Peek #14: MJ Scott

Image (1)Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity. MJ Scott is widely regarded as a master of all things flavour including cosplay and fanfiction. A freelance editor, producer, and sometimes card alterist, MJ writes a weekly column for Gathering Magic and recently contributed flavour text and card names to Theros, Commander 2013, and the upcoming M15 core set.

p4d: First, a question we ask everyone: what is your Magic: The Gathering origin story?

MJ Scott is a Planeswalker native to–where else–Kamigawa. MJ spontaneously formed in a pot still, and was removed as an impurity by the Izzet expat distiller. Michiko Konda and the red bull from the Last Unicorn adopted her as their own child, and she was raised traditionally to be a prophet and gunslinger. Eventually she rejected the confines of her parents’ estate, stole a horse from their stables and rode off to make a name for herself, briefly training in hospitality as a bartender in Takenuma. After waking up one morning with a stubby sword clutched in her hand (not an innuendo) and a voice in her head calling for help, her spark ignited and she traveled across the aether with her companions Yellow Ranger and Zelda to battle Nicol Bolas at the Pools of Becoming and free Link from his servitude as Bolas’s cabana boy. MJ proved instrumental in the battle by making Bolas the best mojito he’d ever had, thus forcing the Elder Dragon to free Link in order to secure a steady supply of superior rum-based drinks from MJ’s deft hand. The two are now great friends and often conspire about Magic-related business. MJ currently resides on Ravnica, writing smut and flavor. She runs a side business that sells (via Dimir agents) the secret of luscious Asian hair to wealthy Ravnicans. Liliana Vess is a client.

p4d: Wow! No wonder you are a flavour writer with Wizards. How did that start?

MJ: I had a friend who did it, and inquired about how to work toward it. I basically got a referral, like any other job process that helps a lot. But it also helps if you have been writing in the MTG community or otherwise professionally/semi-professionally. It’s really rigorous and competitive, so you’ve got to have the chops already or you won’t make it. It was like an audition process after the referral, but that’s all I can divulge – we have to keep the mystery alive! (wink)

p4d: What is the most fulfilling part about writing for GatheringMagic.com?

MJ: At heart I’m an entertainer. Sharing stories with Magic players and putting smiles on the faces of my awesome readership is exactly what I love to do. My column is always going to be a safe space to explore flavor, debate ideas, laugh, and feel more connected to the greater community and all things magical in general. I am super happy to write for a site like Gathering Magic that goes out of its way to be inclusive and provide all kinds of content.

p4d: Vorthos refers to a player who loves flavour. How did you fall in with cosplay and all things Vorthos?

MJ: Well, I was dressing up long before I played Magic, but I would say my not-Magic-exclusive love of flavour and story and art came first. I mean, I had to read books and see TV and films that gave me inspiration for costumes. I would roleplay animals at an early age. I was a horse a lot, and would run around on all fours asking to be fed uncooked oatmeal in a dish on the floor. I also liked wolves and foxes, so I was “what does the fox say?”ing a lot and hiding in very small spaces–like the toilet paper storage cabinet. This cabinet was six feet off the ground, cut into the wall of the hallway, and I’d taught myself to climb up–by bracing a foot on each side of the hall–after I saw Spider-man or something. The animal “cosplay” was influenced mostly by Margeurite Henry books. I also did the Disney princesses. Apparently I could read when I was two.

Later I would sometimes be Link or Zelda, and there was a phase where I was always Tyris Flare from Golden Axe and I’d run around in an altered version of one of my mom’s old bikinis, making my family act out the entire game. My mom always had to be Death Adder. I don’t know how she coped. I mean, I have a feeling I was pretty hard to deal with–this intensely passionate, weird, creative, competitive kid and she just let me have free reign. At one point I think my wardrobe consisted mostly of leotards, swimsuits, cowboy boots and moccasins (to go with the full-size “teepee” in the backyard). I was proud of having the full Wonder Woman getup. One time I was being a cat, and actually ate some cat food out of the cat’s dish. My mom almost had a heart attack. I didn’t do that again–it tasted awful… which to this day baffles me, because cat food smells so good.

I appreciate all those memories more now that my son has reached the age where he’s into pretending. The other day we were play-fighting and he was alternately “Black” Ryu, Chandra, and Gutsman. I spent half of last month as Zero to his Megaman X. I love it. Who knew–all that weird creative passion is extremely helpful for parenting!

