Peek #17 : Violet Edgar

 

Violet Edgar is a Level 2 Magic Judge and American expat living near Stuttgart, Germany. She’s transgender, and credits Magic and Judging with giving her the confidence she needed to come out as such. She is a champion of diversity in Magic, especially for LGBTIQ individuals, and was recently interviewed at Grand Prix Utrecht. More information about her can be seen in that interview here.

       p4d: How did you start playing Magic: The Gathering?

Violet: I first learned about the game from the June ‘95 issue of Computer Gaming World where they were previewing the Microprose game. I instantly knew I needed to try the game, and, a few months later, I discovered a few people in my high school who played. I’ve been hooked ever since!image-1
Which I just realized, was almost exactly 20 years ago. Happy Magicverssary to me!

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

Violet: I think one of the limiting factors to how many people of various minorities attend Magic events is a perceived image of “the average Magic player”. The image of the unkempt, socially awkward Magic player who sneers at women and flips tables has become somehow ingrained in pop culture. And I’d like to see P4D help change that perception.

       p4d: Have you ever struggled during judging with people not taking you serious because of being a woman or because of being trans?

Violet: I can’t say I have, at least not yet. People in the communities I’ve judged in so far have been, on the whole, friendly and respectful. I’ll be interested to see if I have any issues with that in the future as I judge more events, especially GPs, where people from different cultures might have different attitudes toward LGBTIQ folks.

 

       p4d: How do you think the Magic community could become more open to new and diverse players?

Violet: I feel that there are three big factors that are keeping Magic from being as diverse as it could be: There are systemic biases keeping minorities out of the game, there is a lack of representation of minorities in the public face of the game, and there are hostile environments that sadly persist in a lot of places the game is played. The first problem is a social one, one that we can all individually do our part to fight against. While we can do our part to improve visibility by being present at events and holding P4D events at our local stores, the big picture is only going to change with the support of Wizards and the bigger sites and TOs – which is, thankfully, already starting to happen.

The third, though, is something that the P4D and the community at large can actually change, and should work hard to. Look at their own behaviours, the spaces they play in, the way they treat players of minorities, whether intentionally or not. A little bit of self-reflection can really effect a lot of good, and I encourage as many people in the community as possible to do just that.

 

       p4d: Do you think that Magic could become for others what it was for you and help them find their inner strength they may need, whether it be for their sexuality, gender identity, or even things as simple as dealing with their anxiety?

Violet: I absolutely think it can! Magic is many things to many people, but for a lot of folks it’s very much a way to express themselves, to meet other people in a friendly, safe environment. I’ve heard countless stories of people who have overcome shyness and social anxiety, depression, family issues, and many more personal obstacles thanks to the game and the community that surrounds it. I hope more people can find their inner strength, their voice, as a result of playing the game, and I try to do my best to show people that that is possible.

p4d: Where can people find you online?

Violet: I have a blog at rainbowvale.wordpress.com, I also tweet @MTGViolet, and I can be contacted through the p4d Facebook group. If you’re a judge, you can also reach me through JudgeApps, and, if you’re not a judge, you can get in touch with me and I can help you change that.

 

Peek #16: “Doc” Gabe R.

 

Image (1)Doc (aka Gabe R.) is a law student and popular Magic: The Gathering Online streamer who is mostly known for limited and his love of fine beers. Doc streams 5 nights a week: mostly draft, but some standard, and prides himself on keeping his chat classy.

p4d: How did you start playing Magic: The Gathering?

randomgabeDoc: My cousin introduced me to the game. He was 13 and I was 6, so I thought it was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen. That was during Visions, and I’ve taken a few breaks since then, but I’ve never stopped being hooked.

p4d: What do you like most about streaming Magic: The Gathering?

Doc: The interaction with my viewership. I wouldn’t play nearly as much Magic Online if it weren’t for my stream. That’s actually why I started streaming: it was boring to just play by myself. I like conversation, and I think Magic is meant to be a social game as well as a strategic battle.EhjPdgp

p4d: With everything that you have on your plate, do you ever sleep?

Doc: I get about 5 hours a night on average.

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

Doc: Any progress in the direction of getting a more diverse player-base is good for the game in general. Specifically, as a Spike I would love to see initiatives like this one encourage more women and other wi-fiveunderrepresented groups to compete at a professional level and ensure that their diversity is a non-factor for their experience.

p4d: We know you’re a huge fan of craft beers. What is your favourite craft beer to drink while streaming?

