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Top 10 Female Magic: The Gathering Players

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So, I was asked to come up with a list of Top 10 Female Magic: the Gathering players. It seems that some people are still living with the (stupid) idea that women can’t play M:tG for whatever reasons they can come up with. While it has admittedly been a long time since a woman won a major tournament (Eda Bilsel of Turkey in 2003 became M:tG’s first National Champion), there are quite a few that place within the top 8 of Grand Prix’s, and the Star City Open series. Go to any Pro Tour Qualifier (PPTQ), Grand Prix, or other tournament around the world and you will find women and girls of all ages competing.

The current youngest player at Grand Prix to ever qualify for day 2 is 12-years-old and held by a boy; however, this is being threatened by 6-year-old Dana Fisher who, at her last GP, missed qualifying by 1 win. A 6-year-old girl is out playing most of the men 2 or 3 times her age, and is getting better each time she competes. If she can keep up the trend, then in just a few years she will be making top 8’s and pushing for the big win.  So, in no particular order here, is my list of 10 Female M:tG players to watch for or just to watch as some are also streamers.

1. Dana Fisher

2. Emma Handy

3. Gaby Spartz

twitch.tv/gabyspartz

4. Jennifer Long

twitch.tv/mrs_mulligan

5. Melissa DeTora

6. Magic The Amateuring

teitch.tv/magictheamateuring (Also have a Podcast)

7. Feline Longmore

8. Athena Huey

twitch.tw/elantris

9. Jackie Lee*

10. Tifa Robles**

I have been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994 and can say I have lost more than my fair share of matches to women who played better than me. I expect it to happen again in the future as I keep going to tournaments. I look forward to it as Magic: The Gathering is something that everyone can and should enjoy to play.

*Melissa DeTora and Jackie Lee both now work for Wizards of the Coast. Jackie helped design some of the current sets, and Melissa is part of a new playtest team.

**Tifa Robles founded the Lady Planeswalkers to help get more women interested in playing Magic: The Gathering http://ladyplaneswalkers.weebly.com/

 

In the Age of the Geek, the Hate is Too Strong

no-hate-1125176_1920

When I was growing up, I kept most of my nerdy shit to myself. No one at school knew I played Magic: the Gathering, painted Warhammer armies or played more tabletop games than they could name (which was probably none). I was already an outcast with zero friends, why make it worse for myself by sharing that which I loved and occupied most of my waking moments?

All of that has changed. The nerd flags are flying proudly enough that I will (and have) stopped people for their Firefly t-shirt, Vampire: The Masquerade pin or Star Wars car decal. Of course, this is still thought of as weird now that nerd is a little more mainstream and the culture isn’t what it was even 10 years ago. There used to be this feeling of a secret club and we were so excited when we found each other, but now I encounter far more glares than excited chatter.

I’ve noticed a trend on social media that I find disturbing. Now, before I go into this rant, I am all for free speech and saying what you want but somewhere we lost some niceities, please let me explain.

I recently posted a meme that I saw flying around, “If you tattooed one song title on your body, what would it be?” and my good buddy Vince responded with ‘Imagine.’ For those of you who don’t know, it is a song by John Lennon that is quite old and by far one of my least favorite songs, mainly due to the fact that we sang it in choir (yes, I was in choir) and we sang it at Nausium. It was big at the time, so not only did I sing the crap out of this song I already wasn’t a fan of, I also had to hear it at length. I responded with, “Sorry, dislike.” He responded with a frowny face. Now, I don’t know if this actually ruined his day or not. I’m unsure, but the point is that I didn’t need to say it. Saying that I disliked it didn’t prove anything. It didn’t make the world a better place. In fact, in that moment, I doubt he smiled. So I robbed the world of a smile which, to me, is sinful.

I’m sure you are searching for a point in all of this ramble, but I assure you that I have one and it’s simple. We don’t have to advertise everything we don’t like. Honestly, who cares? Of course there are exceptions to this. Food being one. You don’t want to go to a friends house and eat something you can’t stand because you’re afraid to tell them what you didn’t like. Clothes shopping is important to state what you do and don’t like. These are acceptable, but that isn’t the trend I’m seeing. What I’m seeing is people boasting about something they like, love, adore and the response being a list of 39 reasons their friend doesn’t like it.