1528529_246394638872715_1805224962_np4d: What is it specifically about the flavour of Magic that appeals to you over other games?

MJ: It’s Magic. I’m somewhat of an elitist – I enjoy that it’s iconic, that it was the first of its kind, that it still best articulates what it would feel like to actually be a mage.

p4d: Do you have any advice for people who want to follow in your Vorthos footsteps?

MJ: The big one is do not be afraid to embarrass yourself. It’s unavoidable, anyway. Second, read fiction – it’s like a cross training workout for your brain. Third, work at it: you have to be willing to get feedback, surround yourself with people better than you (or at least, you know, as good as you or challenging to you) in whatever discipline you’re interested in, and you should always be challenging yourself to improve. It’s fine to have days where you say “this is all I’ve got, it’s OK as it is…” but most days you need to go 120%. I think a lot of people limit themselves with fear and bad habits. You can definitely overcome those maladies. I did..

p4d: Who is this Elliot person you retweet sometimes, other than an avid Pucatrader?

MJ: (laughing)–Elliot is my husband. If you want our origin story, it’s in my first ever Magic blog post: How MJ Met Magic. Elliot and I have a strange relationship. Sometimes I’m his maid, and sometimes he’s my executive assistant. I think the humans call this type of relationship “marriage.” Unfortunately, there’s a good chance I’m a Cylon and thus never satisfied. I’m always looking for ways to manipulate the relationship so it’s more like I’m a dragon and he’s a kobold, but damn his eyes, he is highly resistant to black magic and has an annoying amount of defensive artifacts.

p4d: You mentioned in an article that your parents don’t read your work because it’s fantasy, and that school didn’t support you to be a writer. What kept you going?

MJ: Reading other fantasy writers’ work. I’m the type who can’t stop reading a good book once I pick it up, and I would often think, “This kind of world is where I want to be. This is what I want to do. I

f I can give just one person the kind of experience this author has given me, I’ll be happy.”


p4d: How can players make their community a better place?

MJ: Don’t mistake this for a trite answer: people, you need to BE KIND. It’s way harder than it sounds. Funny how many folks pride themselves on being so damn smart but can’t wrap their heads around a concept like treating others with respect. Sometimes it comes down to just taking a moment or two to consider your words before you open your mouth. Our society really rewards sound bytes and shock tactics, and this value system has been deeply ingrained into us by now–moreso if you’re under thirty. Sometimes it’s just a matter of choosing to say something neutral or bland as opposed to gratifying yourself by throwing out the zinger or verbal fatality. We all want attention and accolade, and some people waste so much energy being mean to achieve this. I have a dirty sense of humour and know you need all types to make the world interesting, plus I like free speech–but abusing our liberty by being an asshole when it’s hurting people is really just a sign that you can’t adapt, have low emotional capacity and aren’t smart enough to rationally think through a real-life situation and choose the best play.

One thing I want to highlight is that players need to have zero tolerance for bullying in our community. And bullying isn’t… you know, verbal banter between two equals. It’s the purposeful victimization of someone or some group for someone else’s gain/gratification/validation. It’s a matter of having other players’ backs and elevating your role as a Magic community member over your role as socially maligned smartass or massaging your clique’s collective ego. If you see someone being bullied, it’s your responsibility to tell an authority, step in, or at least defray the situation. At the very least, never participate in this kind of behavior yourself. This applies to all communities, not just Magic. The real-world result of bullying is that little kids try to hang themselves because they like My Little Pony. Or maybe the kid goes and gets a gun before they go to school. It’s no fun to be lonely or maligned for our interests. We’ve all been there. Gamers should be ahead of the curve here, not trailing behind as the last holdouts. If we can’t find other ways than meanness to express our intelligence and angst, then I guess we’re not so smart, are we?

p4d: What would you like to see Planeswalkers for Diversity accomplish?

MJ: I WANT T-SHIRT. Seriously, I can has P4D shirt now? And socks. I want knee socks with the little symbol. I totally need branded swag on which to spend money I don’t have. I would like to see Planeswalkers for Diversity become an aggressively active voice in the community and a very visible organization at events. It’s a ton of work and this group has already made great strides, but the sky’s the limit. I think a lot of community members will continue to be happy to contribute to content and support the group, so that should be leveraged as much as possible. I would love to see something like a P4D Commander tournament series, for example. Something to gather players around a fun aspect of Magic as well as the cause.

p4d: Where can people find you online?

