Card Games, Game Culture, Gamers, Play

I Just Want to Play a Game

Yesterday, I got an idea for a new Magic deck: red & black artifact aggro.  It is still a work-in-progress, but you can see it here.  I use the website TappedOut to manage my deck ideas and share them with friends; it’s typically a friendly site with a ton of great ideas.  While I perused to see if anyone had done anything like my idea before, I found this.

I know, I know, you should never read the comments section.  Since returning to Magic, the experience has been wonderful.  Most events I attend are friendly, fun, and everyone just wants to play.  No one judges (outwardly, at least) based on appearance or physical traits.  I always succeed at striking up friendly conversations with my opponents.  But this… this hurts.

Maybe you think I’m being too sensitive, or you think that this person was just messing around.  This isn’t something you just mess around with; not now, not ever. There is talk in the MTG community about people who want to just play Magic, and think that women, LGBTQ, non-binary, non-Christian, and non-white players should stop being so political.  That’s the thing: people like the one I highlighted above are why we, the marginalized and non-privileged, are so political.  Things like this happen to us.  Trust me, all MTG players who aren’t white, cis, straight, Christian men would love to just sit down at a table at FNM and just play.  We’d love to just peruse MTG sites without a care in the world.  That simply is not a reality for us when people still feel empowered to say terrible things about us.

I am fortunate that this experience is not my prevailing one.  I do still enjoy playing, but I cannot ignore that some players would rather not have me at their table.  This blog post will likely not change the world, but I hope it’ll change someone’s mind.  My charge is to you, the members of this community – back us up when you see or hear something happening at a public event.  Stick up for us when we’re not there to defend ourselves.  If someone drops an N-bomb while you’re drafting at the kitchen table, talk to them about it.  If someone makes disparaging comments against women when you’re streaming Infinite Warfare, call them out.  Be an advocate for gamers.

Racism will likely never be eradicated, but we all can help make our playgroups and game stores havens for all gamers of all kinds of descriptors.  Yes, we all just want to play the game.  Let’s stop the hate speech, and just play.

Finished with my end step.  Pass turn.

15 thoughts on “I Just Want to Play a Game”

    1. I called out several groups by name: white people, cisgender people, straight people, Christians, and men.

      I included Christianity because it is a group that benefits from privilege. It is still within some people’s lifetime that the Holocaust happened. Muslims have been having a really tough time for the last fifteen or so years. Buddhism, Daoism, and Shinto are all still considered exotic and foreign. A significant number of people in this country vote based on candidates upholding “traditional Christian values.” Every politician says “God bless the United States.” We’ve got “In God We Trust” printed on money. Our Presidents are sworn in on a Bible. Christians benefit by not being “the Other” in conversation. Atheists and agnostics are seen as deviants. Jews and Muslims are the Other.

      Do not mistake my meaning. I have no problems with Christians until they start trying to get me back into the religion. This is in no way an attack on Christianity. It’s a statement that Christians have privilege, just like white privilege & male privilege. Christians have an obligation (as far as I’m concerned) to participate in the kind of social justice I talk about in this article. With a country’s hatred being pointed towards Muslims (with barely a hint of deflecting that bile towards radical Muslim extremists), Christians have a unique opportunity to help Muslims being oppressed, ridiculed, harassed, or bullied in public or online. Sure, Christians might get some flack for some of their stances, it is nowhere near the level of flack or outright aggression that Muslims feel in every aspect of their lives. President Trump has tweeted about Christians being executed in the Middle East, but is effectively banning Muslims from entering the country despite many of the (for lack of a better term) “working class” Muslims being persecuted for not being extremist. Christians may not have the easiest time right now, but I guarantee that it’s easier than being a Muslim, either here in the USA or abroad. That’s why I called out Christians. At least half the time Christians are portrayed as great and benevolent, which is about a million times more than Muslims or any other religion. I hope that Christians do the right thing and help their brothers and sisters of other faiths out, especially in the gaming circles.

