I see this question asked with relative frequency in the various communities I haunt. I’d like to take a stab at discussing this issue, both because I myself am female and because I’d like to unfog the veil that surrounds the female Magic: The Gathering player. The sad and boring truth is that there’s not much difference between us and your average player; we appreciate the same things. However, that makes for a quick article, so let’s discuss exactly what that means.
Though it’s difficult to generalize any population of people while being only one of them, I would say confidently that female Magic players really appreciate a sense of community. This rings true for players of all genders and ages, as the quickest way to push a player out of the game is by refusing them entry in the beginning. Players tend to be especially fragile during the liminal stage, and the community has the ability to influence whether they really become a part of the group or hit one FNM and drop out. Encourage all new players if you’d like more women to play the game, both because many women are the new players and because a strong sense of community is likely to make future females more apt to stick with it.
It’s also important that male players treat women like other people. Regular, boring, other people. Engaging women in the community is important, but only insofar as it is important for the community to engage all new players. Creating or allowing an environment in which women are deified simply for being women makes us more aware of our femininity, and therefore more aware that we are somehow “different.” Though the intentions may be good, we too are searching for a space in which to relax and enjoy our hobbies without being judged or categorized as the other. Men who treat us as special create an environment in which we feel pressure to meet their expectations without really knowing what those expectations are. This creates an overall malaise that may be enough to make female players who want to return give pause.
In the same vein, refraining from sexualizing women in your playgroup is important. I keep saying this, but we prefer to be seen simply as people. If you must, remember that we are all somebody’s daughter, sister, or mother and remember those women when you interact with us. There is no other way to make a female player more uncomfortable than to imply that you are attracted to her simply because she is female and shares your hobby. Not only does this imply to us that perhaps you are less interested in us as people than we would prefer, but it makes for a very awkward conversation. It’s clear we enjoy one of the same things, so perhaps attempt discussing some of your other favorite hobbies. We may have more in common than you’d think! We want to hang out with you simply because you’re cool, and we hope you feel the same of us.
It also happens frequently that women in Magic communities become demonized. Though I can’t speculate as to exactly why it is, it’s obvious by my first paragraph on community that this is unlikely to create a larger female player base. I believe that if you’ve taken the time to read this article this far, that you are not one of the these people. I ask you, however, not only to continue your steadfast commitment to equality, but to hold those around you accountable. It’s all too easy with the anonymity of the internet and more female players hitting top 8 to take part in a snarky conversation in a chat room or message board somewhere. While you may not think these conversations are likely to impact how many women show up at the shop Friday night, you must ponder for a moment how many men’s girlfriends saw those conversations and decided not to come. I challenge you to question these remarks and guide the conversation in a positive direction.
Lastly, I will hark back to this point again and again, but keeping stores clean will go a long way in keeping more women (and more people in general!) in them. One of my greatest desires of my stores and therefore the game, is a space in which I feel comfortable playing. In order to be comfortable, I need to be able to sit on the toilet seat without fear. I know many wives and girlfriends of avid players who would be more likely to give the game a real chance if they didn’t feel the need to bring Clorox Wipes with them. Just kidding! Sort of…
It’s not that changing these behaviors once or twice will make more women join the game, but setting an overall tone of inclusion without expectation will benefit not just women, but all players in the long-term. The more minds we have join our game, the more creativity and challenge will arise from our commitment to being an enjoyable community.
Until next time…
Photo credit for Reversal of Fortune Photoshop: James Gray (@recoculous).