Fanfic and card alters: www.moxymtg.com
Articles: www.gatheringmagic.com/author/mjscott
Cosplay: www.facebook.com/moxycosplay or moxymtg.tumblr.com
Twitter: @moxymtg

Khinky’s Boots #4

Welcome to Khinky’s Boots, a weekly column where your resident know-it-all dispenses indispensable advice to everyone from Planeswalkers to Pegasi.

Our contributor is Khin Kyaw, a flavour text enthusiast, fashion nerd and inveterate science fiction fan from Johannesburg. She blogs about freedom and frugality at Osprey’s Lab and explores the South African MTG community at Manabond ZA.

The Multiverse has 99 problems… Khinky is in no way qualified to fix any of them, but it never hurts to try. In today’s column: merfish, lotuses and inventors.

kioraDear Khinky

All my life I’ve had a problem with seamen – they have a habit of suddenly exploding on the scene when I least expect it. The worst part is, I can never see it coming. Oh, and things have been heating up with Thassa lately so it would be nice to have some privacy! What can I do to keep the seamen at bay? (I’ve tried feeding them to my Kraken but she doesn’t like the taste.)

XOXO
Kiora, the Crashing Wave

Dear Kiora

The seamen situation seems to be a case of fated infatuation on their part. Unfortunately I don’t have too much experience in dealing with this kind of thing but the Sirens are world-renowned experts. Why don’t you pay them a visit?

All the best
Khinky

P.S. Send my love to Thassa (and also, I totally called it!)

ablDear K

I am so stressed out. My $ value is reaching epic heights, I never have the chance to socialise and I have not been out of a sleeve in decades. And what with the counterfeits running around, I feel like it could all come crashing down at any moment. I’m just tense and worried all the time, not sure what to do!

From
Alpha Black Lotus

Dear ABL

You have what I’d call a 1st Edition problem. Maybe you just need time to chill and enjoy life again. Why not get out of the vault, unsleeve yourself and spend an evening on the beach with a mojito? Take it easy. If you’re not careful you may end up like Blacker Lotus, who caved under the pressure and went to pieces.

Love
K

archibaldTo whom it may concern

It is with great pride that I introduce to you and your readership a momentous advancement in artificial wing design. Gone are the days of wax and feathers! My innovative manufacturing process utilises a lightweight and only slightly flammable paper-based compound, making bothersome melting a thing of the past.

You are hereby invited to witness a demonstration of this groundbreaking discovery, wherein I, Impetuous Archibald Sunchaser, shall catch the sun itself!

Dear Archie

That’s nice. What do you plan to do with the sun once you catch it?

Love
Khinky

How to Deal with Antisocial Behavior in Magic

Likely if you’ve played a lot of Magic in local game stores (LGS) then you have heard or seen some antisocial behavior.

Other than just bad toilets I have been made to feel unconformable at LGSs due to openly expressed homophobia, sexism, transphobia, bullying and sleeves depicting semi-clad prepubescent anime girls. I have seen grown men bullied and a first time female player walk out of a store before they even started playing.

When this behavior occurs it makes me incredibly sad, but what can you do?

  1. Talk to a judge: If your store is lucky enough to have a judge then you should bring incidents to their attention as they’re trained to deal with such things and are by far the best people to sort out problems. It’s their job.
  2. Talk to the store owner or the group organizer: Be polite and open, talk about how the environment makes you feel (and could make others feel) and specific incidents. Likely you’ll be upset and this can certainly be awkward. I believe the tone is key – give them the option to change and not retreat to defense by offering a solution such as “could you talk to this person?” or “could you make an announcement about being more respectful?”
  3. Start a local Planewalkers for Diversity group: P4D groups will help to encourage a more diverse group of players in your local area. More diversity at events will improve the environment as they lose their boys club feel and what is ostensibly acceptable making your store more welcoming and friendly.
  4. If none of the above are useful then speaking with Wizards of the Coast is a great course of action. You can contact them at http://wizards.custhelp.com/ with information on what occurred or what is occurring.

Speaking with Hélène Bergeot (Wizard’s Director of Global Organized Play) she informed me that the company takes this very seriously and that “every complaint is treated confidentially (when we follow up with a store, the player’s name is not mentioned). Confidentiality works also both ways, meaning that we won’t disclose the outcome of any follow up we make with a store; the same applies to any investigation we conduct.”