Doc: My favorites are as follows:

  1. Petrus Winter Ale #9 (near impossible to find in the US, and it’s been about 3 years since I’ve had it)hipsterdraft
  2. Petrus White Oak Aged Pale Ale (a VERY sour pale, also difficult to find in the US but not impossible)
  3. Founders Breakfast Stout (Oatmeal Chocolate Stout, easily the best beer brewed on this continent)

p4d: Where can people find you online?

Doc: I stream at  www.twitch.tv/sgdoc and tweet at www.twitter.com/mtgodoc – my usual schedule for streams is in my FAQ below the video on my Twitch page.

DoucheDoc2DoucheDoc1DoucheDoc3

Peek #15: Gerry Thompson

Image (1)

Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity.

What’s tougher – a Pro Tour, or an SCG Invitational? If anyone’s qualified to answer that, it’d be Roanoke’s own Gerry Thompson. He’s played in eleven SCG invitationals, top 8’d six and won two, on top of his nine Grand Prix top 8s. In 2013 he broke the ranks of the best pros to never spike a Pro Tour Top 8, finishing seventh at PT Gatecrash in Montreal before going on to take a break from competitive Magic and intern at Wizards of the Coast. Currently living in Seattle with his girlfriend and former SCG copyeditor Kaitlin Lindburg, Gerry is back in the scene writing for StarCityGames and crushing tournaments near you.

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

GT: I was into fantasy stuff, like comic books and novels when I was a kid, and my mom saw some Magic cards at a gas station and bought me a couple packs. I didn’t have anyone to play with so they just sat in a shoebox for five years or so, and then when I was 15 and got my first job one of my co-workers played Magic. We just kind of bRM_1onded over that, he built me a deck, we played some games, he ripped me off on some trades, and then I was just hooked from there.

p4d: It was several months ago now, but you left WOTC in April after a six-month internship. Can you tell us your most favourite and least favourite aspects of working there?

GT: Least favourite was that I was not the smartest person in the room anymore, but that was just part of this good thing where I was surrounded by a bunch of very smart capable people that constantly surprised me. Other than that it was just that I learned a bunch of stuff. I don’t know if it necessarily makes me a better Magic player but I certainly think that I have a better understanding of the decisions that get made for how sets and cards are designed. I know more about how they expect formats to shape up and stuff like that.

p4d: Did you feel like it was a good fit for you overall, or were you itching to get back to competitive Magic and writing articles?

GT: I didn’t know if it was going to be a good fit, but I had to try it. When they offered it to me I thought it might not work out, but I was ready to try something different as far as Magic was concerned. It was definitely a good idea, and while I was there I wasn’t thinking, “oh, I can’t wait to get back to playing” — I was definitely dedicating 100% to doing the job, but when it got towards the end of it and I had the choice to stay on for another six months, I decided to get back to playing Magic. I’m just more comfortable playing and it just felt more right for me.

p4d: How is it being back at SCG? You alluded to some other projects coming up in some recent podcasts, anything we can look forward to? Streaming, maybe?

GT: I’ve wanted to be streaming since Journey Into Nyx came out on Magic Online, but for whatever reason I haven’t started. It’s just one of those things where I’m good at doing the stuff that comes easy to me. I put off writing articles for the longest time because I thought I wouldn’t be good at it and people wouldn’t want to read the stuff I had to say. I kinda feel like that with streaming also, where I want to do it and I think it would be a good thing for me, but I just haven’t started yet. I have a lot of excuses but they’re not good ones.

I started working on a book about four years ago, and I have a lot of work done with it but it’s one of those things where it’s kind of almost done but it’s hard to pull the trigger. With my articles there’s a deadline, I have to do this every week, and for all this other stuff, if you give me free reign I’ll never finish it for whatever reason and I really need to get over that.

tumblr_m2xqjpjgQ61r5wyekp4d: To lead into some P4D stuff, what does diversity in the Magic community mean to you?

