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.