Friday, June 22, 2018

Magic the Gathering invaded by social justice warriors

I have written previously, how social justice invades and destroys hobbies and communities. The Magic the Gathering community is one perfect example of this.

For some years now the community has become more and more toxic. And not the kind of toxic that the social justice warriors are talking about. The kind of toxicity that social justice warriors create.

Being one of the more extreme cases of a nerd hobby, this card game naturally attracts mostly a male audience of nerds. That's just how the human psyche works. But, of course, when social justice warriors see a hobby where the majority of people are male, they immediately see a problem. Blog posts, articles and forums posts have been written in increasing amounts about seeming "problems" in the community, because the majority of the players are male (and, even worse, white!)

The problem is, of course, that when a social justice warrior sees a hobby that's dominated by males, they immediately jump to the conclusion that the reason is because women are shunned, oppressed and not allowed in. And they will never accept any other explanation for it. So, obviously, there must be a woman-hating problem in that community.

And, of course, when you have literally millions of people playing the game (no exaggeration), you will always find a few assholes, like in any sizeable group of people. Naturally these extreme cases are perfect ammunition for the social justice warriors. "See? See all these cases of assholery? Clearly there's a widespread problem in the community!" The typical tactic of generalizing the behavior of a few individuals to the whole community is used in full force. The majority is blamed for the actions of a few. (Ironically, social justice warriors never see the hypocrisy in this, given that they are so eager to, for example, defend Muslims and abhor condemning all of them because of the actions of a minuscule minority of extremists. They will abhor such tactics only when it suits their narrative, and fully engage in that very tactic when it supports their ideology.)

Needless to say, the community, especially the online forums, have become extremely toxic and intolerant. Any wrongthink is quickly punished and people banned left and right.

The worst thing is that Wizards of the Coast, the owner of the franchise, the company that prints and sells the cards and organizes tournaments, has fully adopted the social justice ideology, and are enacting these ideologies both in the game itself, as well as the community and the tournaments.

This has led to rather ridiculous and rather contradictory actions.

For example, several people now have been banned for life from all tournaments organized by Wizards of the Coast, for the sole reason of expressing the "wrong" opinions on the internet, and things like posting memes. Not because of anything they did in these tournaments. For things they have said online.

This is especially hypocritical and baffling when you consider the company's attitude towards cheaters. Mind you, the highest levels of tournaments have actual prize money for the top players. We are talking about tens of thousands of dollars for first place. There are actual professional Magic the Gathering players who have lifetime earnings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's how profitable these tournaments are.

Some of these professional players have been caught cheating, in these top tournaments with big cash prizes. I think that cheating in such tournaments could be considered fraud. What is the punishment enacted on these cheaters? A temporary ban of a year or two. In one particularly infamous case one of these players got a temporary ban, and after it ended started playing in top tournaments again, and got caught cheating again. The punishment? Another temporary ban. This second ban has once again ended, and he's once again playing in top tournaments. And he's quite open about his intention to keep cheating. He makes jokes about it, and shows absolutely no remorse, and is quite open about it. He's still allowed to play.

Yet, people who have done nothing more than express the "wrong" opinions online, precisely about these social justice issues, have been banned for life, with no possibility of it being lifted.

One of the founders, and still a lead designer, Mark Rosewater, has fully expressed his social justice advocacy and ideology, and is completely open about it. The company has made many posts about "inclusivity", "diversity" and "representation", both in the community and the game itself. (There has never been any problem of "representation" or "inclusivity" in the game itself. Men, women, white, black... pretty much every demographic has been amply represented in each set, from the very beginning, ie. since about 1994. But, somehow, this is not enough, and they want more of it.)

Of course one aspect of this is puritanism, which social justice warriors advocate for some reason. The company commissions art for their cards from several professional artists, with accurate descriptions of the contents of the art, and in later years these descriptions have been moving towards more and more puritanism. In fact, some of these artists have displayed online their original art commissioned by Wizards of the Coast, and compared it to how the company then asked the artist to change it (usually to make outfits less revealing, and reducing breast sizes).

Another quite clear recent change is about the use of the expression "he or she" in card texts. Since the very beginning, card texts have always used that expression when referring to the players. It's a rather cumbersome expression that sounds quite artificial and awkward, and clashes with the flow of the text, especially when it's repeated several times. For example, consider one of the worst cases:

"The owner of target permanent shuffles it into his or her library, then reveals the top card of his or her library. If it's a permanent card, he or she puts it onto the battlefield."
That's a bit cringey, to say the least. On the other hand, what's the alternative? English is a bit of a problematic (hah!) language like that.

Recently, Wizards of the Coast decided that they would start using the word "they" in card texts instead, when referring to players. After all, it's a somewhat semi-accepted "neutral singular third-person pronoun", at least in vernacular, if not officially.

Now, Wizards of the Coast could have gone through the route of explaining this by practicality: "He or she" is cumbersome and rather artificial, it clashes with the flow of the text, looks awkward, and it needlessly lengthens card text (which in the case of some cards can be quite crucial, since there's very limited space for that text, and they really hate to make the font smaller, and try to avoid it like the plague.) Since "they" is a semi-informally accepted substitute, they could say that it was chosen because of that reason.

Did they explain it like that? Of course not. They went the full social justice route about it, and explicitly and openly stated that they changed it in order to be "more inclusive" of all kinds of players. The change was not made due to practical reasons. It was made solely to pander to social justice ideology. Social justice warriors, of course, lauded them for this change (and that must surely have felt great to the people at Wizards of the Coast. That warm feeling that virtue-signaling can give.)

The Magic the Gathering community has become extremely toxic, and the company running it is just outright endorsing this toxicity and fully embraced it. The game and its community is going down the gutter. In fact, the sales of MtG cards, and the number of players worldwide, have been in decline. That's what social justice does.

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