GT: I think ultimately what I want to have happen is that issues of diversity are just not a thing. We are Magic players, male, female, trans, straight, gay, whatever, it doesn’t matter, you know? At the end of the day we all have this thing that we really enjoy and this should be our escape from reality, where we go to have fun and enjoy ourselves, express our creativity, and I would just like for everyone else to see each other as Magic players and not how they’re different. We have a lot of the same stuff in common and we like the same things so we should just be able to share that.

p4d: Let’s delve into an event from your past – specifically you getting decked by Todd Anderson. The interesting thing that seems to get missed is that it was an act of mediation by you, trying to keep your friends as friends. Do you find yourself in that position often?

GT: As mediator, kind of. In the social circles that I hang out with I’m normally the adult or at least the oldest person. I might not be the most mentally of age person I suppose, but I do act like the adult in a lot of situations. When people are hanging out with their friends, their filter is off, they want to blow off steam and sometimes people get a little out of control, myself included.

But there are situations where I think “hey, this is not a thing that should be happening, this is only gonna end poorly.” I don’t necessarily try to mediate things by taking a fist to the face all the time, but I think in that case it was a good solution. I don’t want to be results-oriented or anything. [laughs]

It was also one of those situations where Todd and I were not on the best of terms, and now we’re really good friends, and I think that situation really helped that a lot. But again, I don’t think the way I handled things was necessarily the best for that situation, there was almost certainly a better way, but at the time that was what I felt was correct. I knew it would resolve the situation and it did, so it is what it is.

p4d: Is there anybody who you find an inspiration in the community, that you’re learning from on these issues?

GT: I don’t feel that there’s one person in particular, it’s just that there are a lot of voices of reason in the community. But generally I have not been disappointed whenever something happens because I feel there are enough smart people that say, “no actually this is not cool, this is how you should react to this or this is what’s most acceptable”, you know? As far as my personal opinions, at the end of the day we’re all just Magic players and I wish that these things would just not be issues.

p4d: What can you do as a leader in the community or what do you think other players in general can do to make our community a better place?

GT: For me I think it’s probably just best to lead by example, and if you think that people are acting poorly and doing things that are disrespectful, you can let them know in a positive way. If someone says something in a group and then you immediately call them out on it, that’s probably not the best way to handle things. Embarrassing them in front of their friends is not gonna cause change.

I feel like most people respond positively to actual one-on-one constructive criticism, and sometimes it’s someone’s opinion, where they might feel it’s okay to discriminate against females for example, and maybe you can’t change that. But most people, you talk to them in a one-on-one setting, you make it clear you respect them, you respect their opinions, but you say, hey, people have a problem with this, and they will actually stop and think. This approach has worked for me so far.

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

GT: It’s just constantly working towards that goal with whatever reasonable means necessary, and I think that’s good, I’m glad that someone is out there doing it.

p4d: Any big tournaments you’re playing soon?

GT: I just attended Grand Prix in Nashville and New Jersey and had loads of fun at both. I’m hitting up all the Starcity invitationals, andTrap_GerryT I am qualified for Pro Tour Vancouver.

p4d: Any sick tech you’ll be shopping around?

GT: No, not really. M16 was a set that I worked on a little bit, but it was not in FFL (Future Future League) which is why that’s the cutoff for when I can play again. Presumably between April and now the set is going to change a lot, so the theory is that I don’t have a large edge over everyone else. So I got nothing basically. I’m just waiting to see how everything plays out with the full Khans block and everything, and I’m sure that we did a lot of good work in FFL but we almost certainly didn’t find everything or have a 100% clear picture of what the format’s going to look like. It’s been very interesting being on the outside and seeing what people come up with.

p4d: Where can people find you online?

GT: I am on Twitter @G3RRYT as well as Facebook, the comments of my Starcity articles, that’s about it. I basically  respond to anyone that gets at me on Twitter, so that’s probably the best way to reach me.

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

Peek #13: Feline Longmore

Image (1)Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity. Feline Longmore is a legacy player with a penchant for High Tide. And by penchant I mean she really loves High Tide. She first played in FNM back in 2004 and her first StarCityGames Open was July 2012.

p4d: How did you start playing Magic: The Gathering?
FL: A friend got me into the game in 2004, by the end of the year I started my first sanctioned events, FNM’s in Victorville California. First Regionals I played Tooth and Nail, going 4-4 drop.

p4d: You won a StarCity Legacy Open in Seattle a little over a year ago. Can you tell us a bit about the deck you played?
FL: High Tide, the main motivation for playing it is because I really enjoy the deck that much. Winning or losing I enjoy every round I play at every Open.

p4d: A wonderful thing about Magic is finding a card you’re inspired to build around. It sounds like you’ve found it in High Tide and since your Seattle win, you’ve continued to play legacy at a highly competitive level. What is your favourite thing about legacy?
FL: The diversity of the format that is Legacy. There are options to play just about anything and everything, it also makes for a lot of homework.