Whilst I play Magic to compete, it is also a social activity. I have met and kept great friends through the game and having a place where I can feel comfortable and happy to play is not only important but a right. You deserve to have it and can make it happen. If you see people making your store unwelcoming then take action for everybody.

Reposted from willbotmtg.tumblr.com

Khinky’s Boots #3

Welcome to Khinky’s Boots, a weekly column where your resident know-it-all dispenses indispensable advice to everyone from Planeswalkers to Pegasi.

Our contributor is Khin Kyaw, a flavour text enthusiast, fashion nerd and inveterate science fiction fan from Johannesburg. She blogs about freedom and frugality at Osprey’s Lab and explores the South African MTG community at Manabond ZA.

The Multiverse has 99 problems… Khinky is in no way qualified to fix any of them, but it never hurts to try. In today’s column: fame, friendship and a Cyclops.

totallylost Khinky,

Explain to me please how our dear friend Fblthp got to be so famous. Everywhere I go it’s “Fblthp this” and “Fblthp that.” And he gets plushies. Not even Nicol Bolas gets plushies. Fame should not come this easy to an eyeball with arms!

Annoyed,
Storm Crow

Hey Storm Crow

Sounds to me like you’re jealous, and green is definitely not your colour. Sure everybody loves Fblthp but that doesn’t mean we love you any less. You’re practically an institution! I dunno, maybe just try to be happy for the guy? He has a hard enough time as it is…

xx
Khinky

P.S. If it will make you feel better I know someone who can make a custom Storm Crow plushie just for you!

satyrhedonistDear Khinky

My band of satyrs is pretty cool and we have a lot of fun. Recently I got a girlfriend and sometimes she brings her friends around and we all hang out. But, they all seem to have a problem with one of my buddies, Satyr Hedonist, and once I overheard them calling him the C word! (“Creepy”)

OK so he makes a lot of jokey sexual comments and maybe dances too close to the ladies during our drunken revelries, and now they never want to come over. I think he’s a good guy at heart. He’s an old friend but she’s my only (ever) girlfriend! What am I supposed to do now?

From
Satyr Rambler

Heya Rambler

I’m going to give Satyr Hedonist the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is merely a lonely (and horny), awkward dude with good intentions. Even then, it’s clear that he either does not understand boundaries or does not respect them. He’s obviously rubbing folks up the wrong way…

Guess what, your buddy probably values your opinion! Next time he does something inappropriate, don’t laugh it off. Even saying something as simple as “That’s not cool,” might be enough to get the point across. If he still doesn’t get it, you could talk to him in private.

Of course, he is responsible for his own actions. But by keeping quiet you’re actually saying that his behaviour is acceptable and OK. (Pop quiz! Is his behaviour acceptable and OK? Hint: the answer is no.)

Yours in hope,
Khinky

polis crusherHey yo K!

I got a bad reputation for stepping on poleis. Not always on purpose since I can’t really see the ground from up here. Also tripping a lot, and not in a good way - my depth perception could be better. 

Suggestions much appreciated.
Polis Crusher

Hey Crusher

The poleis should be trying to accommodate you… but there are things you can do. Have you tried contact lenses? I hear Urza makes some good ones!

K

The Magic Diversity Challenge – A New Year’s Resolution

This guest article is by Charles Featherer who blogs about Magic. He has a challenge for all of us for 2014:

My regular readers know me as a father who is raising two young men and that I’ve found a meaningful way to connect with my younger son through Magic the Gathering. I can’t help but look at the Magic Community from the perspective of a parent and how it will impact on my younger son’s development. Most of the time, I see what every gamer sees – a wonderfully supportive environment full of learning and social interaction. Other times, I see or hear about a behavior that isn’t as supportive. This article isn’t about pointing a finger at behavior that we find unacceptable. Rather, it is about two wonderful groups that have taken it upon themselves to help build awareness within our community, spread the good word about the benefits of diversity in gaming, and ultimately, a challenge to every person in our community who has a chance to influence it for the better.

Traditionalists believe that you should start every new year with a resolution to improve yourself or some aspect of the world you inhabit. Many people with special interests tend to make resolutions that focuses on their area of interest. Today, I’m going to share with you my resolution for 2014 in the area of Magic the Gathering. I’m doing so in the hopes that after you read this, you’ll adopt it for yourself. I doubt everyone will who reads this article will do so – people think resolutions are silly for a host of reasons.