  1. Your most important message, being a brave and active participant in making our community diverse, is disassociated from the broad generalizations of your argument which are scientifically and culturally unfair to all the groups mentioned.

    Individuals can only keep individuals accountable. It is an infinite chasm from an anonymous, hateful comment by an ass hole on social media to generalizing white people, Christians, and even the U.S. as privileged or bigoted.

    Because the comment used the N-word are you assuming they are male, white, Christian, and/or post-pubescent?

    Or are you assuming the trigger word was used by a U.S. citizen which means they are white, Christian, and male?

    Did you contact TappedOut about the hateful comment and/or investigate their posting policies about what could be done? This would be helpful information for the community.

    Social media, politics, and journalism, each of which has contextual, selective, and nepotistic perspectives, are irrelevant in the argument of how individuals treat each other and are a false reflection of who we are.

    Each of these systems survives and thrives on the level negativity it can generate in the populace. Why do we let them dumb us down and pit us against each other when that is the opposite of what we want and who we are?

    Using social media to instill change is like walking into a preschool and giving a speech on the betterment of humanity. No matter what you say all they want is individual attention and a cookie.

    Using the government for change is like asking for help in making an omelet. By the time the posturing of every special interest, committee, and spokesman is done, six months later you get an expensive, poorly designed hammer that is the instituted standard for omelet making for the next twenty years.

    Using journalism to create change is like trying to get a compliment on a job well done. All they want to know is if you slept your way to the top.

    privilegeA special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

    The word privilege is the latest misdirection by these three venues to perpetuate animosity. When it comes to religion in the United States, there are no rights or advantages denied to Muslim, Buddhist, Daoist, or Shintoist citizens.

    The United States is predominately Christian because most of the people who came here had those beliefs and actually did not have a place of their own. You wouldn’t ask a Muslim to make choices against their beliefs so why would you ask a Christian to?

    Besides, commercial, transatlantic transportation has only been around since the 1950s and is incredibly expensive even today. I’m sure Buddists and Muslims got here as fast as they could. (Human geographical evolution is extremely slow.)

    The argument that Christians have privilege and experience just ‘some flack’ in this country or others is factually wrong. Christians have been the champion of religious freedom more than anyone.

    One group dedicated to the analysis of religious freedom globally is ACN, Aid to the Church in Need, with their bi-annual “Religious Freedom in the World” (2017) report. This is a Catholic group that is doing part of what you suggest, speaking out for other faiths. They believe “Religious organisations have a duty to speak out when any faith community is being persecuted or discriminated against.”

    “We hope this report will assist journalists, politicians, academics, jurists and others seeking to assist all those oppressed for their faith.” – Religious Freedom Report 2017

    Along with this thorough report, Harriet Sherwood, religious correspondent with The Guardian, did research across a variety of sources for her article, “Dying for Christianity: millions at risk amid rise in persecution across the globe.”

    The 2014 report on religious freedom in the world by ACN said conditions had deteriorated in 55 countries, and significantly so in six countries: Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria. Although Muslims “also face terrible and systematic persecution … and Jewish communities have also suffered increased threats and violence”, Christians were by far the most persecuted faith group, the report said.

    Open Doors, a global organisation monitoring Christian persecution, conservatively estimates that 4,344 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons in 12 months up to November 2014, and 1,062 churches were attacked. It says persecution increased in 24 countries last year, with Kenya, Sudan, Eritrea and Nigeria entering the top 10 of its country-by-country league table. North Korea has headed the list for the past 13 years; up to 70,000 Christians are held in gulags, with “tens of thousands of people banished, arrested, tortured and/or killed”, it says.

    In general, persecution of Christians is increasing, “and the rate of increase is accelerating”, said Lisa Pearce, chief executive of Open Doors UK and Ireland. The nature of persecution was also changing, she added. “It used to mean several years in a forced labour camp. Now it means watching your loved ones being beheaded.”

    I am a Christian, raised Southern Baptist in the Bible-belt, and I experience negative and judgmental treatment from social media, pop culture, businesses, and other religious groups all the time.