High Tide

p4d: When you won the Open, there were some pretty terrible comments online about things that have nothing to do with Magic and everything to do with unrelated facts like that you happen to be a woman, you have an unusual first name, or that you are transgender. That incident actually led to the formation of the Planeswalkers for Diversity Facebook group and ultimately this website. How does it affect you when people act on negative stereotypes of woman and trans folk? How do you manage to get past it and keep putting up such great results in spite of this challenge?
FL: I don’t know if I’ve just been lucky or what, but I’ve really had no issues in person at the Open series, I just go and play Magic for the same reason everyone else is there. I guess that’s just what it comes down to and why we are all in the same room, to play. I’ve really never had issues with Magic players in person about non Magic things. Every time I have a conversation with a random at an Open 99% of the time, it’s about Magic! About Legacy! About High Tide! Sometimes it’s about “Where is the closest restaurant from here?” For what happened online back then, I wasn’t there, so I never saw any of it. I was playing in the Open ^.^

p4d: You’ve been lucky to avoid discrimination personally at events. Is it actually important that Planeswalkers for Diversity exists? If so, what would you like to see us accomplish?
FL: Yes, the fact that the group exists is very inspirational to me! What it should accomplish is a harder question to answer, I think in the end it’s what you/me/everyone makes it, what P4D is for themselves. I think, however, that everyone involved with P4D wants the same thing:  to play Magic, have fun, and if everyone keeps this in mind everyone gets along properly.

Peek #12: Nelson Salahub

Image (1)Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity. Nelson Salahub is one of the co-founders of Planeswalkers for Diversity.

p4d: How did you start playing Magic: The Gathering?
NS: My Uncle Dave bought me a starter deck of beta for Christmas 1993 and I immediately taught myself how to play. I found a store in town that sold the cards and I soon began hanging out there and got to know the staff, playing casual games when it wasn’t too busy and trading cards with the other customers when it was. My uncles and cousins played back then and continue playing today. Family gatherings are always followed by Magical Gatherings.

p4d: You’re a level 2 judge and the main Tournament Organizer for Yellowjacket Comics in Victoria, BC. What do you like most about judging and organizing events?
NS: I like helping people get to enjoy their hobby. Teaching someone the rules of the game, introducing someone to card interactions they find exciting, running a successful tournament, hosting a league, awarding someone a plane ticket and an invite to the Pro Tour. These things all bring a sense of satisfaction, especially when I hear positive feedback from the players. I’ve been lucky to work for a really great Magic community in Victoria.

p4d: What has it been like leading the Planeswalkers for Diversity stream team?1045238_377605879006902_54853143_n
NS: I’m still just getting my feet wet at this, but I have high hopes that the stream team will continue to grow and that www.twitch.tv/mtgdiversity will start to have it’s own unique vibe that stream viewers will key into. It’s been a lot of fun so far and I’ve enjoyed meeting some really cool people through the effort.

p4d: You are one of the co-founders of Planeswalkers for Diversity. Why do you think it is important?
NS: I want to play and judge Magic tournaments in an environment where hurtful language and behaviour aren’t present. I wanted to band up with people who also hold this value in order to share support.

p4d: What would you like to see Planeswalkers for Diversity accomplish?
NS: On the one hand I’d love to see our banner being displayed at Magic events and the meaning behind the banner understood by players that there would be zero tolerance of offensive language and behaviour. The real dream would be that the group dissolves because Magic players are all just so awesome that no one ever thinks to act otherwise.

p4d: Where can people find you online?
NS: I’m @nelsonsalahub on twitter, nelsonicles rex on modo, and coachnelly or mtgdiversity on twitch.