If you have the fortitude to step over the line in the sand with me, you’ll make a difference to the way we all interact with our community for the better. If think you have what it takes, then read on as I introduce two wonderful people to you: Tifa Robles (@TifaRobles and on Tumblr: Adventures of a Lady Planeswalker) of the Lady Planeswalkers Society and Trevor Murdock of Planeswalkers for Diversity.

::::Q&A::::

Question: Would you both take a moment to introduce yourselves and explain how you became involved in Magic?

Tifa: I’ve been playing video games and family board games my entire life. Games have always been a passion and inspiration of mine. In college, I started playing strategy games, starting my addiction with Settlers of Catan and learning games of all types. Eventually, I started working at a board game store where not only did my collection and knowledge grow rapidly, but I was introduced to Magic tournaments. I fell in love with the atmosphere and the excitement of the new release of M11 before I even learned the game itself. It wasn’t long before my boss sat me down and taught me the basics in a Winston draft (not my recommended learning tool). My spark was instantly ignited. I started competing heavily within my first month, and it wasn’t until then that I realized the sexism integrated in the Magic community. I had loved the friendly people in my shop, but once I was sitting across the table from them as opposed to selling them cards behind the counter, their attitudes took a turn for misogyny. Suddenly, it was considered silly for me to think I could be good at Magic and conversations about my breasts were completely acceptable to have right in front of me. I competed in a GP, and not much later a few PTQs. I never did very well, but I worked hard. I wanted to prove to all those critics and judgmental bigots that women could be competitive and could succeed in the Magic scene. I was also judged by my looks and the clothes I wore A LOT! It was disgusting. After nine months, I was near the end of my college career and needed to find a real job. I was very interested in work at Wizards of the Coast and had a friend recommend me for Customer Service/Game Support. I worked there during my last three months of college and six months later was hired onto the Magic Brand Team. It was a great opportunity that taught me a lot about Magic, the community, and myself. But recently, after two years on the team, I left to help grow LPS more than I could with the constraints of being a Wizards employee. LPS is now a global organization with nearly twenty chapters that have started nationwide, constantly gaining national attention from many media outlets, that only now I can be involved with.

Trevor: I actually started playing Magic in the ‘90s, the way it was intended: while friends were creating role-playing game characters. After my playgroup went separate for various reasons, I was left with a single deck (featuring pestilence rats and pestilence) and no one to play with. Several years later, when my oldest daughter started being interested in card and board games, I nabbed a Guildpact Izzet Gizmometry theme deck so we could play. Eventually my daughter lost interest but I found a casual playgroup. One of the members suggested I check out the competitive scene to help the group deal with M10 rules changes. After FNMs, drafts, and one pre-release later, I was  hooked. After becoming an FNM regular and then interested in PTQs and GPs, I started Booster Victim as a way to poke fun at the steep learning curve in Magic. What started out as humour led to a serious interest in making Magic more accessible to everyone.

Q: What event made you realize that you needed to create your group and how old is your group now?

Tifa: It wasn’t until female friends of mine showed an interest in learning and playing at my house, away from the men who knew how to play in our lives, that I realized the desire and need for a female-friendly group.The group started in April 2011 and moved into an official capacity in stores in July 2011.

Trevor: I had just started following some Magic folks on Twitter in late 2012 because of Booster Victim, when a trans player, Feline Longmore, won the SCG Seattle Legacy Open, and it was the online onslaught of disgusting (and irrelevant) comments about her gender and her being trans that led me to search for some kind of LGBT support group for Magic players. I just assumed such a thing would exist given how large the Magic community is. When I couldn’t find one, I started a Facebook group. I didn’t know about LPS at that time and when someone pointed out that it already existed I asked Tifa if I should shut down the group and invite people over to LPS. Instead she actually encouraged us to maintain a separate presence and grow it into more than just a Facebook group; she understood that we would have a wider reach by operating both groups and collaborating.

Q: What about your personal background made you feel you were the right person to start your respective organizations?

Tifa: I have always been deeply passionate and caring about equality – especially when relating to gender issues. Not that I feel it is required, but my background in feminism helps my personal determination push LPS forward. I feel like I understand the deep undertones of sexism and the importance of awareness. Awareness is the first step to progress. Plus, my experience with Magic is varied in a wide range. I was a store employee at tournaments; a participant in tournaments in many levels; an employee at Wizards in two different, very important roles; and I was friends with people in all levels of play from beginner through Pro. I’ve also always enjoyed event organizing and feel I’m a natural leader. Plus, the sexism and mockery of my group has only pushed me harder because of how relevant and necessary my group is, instead of discouraging me to slow down.