    People call me extremist, bigot, Bible-thumper, homophobe, and uneducated. I’m told I’m too ignorant to know what I’m voting for and my opinion doesn’t count because I’m from the dark ages.

    And I’d like to know the last time Christians were portrayed as great and benevolent because Hollywood hates us.

    From the moment I became involved with GameOnGirl in 2013 I was afraid of being of being found out. In fact, I stopped revealing my religion many years ago because of the way I’m perceived and not for whom I am.

    The thing is, I’ve meditated with Buddhists, have best friends who are atheists, gay, feminists, academics, and theologians. No matter what ‘group’ I’m involved with, they all sound the same—they believe they are stereotyped, persecuted, and misunderstood.

    What I’ve learned is we are more alike than different and the majority of us want to get along with everyone, and not eliminate the other’s voices. But we’ve become lazy by allowing our humanity to be defined by social media, politics, and journalism as our differences instead what we have in common— life, compassion, happiness, success, and peace.

  2. Thank you both for your comments. I appreciate when we have dynamic conversations like this.

    I knew Dante’s article would likely spark a provocative conversation but I must admit this is not the direction I thought it would take. Although I generally don’t call groups out by name, Dante isn’t saying anything here I haven’t said many, many times before. Part of the power of this piece is the fact that he does call out the dominant groups in the gaming community and U.S. society at large.

    I think it’s important that we talk about the why and how of privilege and how it works in these settings. That’s part of what Dante is doing here – asking those with more security to stand up for those who have less. Those with privilege are more likely to be seen and heard; further, they what they say is more likely to be believed as true. The power of privilege extends far beyond its dictionary definition. If you want to learn more about the hows of privilege, Peggy MacIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” is the first piece I read about this topic back in a graduate class in 2001. It profoundly changed how I thought about myself and my position as a white woman:

    I’ve said the same thing as Dante says here and have the same answer when I’m asked how to repair online gaming communities. Silence is acceptance. Everyone wants to play and enjoy a game together. Those who have the power to help make that happen should make use of it. That is how changes comes.

    Rhonda: It’s been clear to me for a very long time that you are a woman of faith and that your faith is important to you. I am sad to learn you ever felt the need to keep that hidden from this community. It feels like I’ve failed on some very fundamental level to make you feel wholly and completely welcome here. I am deeply sorry if that is the case.

    1. Regina: My fear was not from you personally and I’ve never felt unwelcome and you know that. And I’m sure Dante feels he can speak freely for himself as well.

      It’s scary for everyone entering a new community; you want to be accepted (and I have been with open arms).

      Like I said, I knew what people thought of Christians and I didn’t want it to be attached to what we were doing–it had nothing to do with it anyway. Think of all the people we brought in under a common love. That is the true goal. People should never have to hide who they are but I find it more and more important to live what I believe.

      Technically I’m a Christian but the majority of the stuff people associate with that doesn’t apply to me. I don’t even agree with very many Christians. I could create a new label for myself but, these days, those really have no power, only the ones other people assign to you.

      I wish people would take me for what I’m doing. Have I disenfranchised you, have I made you feel guilty for who you are, have I been unkind, have I been a hindrance? Have I been honest, have I been your champion, as I improving as a human?

      I sincerely believe I have improved greatly as a human and responsible citizen because of my association with this community.

      I deny the idea of privilege. I do not deny the injustices of the Crusades, of slavery, of the Holocaust, to the American Indians, or of the patriarchy (too many injustices to list).

      But privilege, according to Dr. Peggy McIntosh, requires that I feel guilt, lose my individuality, and own that I am a bigot–because of my race. Her philosophy is counterproductive to positive social evolution.

      I’ve been asked what roadblocks I’ve encountered as a woman. It happens but I don’t wait for others to give me their power to make it all right. If I did; I made my own power, a better power. It accomplishes more for me, progresses the human cause, and leaves ignorance in the dust. It is a path least likely to provoke animosity or violence and produce respect and change.

      I’m offended that McIntosh says I have unearned assets. I’m offended for the patriarchs and the matriarchs of my family. What of what we have accomplished does she want to make things right? She wants me to feel guilt and shame for whom I am. She wants my individuality.