Peek #10: Kathleen De Vere of Loading Ready Run

Image (1)Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity. Kathleen De Vere is with LoadingReadyRun, the sketch comedy group that produces the Friday Nights video series for DailyMtg.com.

p4d: What’s your Magic origin story?
KDV: I started during Zendikar block. I was at PAX and the intro decks they were handing out tweaked my interest. The next thing I know, I’m in the the back of a Seattle after-hours club on Sunday night learning the basics. All the other people there were just trying to sober up with some greasy night food, meanwhile we’re eating dessert and learning about the stack.1002520_10151795098425042_1784138616_n

p4d: Loading Ready Run produces all kinds of comedy that has nothing to do with Magic. How did it come about that you began producing LRR content for Magic?
KDV: We ended up getting hooked up with Wizards of the Coast after we did a video called It’s Magic. After we all started playing again in 2009, Graham wrote a video about us playing Magic as part of our commodoreHUSTLE sitcom — a series of videos where we play caricatured versions of ourselves. The video was a big hit, both with our fans and Magic players who had never heard of us. Eventually Wizards got wind of it and asked us to start making videos for them.

p4d: What’s your favourite scene from a Friday Nights so far?
KDV: We’ve done a lot of jokes I’m delighted with, but sometimes I think the best moments in a video are the unpredictable ones. Recently we did an episode of Friday Nights called Hero’s Path: The Calling as part of a sub-series we’re doing to help promote the in-store events for Theros Block. There is a scene where Graham starts to explain how he did at a Pre-release to a cat. The cat looks up at Graham at just the right time during his description for maximum comedic effect. Obviously, there isn’t really a way to make a cat do that on purpose so it’s extra wonderful to me.

p4d: Why do you love cats so much, and do you have a favourite cat in Magic?
KDV: I love cats because my family loves cats. My dad taught me to respect and appreciate the company of animals from a very young age. My favorite cat in magic is Scythe Tiger. sure, you may have to sac a land to them but back when they were legal so was Sun Titan, so you could set up some disgusting combos.Image

p4d: Are there some awesome Magic related prizes and personalities that we can look forward to on Desert Bus this year?
KDV: We are lucky to have a good working relationship with Wizards of the Coast, and they’ve always been very generous with us when it comes to Desert Bus. In previous years, they’ve given us everything from sold-out From the Vault sets to full, uncut foil sheets. I can’t say what we’re getting this year, but its Desert Bus, so expect crazy stuff you’d never find anywhere else!

p4d: LRR has several years’ experience with making the Magic community better by promoting having fun. Your success is reflected in things like your famous wacky drafts that are now part of the MTGO Community Cup. Planeswalkers for Diversity’s goal is a lofty one: to strive for a more accepting real-life atmosphere everywhere Magic is played. Any advice?
KDV: I lobbed this one at Graham, he says: It’s important to realize that Magic is a game, and we play it because we enjoy it. It is a fun activity! I think the most important thing you can do to create a welcoming environment is to actively call out people who are making Magic unfun and tell them their attitudes are not acceptable. Too often people just think to themselves, “wow that person is being a jerk” and they don’t do anything. If we don’t ever say anything, the offending party has no reason to modify their behavior because they think it’s fine. But if even one person says something, other people will back them up.

p4d: Your Kickstarter that is running right now has been funded. Congrats! What do Magic players who may be unfamiliar with your other work need to know about the stretch goals?
KDV: Oh man, our stretch goals are great. We’re very close to hitting Crapshots, which means we’ll do another season of our ultra-short, ultra weird mini-sketches, many of which are about Magic! However, my secret hope is that we can get to $170,000 so we’ll have to fulfil a long-running threat for a terrible D&D campaign. You see, LRR member Jeremy Petter has a reputation for being quite the blood-thirsty DM, and he has nursed the dream of running a campaign called “Temple of the Lava Bears,” where the entire goal is obliterate the party in the most unfair, yet hilarious, ways possible. If we meet that goal he’s going finally create this campaign, and we’re going to broadcast and record our play sessions so everyone can share in our pain.

kathleenp4d: You attend a local chapter of Lady Planeswalkers Society. How do you view the overlap and collaboration between LPS and p4d?
KDV: I view the Lady Planeswalker Society and Planeswalkers for Diversity as complementary groups. Both prioritize creating a fun, accepting environment to play Magic in and both groups are really helping to make the local play environment more diverse. The biggest difference for me is that locally LPS is held in a private home which means I can drink wine!

p4d: Where can folks find Loading Ready Run online?
KDV: So many places! You can of course, check out our website, LoadingReadyRun.com to catch all our videos, and our Magic vid/podcast TapTapConcede. The videos we create for Wizards of the Coast are also found on the official Magic YouTube channel. You can find us on Twitter at LoadingReadyRun and LRRMtG for just Magic stuff. Our Twitch channel where we livedraft is twitch.tv/loadingreadyrun and we do a series of wacky drafts for MTGO Academy too. Phew!