Trevor: Honestly, I don’t think I’m the right person to be leading Planeswalkers for Diversity. I think I was one of the right people to co-found it but I hope that in 2014, we garner enough attention to attract new leadership. I do have a lot of experience running (and forming) other non-profit groups though, and I knew I could draw on that and be persistent enough to put in place the building blocks of an organization that will have a big and lasting impact on environments in which Magic is played. For LGBT issues in particular, I am a resource person with the Positive Space Network at the University of Victoria. I co-lead workshops to train other resource persons, so I also have some experience specifically in creating safe spaces to draw from. I think that helped give me a good grounding to express what I am passionate about, which is all about places where Magic is played being inclusive to everyone, not just people of a particular gender, age, race, ability, sexuality, or anything else that has nothing to do with playing a competitive trading card game!

Q: How would a Magic player become involved with supporting your group?

Tifa: It’s as simple at spreading the word in a positive light, joining our group, liking our page, following my twitter, etc. If you want to make a bigger impact, there is always the option of starting a local chapter, but this takes a huge time commitment that not everyone can commit to. More than anything, we just want to be acknowledged and accepted as a serious group and part of the community.

Trevor: Ditto, though I would also add that we are open to writers for our website at and to people joining our stream team.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing our Community?

Tifa: Being comfortable with what has been acceptable for years and not wanting to change. Everyone has to change. Even people who are not acting or speaking offensively need to call others out on their behavior. This can be scary and seem hopeless, but it really is the only way. Just think, in 5, 10, 20, 100 years, we will all look back at this and know which side was in the right. I don’t think anyone looks back at the 1800s and says, “We never should have given women the right to vote. What a mistake.” At least those that do aren’t taken seriously.

Trevor: There is an insidious and deeply ingrained attitude that goes like this: “I’m not actually a woman hating homophobe myself so I can say rape jokes or ‘that’s so gay’ and it’s fine because I don’t mean ill will towards anyone by it.” And as Tifa says, even those who aren’t comfortable with this attitude because they know it makes the environment too intimidating or uncomfortable for some people are often afraid to speak up because they don’t want to be seen as a party pooper. The analogy I like to make though is with that of judges. Often judges tell us things we don’t want to hear, and rulings that favour your opponent can suck. But, the presence of judges is vital to maintaining the overall fun level of the game vs. Magic event devolving into a gnarled mass of heated rules arguments. In my book, failing to speak up about non-inclusive language is just like spectating a game and failing to speak up about an illegal play.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your respective organization’s growth?

Tifa: Being understood and accepted. We are often considered “sexist” ourselves before people even know what we are. We are not an exclusive club for women only. In fact 60-70% of our player-base is male – mostly husbands, boyfriends, fathers, and brothers, but also friends. In addition, we need to be taken seriously. For example, some competitive players refuse to play at LPS because we are welcoming to “beginners” but we really want all skill groups playing together. We have a member who placed second at a PTQ and many others who are very competitive and really good at the game, and we also have women who are just learning almost every week. We don’t want any woman to say, “That group is not for me,” before they try it out at least twice (since attendance can vary drastically).

Trevor: Our biggest challenge is the same in terms of being understood and accepted, but it looks a little different for us. Although our mandate is broad and about inclusiveness in Magic for everyone, we tend to have an LGBT focus because after women this is the biggest target group for discrimination in the Magic community, and LPS already exists with a spotlight on women. Sometimes this comes across as if we think racism and other forms of discrimination are less important than homophobia, bi-phobia, and trans-phobia (not to mention the fact that LGBT itself is shorthand). Many of our volunteers are not members of the LGBT community themselves and sometimes get accused of being politically correct or “white knighting” which is a pretty ridiculous and off base insult to lob at people who just want to make Magic more enjoyable for more people.

Q: How has the Magic community responded to your groups? Has the response surprised you in any way?

Tifa: It has surprised me on both ends of the spectrum. There has been A LOT of positive response, including articles and interest from well-known writers and commentators in the community, a chapter started and supported by members of LoadingReadyRun, and many Magic-celebs that have even attended LPS when they are in Seattle. I’m constantly grateful for this loving support and hope it continues to grow. Unfortunately, the reverse side has been just as strong. There are a lot of people who consider us sexist (as mentioned before), stupid, ridiculous, and even the most annoying and demeaning of descriptions: adorable. The forum pages I have found have sickened me with anger, but that means we just need to work harder to crush their opinions and prove them wrong.