      The only way that a constant state of guilt and shame can exist under the premise of privilege is if you destroy the individual and boil everyone down to labels, of which two-thirds of mine are negative: woman, white, Christian.

  3. Thank you all for the civil discourse here! (Breath of fresh air.)

    Regina, Thank you for creating an open environment…your humility displayed publicly. Your thoroughgoing knowledge of how privilege works and what it means.

    Rhonda, Thank you for the data indicating that Christians are the most persecuted faith in the world. NYTimes reporter Nicholas Kristof pointed out that the one group people still can publicly slander with impunity is Christians.

    Dante, thank you for calling out racism for what it is, using your social power to stand for what is right.

    When I hear, “God bless the United States” and “In God We Trust,” I don’t necessarily equate this God with the Trinity (Christianity). And I certainly don’t think of Hitler and his minions as Christians. Nevertheless, I agree completely with your statement that “Christians have an obligation . . . to participate in the kind of social justice I talk about in this article. With a country’s hatred being pointed towards Muslims (with barely a hint of deflecting that bile towards radical Muslim extremists), Christians have a unique opportunity to help Muslims being oppressed, ridiculed, harassed, or bullied in public or online. Sure, Christians might get some flack for some of their stances, it is nowhere near the level of flack or outright aggression that Muslims feel in every aspect of their lives… I hope that Christians do the right thing and help their brothers and sisters of other faiths out, especially in the gaming circles.”

    Indeed, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” is good advice in gaming, in our nation, in life. In this case, silence is not golden.

    1. Definitely agreed. Silence, in this case, is acceptance of wrongdoing. In the immortal words of the prophet Bruce Wayne: “What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?”

  4. I can absolutely speak for myself, but I’m moving and don’t have internet at my new house yet. Regina was kind enough to try and dispel the situation. You evidently want me to step in.

    I wrote an article about abuse online. I’ve said nothing to abuse you directly or Christians in general. I did not call you a bigot. I did not call you an uneducated buffoon from the Dark Ages. I did not say that you were blinded by your faith. This article was about banding together as gamers to call out abuse in all of its forms. I called out that people with privilege should be the ones helping we the marginalized. What you’ve done is derail this entire conversation away from the fact that gamers still feel empowered to hide behind an on-screen alias and drop N-bombs or call each other fags, homos, and cunts. This conversation was about using (racial) slurs in conversation about games, and you’ve decided to make it about yourself and how you don’t believe in privilege. A POC writes about an incident where other POCs are getting abused online, and you make this about the plight of Christianity worldwide. I’m sorry that you find the academic concept of privilege to be offensive. I’m not sorry that I wrote this article and were I given the chance to hop into a TARDIS and change anything, I would write the exact same thing again.

    You railed on about the futility of using social media, government, and journalism to affect change. I said in this article that I am nowhere near naive enough to believe that this piece will start a social movement, but I hope that it can change someone’s mind. Don’t come at me in a condescending rant about how insignificant my writing is in the entirety of modern society. And if you seriously believe that social media, government, and journalism can’t affect any real change in the world, then I have three words for you: Donald. John. Trump.

    Here’s the salient point. If you deny the idea of privilege, then we have nothing further to discuss. Because you don’t want to have a discussion; you want the individual attention of “BUT WHAT ABOUT ME AND MY STRUGGLES?!” when I’m writing a piece that is talking about something that affects me as a person of color. You’ve done literally everything that you can to deflect this conversation away from the topic at hand, which is the continued use of abusive and oppressive language in gaming circles. I don’t care that you think my article won’t solve anything. I wrote it, because that’s a real issue being faced by real gamers, and this is a gaming site where we write about games, gamers, and gaming culture. If you’re really THAT offended by the concept of privilege that you feel the need to derail, deride, and diminish a POC speaking their mind about oppressive language, then you’ve got some serious self-reflecting to do.

    1. Since silence is agreement I will just say this.

      I said your most important message was that we should be a brave and active participant in making our community diverse. I just think something that important got lost.