Peek #9: Sam Killermann of Gamers Against Bigotry

Image (1)Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity. Sam Killermann is co-founder of Gamers Against Bigotry, an organization that Planeswalkers for Diversity fully endorses. We share a similar mission, theirs with a broader mandate aimed largely at video gaming audience.

p4d: What is your Magic: The Gathering origin story?
sK:  When I started, it was an extension of my love of playing Pokémon. I enjoyed the gameplay, but more than that I appreciated all the time I spent strategizing with friends about deck building. I enjoyed that a huge percentage of the game took place before it even started. Pokémon was an easy entry into Collectible Card Games (CCGs) because (when I played it) of the limited number of cards and deck possibilities. Magic took those possibilities and ran with them. I loved it. I don’t play CCGs or tabletop games much anymore though; most of my multiplayer gaming these days is Minecraft, CS:GO, or LoL.

p4d: How did Gamers Against Bigotry get started?
sK: It started because of an article I wrote that was a guide to responding to bigoted language. Someone asked me what advice I had for responding to bigoted language in games. I told him I didn’t recommend responding in-game, because that generally just adds fuel to the fire, and leads to uncomfortable or emotionally harmful situations. I said (quite dismissively) someone with a lot of influence, like Mike and Jerry at PA, would need to create something that exists outside of the game itself in order to start that conversation in a way that might lead to some positive change.

A few hours after posting that reply I thought, “Wow, that was incredibly lazy of me. ‘Someone’ needs to do it? Maybe I should at least give it a shot.” I brainstormed for a while, GAB was the result, and I launched the site shortly thereafter. It’s been a rollercoaster since then.

p4d: What is the GAB pledge and why is it important?592203_329949017083163_1115960001_q
sK:  There are two big things that the GAB pledge is hoping to accomplish. Both are of equal importance, so disregard the order here.

One, it serves as a means of personal accountability. A reminder to folks that they are responsible for their behavior with others, and a push to make those interactions positive, or, at least, non-stigmatizing, when they are playing games with other human beings. This goal is based on the research published about honor codes and their effects on individual ethics. In other words, if you remind someone of what is considered to be “ethical” or “positive” behavior, they are more likely to live up to that standard, even if there aren’t any foreseeable repercussions for not doing so.

Two, the pledge is a barometer of sorts for how the gaming community feels about inclusivity in games. A lot of people think the majority of people playing online games are trolls or bigots or jerks or other negative things. We don’t believe this. We think that the vast majority of gamers really want gaming to be a place where everyone feels welcome, and that there is just an extremely vocal minority making it unwelcoming. As the pledge count increases, we can bring that number to developers and industry reps and say, “See: this is important to gamers. Now let’s work together to make things better.”

p4d: How can gamers make their community better?
sK: The biggest impact gamers can make with the least amount of effort is through active advocacy in their individual spaces.

If you host a weekly MTG game, establish guidelines for what type of behavior is/isn’t acceptable. The same goes for any clan you play with, or even just a random party you end up with in a game, whether it’s online or in-person. Stand up for basic respect of other human beings, and If someone says something bigoted, then say something.

If you want your game to be welcoming to gamers of all identities, a simple request is that gamers don’t use any bigoted language or casual slurs during games. A grander approach could be intentional language in your publicity that makes it clear to all gamers that they are welcome. Being a GAB partner is an easy way to accomplish this. And you can keep going. There are innumerable ways you can go about creating intentionally inclusive gaming spaces.

One thing I know about gamers is they have amazing imaginations and critical thinking skills. Put your heads together and you can come up with some amazing ways to improve the community. Do or do not. There is no try.

p4d: Where can folks find you online?
sK: GAB is on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Steam, and of course at gamersagainstbitgotry.org. I’m personally active in all the same places (but mostly just the Facebook and Twitter parts). I play a lot on Steam under the official GAB account (my personal account has pretty much been completely abandoned in the past year as a result of it), where you can play some CS:GO with me if you’re up for it. Just send a friend request and let me know who you are, or join the GAB Steam Group.