Trevor: Similarly, I’ve been surprised at how readily several pros have been willing to donate their time and energy to joining us on stream, giving us short interviews for our “Peek” series, and spreading information about us. On the reverse side, the fact that so many people think it’s more important to use language they consider funny than be sure they are not contributing to a toxic playing environment can be discouraging. I’m also disappointed that we only have a handful of local playgroups so far, though I’d rather have a few very successful and impactful groups than a pile of floundering ones. At least we span multiple continents with our small number of groups: currently the biggest local P4D chapter is actually in Australia. Someone needs to dethrone them!

Q: Since starting your groups, who has been your biggest supporter?

Tifa: As silly as it is to say, my husband. He has not only supported all of my desires for the organization, but challenged and motivated me to go further. It was his idea to start a second chapter in the Seattle area (on the Eastside). In addition, he attends every event with me and makes sure I stay fed and hydrated as I host the tournament. He also helps teach at conventions and constantly gains members and support from big names on Twitter. Without him, LPS wouldn’t be what it is today.

Trevor: Aside from co-founder Nelson Salahub, I would have to say Tifa, actually. Without her I think P4D would have just been a Facebook group that I started hoping someone would take over. I probably would have given up on it without her encouragement and her setting an example with LPS of how much can be accomplished with some persistence to providing some leadership.

Q: Diversity is a watchword that appears to be gaining popularity in recent years. Why do you think it has become such an important topic?

Tifa: It’s part of our cultural evolution to critique our society and make it better. As equality becomes more normal and expected in places like the working world, this will spread into other spaces as well, like hobbies and lifestyles.

Trevor: Specific to the gaming community in particular, we tend to be people who were outcast in some way growing up ourselves and we tend to be people who understand the value of constructive criticism. So it’s just bound to happen that someone is going to point out the severe ironic hypocrisy of being hateful towards others because of some external thing about them that has nothing to do with gaming.

Q: If you could fix one problem, address one shortfall, or focus on one aspect of our Community – and do so through the actions of your group – what would it be? Is there something that is a close second?

Tifa: I just don’t want my Magic skills, or anyone else’s for that matter, judged based on my genitals, face, or any other unrelated feature. I want my Magic skills to speak for themselves.

Trevor: Ditto! We just focus more on the “unrelated” part, especially LGBT-ness.

Q: Have either of you run into any unexpected opposition to your group?

Tifa: I expected opposition, but some of the extreme opposition has been shocking. Mostly the crazy far-fetched conclusions about my intentions or my group’s views.

Trevor: Honestly, I’m less surprised by opposition than underwhelmed by support. I don’t want to diminish all of the support we have gotten, and we have a handful of incredible volunteers who have made massive contributions to the organization so far. But from the broader Magic community, putting myself in the position of being a Tournament Organizer, or running a Magic-related website, etc. and coming across this group, I sort of think we should be overwhelmed by folks asking to help us out. Obviously I’m biased in being passionate about this an important cause or I wouldn’t have started it, but I’m hoping people just didn’t know about us and will start coming out of the woodwork to support our mission in 2014.

Q: What do you have planned for 2014?

Tifa: Bigger, better exposure.

Trevor: Actual real life presence in events, more diversity-and-Magic themed content on our website, and regular streaming. Tangible goal for 2014 is by the end of the year, I’d like it to be commonplace to see Planeswalkers for Diversity (and Lady Planeswalkers Society) t-shirts at Grand Prix and on Pro Tour coverage, and for major events to have members of their welcoming booths trained in creating safe spaces for women, people of colour, LGBT-folk, and people with disabilities. We are off to a good start with an invitation from the organizers of GP Sacramento coming up shortly. Now we just need some volunteers!

Q: Every leader has a vision. Where do you see your group in 5 years?

Tifa: I hope my group is known to every engaged Magic player.

