A prominent website known for its ideological #fakenews published an article today suggesting that a recent banning of a player is the latest scandal to hit gaming. (By the way, that link is safe to open without sending the original site traffic).
The article is based on a false premise, which actually comes at the very end where the author claims that “[e]ither you believe gaming should be about fun, freedom of speech and liberty — or you believe it should be about social justice.”
Of course gaming should be about fun. We can all agree on that. In fact, the article itself starts out defining this supposed Magicgate as getting in the way of people just wanting to play “… it concerns ordinary people who just want to be left alone to enjoy their hobby.”
But what we can also agree on is that it’s reasonable to expect to be treated with common decency when you sit down to play a game. That concept is not at all a battle between left and right ideologies.
The whole notion of sides here is an illusion (and Jace doesn’t seem to be around to dispel this one for some weird reason – maybe he’s lost). Games require agreed upon sets of rules where individuals interact until the conditions are completed. You don’t have to agree with all of the rules of a game to have fun playing it, and you don’t have to keep following those rules when you’re done playing. But guess what is literally in the rules for Magic? Yeah, that everyone is welcome.
Why? And why isn’t this an ideological left/right thing? Glad you asked. For folks to have fun, they have a right to expect to be able to play without being ridiculed or insulted based on gender, sexuality, race, gender identity, appearance, and anything else that has no place being brought up in a competitive fun game. That includes politics. Yes, everyone is welcome and that does really mean everyone – you don’t have to give up your ideology to play the game. But when you are in the place where everyone’s welcome including you, you’re expected to treat others with common decency.
Yes, this means some language and behaviour isn’t acceptable – to play the game, in public places. It doesn’t limit what you can say and do in the privacy of your own home, it doesn’t police what you can think in any way.
If what you care about is freedom and liberty this actually maximizes those things – everyone is free to say and do anything except stuff that could harm or exclude others from the game. The fact that there are consequences for such actions is not a scandal, and it’s not a threat. In fact, it’s just like what you learned in Kindergarten: everyone’s welcome, the point is to have fun (and maybe learn something), but when you’re not kind to others, you get a time out.
Ok so with that false premise out of the way, all that is left is a debate over whether a game’s terms and conditions can extend to online behaviour. The DCI has banned hundreds of people over the years for a variety of reasons, and other cases have resulted in community criticism of that process. But they have been open to and responsive to constructive criticism. Attempting to recruit Gamergate helpers instead doesn’t exactly inspire credibility here.
[EDIT: Added last paragraph to clarify that this article is mainly about the false premise that the article sets up in general. We’ll leave others to debate whether or not WOTC issuing a lifetime ban based on online behaviour is appropriate or not. The purpose of this article is to help have THAT conversation in good faith, and avoid getting distracted by this red herring because to quote the original article itself once again: “I want you to realize that playing games is not a left-wing thing or a right-wing thing but an everybody thing”.]