Oh, and if anyone wants to set up a GAB-friendly Minecraft server, I would love to hang out there.

Peek #8: Allison Medwin

Image (1)Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity. Allison Medwin is a level 2 judge, former Star City Games employee, at the time of this interview (July 9, 2013) was just about to take up employment at Wizards of the Coast, and is one of the core volunteers for Planeswalkers for Diversity.

p4d: How did you start playing Magic: The Gathering?
AM: It was 1993, I was in junior high, and my friend Will showed me these cards he got from his older brother. I knew about Wizards of the Coast already because there was a legal controversy over an early RPG product “The Primal Order,” and I really liked how founder and then-CEO Peter Adkison handled it.

Even so, I wasn’t initially impressed. I figured that it would just be a race to see who could draw more fireball spells faster than the other player could draw “fireball-proof” spells. I was a tween, and thought I knew everything. And… thank God I was wrong! Giving Magic a chance was one of the best decisions of my life.

Since then, I took a break for a few years (Urza’s Legacy through the end of Odyssey block, with an exception for the Odyssey prerelease) but all in all I’ve been playing for about seventeen of the twenty years Magic’s been around, both on Magic Online and in paper.

p4d: What was your favourite part of working at Star City Games?
AM: The people, no question. Here’s the context: I was working in Roanoke as an Event Specialist, on a team of four people running the Open Series. I was traveling at least two weekends a month, sometimes all the way across the country. Hours were long and sleep was short, and my experience being openly queer in Roanoke was both frustrating and painful. If you don’t like the people you work with under situations like that, it’s just hell.

Fortunately, I got to work pretty closely with Jared Sylva and Nicholas Sabin, both of the judges who trained and helped me get started. I still have a lot of affection for both of them, even though I rarely see them nowadays. The fourth person on that team was Riki Hayashi, who is probably the single most thought-provoking judge I’ve ever met. Him I still have contact with, since by coincidence we’ve both moved back to the West Coast, and he’s now my Regional Coordinator.

Fun fact: I’m pretty sure that when I start at Wizards I’ll be the only one who’s had a regular full-time job at both companies. That’s my claim to some tiny fraction of fame.

p4d: You will be starting to work at Wizards of the Coast shortly. What will your role be there and what are you most excited about?
AM: The offer I accepted was for a position in Game Support, answering emails and phone calls. I’m not 100% on the details of the job, but what I do know is that it’ll be vaguely similar to being a judge, except that instead of thirteen hour days on my feet with minimal breaks, I’ll be sitting at a desk for eight with regular breaks.

But the way I hear it, the job is the same kind of fast-paced diversity that I love about judging, so I’m looking forward to getting started this coming Tuesday [July 9th].

I also have a lot of friends already in the building, and there’s really very little that’s better than working with your friends. No matter how cool the job is, it gets a lot better when the people you talk shop with are the same people that you’ve known and called ‘friend’ for months or years.1290099_10101161392013047_1967886608_n

Plus at the Wizards office, you can buy cans of soda for a quarter. Any company that’ll subsidize my caffeine addiction, y’know?

p4d: You have been involved with Planeswalkers for Diversity from day one. Why do you think it is important?
AM: I identify as a dyke about as readily as I do as a gamer, but my social circle is almost exclusively gamers. One of the biggest challenges I faced as I started judging and got more heavily back into paper Magic was how to mesh those two hugely important parts of my life together.

Frankly, in a lot of places it’s much harder than it needs to be. It’s kind of isolating, really, to walk into a room full of Magic players as a woman, regardless of your orientation. And then, to feel like a minority in a minority… I’ve never hid my queerness, and I’ve had a lot of players react pretty negatively to both my gender and my orientation. Beyond the hostility, the sexism, homophobia, harassment, etc. feeling alone in a crowd is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. If we can encourage more acceptance of people from all walks of life in the Magic community, even a little, then I think we’ll have done a great thing.