  5. Great post, Dante. In all the years I’ve been a gamer, I’ve seen this happen fairly often, usually directed at females (not exactly your subject, but I think they dovetail). The question is, how do you respond to it, if at all? Do you say something or just let it slide? That’s tough because saying something usually invites a response that more than likely is not very, um, empathetic. But not saying something? I know that sticks in my gut. I mean, we play games to have fun, and if someone is not comfortable in their gaming environment, my bet is they’re not having fun.

    What I usually ended up doing, if I responded, was a simple “Not cool, dude.” And then I didn’t follow up on responses. Didn’t get engaged, didn’t get wrapped up in an argument. Turned off general chat. Didn’t read any other comments. A bit cowardly, perhaps. But my aim was not to try to convince someone of anything “right” or “wrong”, it simply was to register that I was uncomfortable with what was being said. I made my point, the end.

    Thanks for your post, Dante.

    1. Thank you for reading it and hearing the message. It takes a bit of courage, but I usually will give someone the evil eye. If they say something disparaging about being “pretty good for a girl” or “What are you doing here? Looking for a present for your boyfriend?” I try to gauge the reaction of the person. I want to give them a shot to defend themselves before I butt into a complete stranger’s business. It takes a lot more gumption to do it face-to-face, but that’s a pill I’ve got to swallow every time; I really hate confrontation. At the end of the day, I don’t care if they think I’m a crazy, white knight, SJW. If they’re being a jerk, I need to speak up. Even if they won’t change their minds, I hope that one of the 10 – 14 year old kids that’s usually always in the store hears me say that it’s not cool to pick on women/LGBTQ/non-whites/non-Christians like that. If you’re going to change the world, it’s one grade school kid at a time.

      1. I agree, Dante. Silence = assent. Doesn’t need to be a confrontation (which I hate, too), just to register that what was said (or written) bothered me. And to put a positive spin on it, I did make a few friends over the years with gamers who were obnoxious initially but instead turned out to be lonely and wanting someone to talk to – their assumption was that talking smack would make them look cool. (And yes, most of them were in their early teens.) Once they knew I would listen to them (unless they started talking sh*t) as well as fight alongside them, they really seemed to blossom, even when I wouldn’t let them off the hook if they were being a-holes. I’ve lost touch with most of them, but I still like to think my not backing down made a difference. One can hope!

  6. Dante, I agree. When something egregious like a racial slur surfaces, it is our social responsibility to squash it immediately. Don’t leave time for snickering or silly comments to follow. Make it known that it is under no circumstance OK to say such things, and fight fire with water. It is all too easy for people to hide behind the anonymity of the internet. Inappropriate bombs are dropped and the person disappears offline like a drive-by. People seem to feel untouchable because of physical separation and unaccountable for lingering affects of what they type.

    We should remember too that there are many impressionable kids in the gaming community, and they learn by example. We should teach them that internet can be a living ecosystem, fragile as the “real” world. Words impact humanity whether they are spoken or typed. Be respectful. Act accordingly.

  7. I just wanted to thank everyone for their comments on this post. It takes a lot of courage to expand on the thoughts and feelings brought up in this discussion. More than one party on this thread felt attacked; to that end, I will be making a clear and complete guide to effective comments for the community to provide direction in engaging with each other because feeling attacked is never ok. I’m hoping it will be an effective lesson for all of us Geek Ambassadors and for everyone who graces The Geek Embassy with their time.

  8. For the community here, it’s important for you to know that, although I was enjoying the exploration of the topics in this article, my overly verbose responses weren’t appropriate for this medium. It grieves me the most that they were perceived as directed negatively towards anyone in this community. My friends know I am direct but find it abhorrent to air personal offense in public.

    I spoke to Regina personally and learned that many people read my comments here as defensive. That is not the way they were written because I was not offended by the article, just very mentally stimulated.

    Whenever you read anything I write online, do it in the voice of Dr. Temperance Brennan—scientific and a little emotionally detached. (#^.^#)

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