, and together we watched the professional players play. I loved watching the professionals and decided that I also wanted to try to become a pro,” said Hanna Burrows, a local 15-year-old woman who spends her weekends at the card shop.

The Local Scene

With a small representation of females at the professional level, how does this represent the local playerbase? One of Magic’s game designers Mark Rosewater has stated that 38% of Magic’s playerbase is female. This number has came from people who play Magic online, at their local game stores, and at their kitchen tables.

Video by Emily Elliotte

Alex Spears is a local game shop owner of Through the Decades.

“I would say roughly one in 10 of our customers are female, and when it comes to tournament entries I would say that number is even lower,” “The number is pretty consistent with what I expected when we opened, but what has been surprising is Magic The Gathering has grown infinitely over the years, the women entries have increased, but not at the same rate as the other demographics.”

Wizards of the Coast, the creator of Magic the Gathering, has taken a pretty firm grip on issues in the community over the past couple years.

“Wizards has really strengthened up their rules and their engagement. Magic and all games are about making new friends, and new opportunities and meeting people. Wizards really strengthened up their rules and really protected some of their female cosplay players and some of those other things that we see and unfortunately some bad news popped about that in the past year or so, but I think Wizards handled it quickly and aggressively and said this won’t be tolerated. If it was a problem before, we apologize for the past problem and here’s what we’re going to do to fix it moving forward,” said Spears.

Spears said he believes that for things to get better, there has to be a period of trust instilled into the community. “The female population of Magic the Gathering players is growing, which is evident at major events, but to see that carryover to the local level could take some time.”

Artist Anna Faris of Black Wing Altars works on a custom card during the SCG Open.

“I think it’s going to probably stay fairly similar (female attendance), but I don’t think we can really expect to see that growth until we prove we can be responsible.  I think saying that it’s been fixed or has gotten better maybe true but not perfect by any stretch.I think we’re going to have to prove it for a lot longer than a couple Friday Night Magic’s for a new faith and trust to be instilled in a female or any other demographic for that matter.” said Spears.

Just Like Any Other Player

One thing that Spears emphasized was some of the efforts he made to make women feel more accepted at the game store.

“I have definitely made a lot of mistakes. I have tried things like having more female exclusive opportunities or female tournaments and then you realize that that’s not exactly what anybody is looking for,” he said “Either way nobody is looking for an isolated event for just men or just women or for certain ages. What we’re looking for is an equal opportunity for everyone to showcase and play in the exact same environment and I think we all make that mistake and what you realize is that everyone’s looking for the exact same thing.”

Several Pro Players have agreed that they are looking for inclusivity in the community. “Remember that women are just other players, and while some local game stores can try to do really nice things that are like, ‘Hey, oh you’re a woman, let me give you something extra” that ends up making us feel different and separated and special. I say special but a negative kind of special.

She advises store owners and others working to make the community more inclusive to simply treat people equally.

“Just remember women are players just like everyone else,” Light said. “Encourage them like any other new player. Don’t do anything special. We don’t want special treatment because that highlights that we are different. I want to get to the point where we walk in and there are women and men and that just what we expect at any kind of tournament.”

Other pros had mentioned that their local game stores have taken a similar approach to get women in their community active inside of their shops.

Some game stores have taken measures to make women feel more accepted in their shops by having open game nights.

Zach Buddzinski contemplates his next play in the SCG Standard Classic in Cincinatti.

“As far as community in general, it’s as simple as supporting each other and being respectful, these are basic things that reach beyond magic.  Magic: The Gathering was made for everyone, and its important to make sure women and men both feel welcome to enjoy one of the world’s favorite card games,” said Adlman.

Brian Spurlock, the Pokemon head at Through the Decades said he has more female players in Pokemon than he has seen in Magic.

“From my experience it is generally easier for like a spouse or partner to get the female counterpart into Pokemon as it is a little bit more simplified as far as like trying to teach a game right away. Most of the time you also see women coming in with like their children that are very big into Pokemon in a lot of times it can get them interested in it as well. In Magic you still see a decent amount of women Magic players but not in the same capacity as Pokemon,” said Spurlock.

On the Rise

The women in the Magic community are important members and have contributed to some of the biggest moments in Magic. It was just this past year that a Star City Games Open have had two women in the Top 8 for the first time ever with Jadine Klomparens and Becky Adlman. In the face of adversity and some unfortunate circumstances, women have women have achieved the same level of accomplishments that men have. Just this year, for the first time in Magic history a non-male player won the Mythic Championship, Magic’s biggest honor.

The tides are turning in Magic and it is time that the community changes it’s original biases to make the community a more accepting place for not only women but all sexes, genders, and races to play and do the one thing that we actually love.

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