Trevor: Well the ultimate goal is to fold because there is no longer any need to point out the benefits of being kind to strangers that you play a competitive game with, but realistically 5 years is too soon for that so I’ll stick with expansion of the goals for 2014 but with global coverage not just Australia and North America.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Tifa and Trevor are asking for everyone’s help. Everyone who reads this article can contribute – at the end of it I’ll even show how players can get in on the action. The main challenge is being made to all Professional Players, writers and bloggers, content managers, website owners, Tournament Organizers, store owners, Judges, and Podcasts. If you provide content or support the community in any way, I’m throwing the gauntlet down at your feet. This challenge is also being directed to Wizards of the Coast, to recognize 2014 as the year they make a difference in diversity through their worldwide influence. It doesn’t matter if you reach one person or ten thousand through your actions, the idea is simple.

Make a pledge to make supporting diversity in gaming this year through your words and deeds.

The Pledge

As a supporter of Magic the Gathering, you recognize the impact of your contributions. Every day, you see the effect you have on the greater Magic Community. Now it’s time for you to take the pledge:

I promise that in 2014, I will make every effort to support diversity. Through my actions, I will effect change and work to end bigotry so that all players may feel welcome. To that end, I will do the following-

  • As a writer or blogger, I will dedicate at least one article to promoting diversity.

  • As a Professional Player, I will seek to promote diversity at events I attend.

  • As a content manager, I will work with my writers and media specialists to make certain they promote diversity. I will also take up the pledge personally through my own blog or Twitter feed.

  • As a website owner, I will promote diversity through the content I provide. I will take care to highlight articles that promote Diversity and make those items easy to locate on my site.

  • As a Tournament Organizer, I will offer a free table to any group promoting diversity in gaming and/or I will sponsor at least one side-event to help promote Magic as a safe and interactive game anyone can enjoy. If I offer gaming coverage, I will do a PSA to run at each event promoting diversity.

  • As a Store Owner, I will establish and post a policy that all gamers may feel welcome and that bigotry and hate speech will not be tolerated. I will also investigate becoming a Safe Place.

  • As a Judge, I will be an ambassador for diversity, helping everyone to see the advantage of an open and friendly gaming environment.

  • As a Podcasterer, I will dedicate one episode this year to taking on the diversity challenge and I will promote diversity through my podcasts as the opportunity presents itself.

  • As WotC, we will pledge to promote diversity through our articles, website, and event coverage.

  • As a player, I will take the Gamers Against Bigotry pledge. I won’t let my fellow players get away with hate speech and I will notify a Judge when necessary at sanctioned events – even if I am not the person receiving the insult.

Seems easy, right? Here is the best part. There are already two groups that support diversity in the Magic Community. You can contact either of them directly to get their perspective on any number of issues affecting the gaming community. Doing your own interview with Tifa or Trevor will fulfill your pledge. Spend an article talking about their respective groups will do the same. I’m not suggesting that everyone out there do this. I’m only offering it as one way to fulfill your obligation to promote diversity. Be creative!

When you write your article, promote your podcast, or find another way to fulfill your pledge this year, then let Tifa and Trevor know about it. Both Planeswalkers for Diversity (@MTGDiversity) and the Lady Planewalkers Society (@MTGLadySociety) have Twitter feeds, and they will be happy to retweet your success to their followers. In this, everyone wins.

We’re also challenging everyone who reads this article to take one more step. It doesn’t matter if you are a major contributor or just a player sitting at home at the kitchen table. I entreat everyone to go to Gamers Against Bigotry and take their diversity pledge as well.

Don’t Forget Those Judges

We would be remiss if we did not mention an important part of the Magic Infraction Procedure Guide as a part of this article. While we hope and work towards changing the mindset of players, the IPG provides for a method of handling situations that do occur. Unsporting Conduct – Minor or Unsporting Conduct – Major are penalties that can be issued to players that engage in vulgar or hate speech. The IPG is a very well defined document and we all encourage players to be familiar with it and the possible ramifications of violating it. When in doubt – call a Judge.

2014 – The Year We Make a Difference

At the start of every new year, it is customary to take make a resolution for some type of self improvement or to perform an act of goodwill. Here is mine:

I promise to give this article to every content site for Magic the Gathering to be used to help promote diversity. I further promise as a blogger, to write at least one additional article promoting diversity and to continue to assist Planeswalkers for Diversity and the Lady Planeswalker Society in their mission. You see that first sentence? If you are responsible for managing a site, you have my permission (as well as Trevor’s and Tifa’s) to take this article right now and post it in its entirety, so long as you credit the source and keep it intact. If there is a need to edit it, please contact me first via email. You also may take the article to simply distribute it to your own writers to get them to write about diversity this year. This article, interview, and pledge are all one big challenge to the Community. Are you willing to take the challenge?