September 28, 2020

By JACK PARKINSON

There is a trading card game called Magic: The Gathering. It is the most popular TCG in the world, and I am beginning to think it is developed by crazy people.

Some background: Magic was first published in 1993 and skyrocketed in popularity. Since then, it has maintained its status thanks to a combination of smart design and the developers understanding the gamers who play the game.

But lately the second part is slipping.

Wizards of the Coast (WotC), the company that publishes Magic, has a number of psychological profiles for their customers, each with a name. These represent the different things gamers want to do when they play Magic. For example, Timmy likes playing cool cards, even though they might lose him the game. Johnny likes showing off interactions between cards. Spike likes winning.

Vorthos enjoys the art. Melvin likes the numbers that make up each card – how many resources it takes to play, for instance.

These names have been in place for roughly 15 years and do a great job informing WotC of the different types of players they should design the cards for. But that changed two weeks ago.
In the name of “inclusion” and “representation,” the old names were joined by three new ones: Tammy, Jenny and Melinda, which are girl-Timmy, girl-Johnny and girl-Melvin respectively. Spike and Vorthos remain unscathed. According to WotC, the previous names were exclusionary because they were all male, and the three new names will let female players feel more welcome in the “hostile, male-dominated” environment of Magic.

There are many things wrong with this line of reasoning, but one stands out: the idea you can make something appeal to everyone.

Yes, Magic and most gaming communities are male-dominated. That’s because hard-core games appeal more to men than to women.

A study done at Oxford a few years ago observed newborn infants to see which they focused more on: a mechanical object or a human face. Newborn boys spent more time looking at the mechanical object and newborn girls spent more time looking at the human face every single time. Men and women are hard-wired biologically to like different things, and we should not be terrified of that.

The majority of the people who play Magic are male. If the game uses words and images men like, that is not misogyny, just smart business. It’s high time Wizards of the Coast realized that.

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