I do think Magic culture is in a much better place overall than it was five years ago, with a big help from some pretty awesome articles encouraging people to treat each other better. That said, we’ve got a long way to go and I think putting some structure to the existing cultural shift can be a really good thing.

p4d: What would you like to see Planeswalkers for Diversity accomplish?
AM: One of the most powerful speeches I’ve ever heard was from Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones from UT-Austin when she articulated and explained her six rules for being an ally. I would highly recommend everyone interested in promoting diversity in any environment check it out here: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/cwgs/news/2610. Both the transcript and video are well worth the time.

I’d love to help create an environment where the thirteen-year-old gay kid showing up at a Magic event doesn’t have to worry about catching shit because he’s gay, only because he’s probably an immature kid. Where the trans Magic player never has to be called a “he-she” or get deliberately misgendered. Where the Black guy never has to hear a crack about why he’s playing Magic and not Yu-Gi-Oh. Or the other women who play this game… I’m fortunate in that I rarely get much of the worst and most obnoxious sexual harassment that I’ve seen, but quite frankly I’m amazed that the percent of women players is as high as it is.

I think we’ve got some pretty solid ideas and I’m excited to see what comes of them.

p4d: Where can people find you online?
AM: I’m on Facebook, but that’s mostly a personal account. I also have a personal Twitter account (@trulyaliem), that I use to talk about lots of different topics from gaming to feminism to current events to completely silly ideas to random thoughts that I think are profound (but are probably just narcissistic).

That said, it’s important to be clear that when I tweet anything, I don’t speak for any organization that I’ve ever been associated with, not Star City Games, not the Magic Judge program, not even Planeswalkers For Diversity, and certainly not Wizards of the Coast. So if you want to follow me, awesome, if you want to follow an Official Wizards Person who will give you insight into Magic, try Mark Rosewater or Aaron Forsythe.

Peek #7: Tom Martell

Image (1)Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity. Tom Martell has been a key member of both the Channel Fireball and StarCity Games pro teams and had his first Pro Tour win in February of 2013 in Montreal. Tom joined on Tuesday September 3rd on www.twitch.tv/mtgdiversity as part of our Judge of Currents series.

p4d: How did you start playing Magic: The Gathering?
TM: I started in 1994 when a friend at summer camp introduced me to the game. I’d been playing chess for a number of years and had recently started attending tournaments; Magic appealed to me in a very similar way and I took to it quickly. I ended up quitting during Fallen Empires until my senior year in high school, when some friends started playing during lunch. I was winding down my competitive chess “career” but still wanted a competitive outlet, so when they told me that the game now had a large tournament scene, I dove in. I went to FNM that week and I was hooked; I won a PTQ for PT Chicago 2000 a few months later and was off to the races.

p4d: Congratulations on your Pro Tour win earlier this year! Do you have a favourite play of the event that sticks out in your mind where you almost took a different line that would have changed the result?
TM:  Honestly, a large part of that tournament is a blur. I felt I played very well during the drafts, winning some extremely close games with solid but not spectacular decks. Against Mihara, playing at 2-0 in our second draft pod, I left up removal instead of playing a creature on a turn where I thought he’d have to play a Madcap Skills. I was able to 2 for 1 him and pulled out a close win.download

p4d: Does your Mom still listen to the Top8Magic podcast?
TM:  I suspect she still tunes in from time to time.

p4d: Why do your twitch viewers keep talking about your amazing graphic design skills?
TM: I recently created my first MS Paint image for a friend who was streaming with me as she wanted to maintain a degree of privacy. I created it as a joke but it took on a bit of its own life.

p4d: What can Magic players do to improve at the game?
TM: This is a hard question – everyone learns differently and needs to work on different aspects of their game. The most important thing you can do is learn to be very honest with yourself and aware of what you are doing – after a match, ask yourself what you did well and did poorly but also try and remember what you were focused on. One mistake players can make is they tunnel in on a specific line of play or line of thinking and never ask themselves if they were focused on the right things.

p4d: How can players can make the Magic community better?
TM: At the end of the day, Magic is a game. We do this because it is fun and we enjoy it. Fun is not a zero sum game – we can work together to increase the total amount of pleasure we are all experiencing from Magic. It is also a social community. Don’t ruin it for others and don’t sit silently while someone else ruins it for another person. It is our shared responsibility to speak up for what we believe is right and to make sure no one feels attacked or persecuted for who they are as a member of the community.

p4d: Where can folks find you online?
TM: You can find me on twitter – @tommartell or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mtgTomM