I’ve sat and listened to friends and strangers talk at length about the things they love that, at the time, I had no interest in. I could see the joy on their faces, the excitement, the passion. It feels so lost anymore, but I can see all of it as they explain My Little Pony, Warhammer, their favorite writer or their favorite game. They are sharing their love with me and seeing their joy brings me joy, so of course I pay attention. I recently started watching My Little Pony  with my daughter and I love it. If I had stopped them and said I didn’t like their interest and explained why, what would that have accomplished? I would have wiped the joy from their faces and possibly disappointed them. We are given so few chances to gush about the things we love.

Even Vanri looked at my farm on Stardew Valley because I loved it and I put so much work into it. She asked questions and made comments; it made me so happy because she was showing interest in something I enjoyed. She could have told me no and explained that she wasn’t that interested in it as I was, which I knew, but sometimes excitement takes over and you just want to share it with someone else. What did it cost her? Some time? It’s worth it just to make a friend happy.

I’m asking us to dial back on the hate, even just the simple dislike. Let someone rant and ramble on about what they love. Don’t post that negative comment on a post about someone’s happiness. There is a lot of hate going on in the world, a lot of negative. Let the positive reign just for a little bit.

Do Tabletop Games Reflect the Same Gender Bias as Video Games?

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A playable character from the game Boss Monster

My brother and I have always loved games.  When we were young children, we used to put all of our board games together, forming one mega-board game that stretched across our family room.  When we were older, we discovered Magic: The Gathering, and the Pokemon trading card game.  My brother spent many weeks worth of allowances at the local hobby card shop.  I rarely did.  Even as I kid, I hated to part with money. Every now and then, he would participate in store-run tournaments.  I didn’t.  I didn’t think I was good enough, and interacting with the adult men who often played in them made me uncomfortable.

 

Anita Sarkeesian and the Gamergaters have brought sexism in video games to the forefront of public consciousness.  But what about tabletop games?  Both families of games have been pillars of nerd culture for decades.  They both shape the culture and are shaped by it, and this cross-pollination can make their influences very difficult to separate.  However, while the misogyny that pervades the video game industry often infects the tabletop world, it is less entrenched, and, as I argue, less insidious.

To understand why, we need to first look at the differences between the two media.  Tabletop gaming has been around in some form since before there were tables.  Ancient civilizations played with dice, cards, and boards.  Modern board games like Monopoly date to the early twentieth century.  Conversely, the technology that allows video games to exist has only been around for a few decades.  Video games started out being marketed to a diverse audience, but without thousands of years of history saying otherwise, it was relatively easy for advertisers in the 1980s and 90s to create the narrative that video games were always meant for boys and young men.

Historians now blame the great video game crash of 1983 on the ubiquity of low-quality games in the late 70s and early 80s, which lead to the loss of consumer confidence.  However, regardless of the crash’s actual cause, video game marketers in the 80s scrambled to reinvent their product, to portray it as something they could sell.  Their analytics showed them that more boys than girls were playing games, so the advertisers ran with it: they doubled down on selling video games to that particular demographic, hoping that targeted messaging would lead to better sales.  The strategy worked.  The gaming industry slowly began to recover from the crash, but there was a dark side to the recovery.

When corporations began marketing video games exclusively for boys, it lead developers to design games specifically to appeal to straight, male, and generally white players.  More and more games portrayed male power-fantasies.  Female characters were scarce, and tended not to be playable.  After all, why should developers bother with female playable characters if only males play video games?  Of the few women who did appear in the games of the 80s and 90s, the majority were either damsels to be rescued, background decorations designed for sex appeal, or some combination of both.

The unfortunate result is an entire generation of men who grew up never knowing a world where they weren’t at the center of video gaming.  An entirely new medium for storytelling grew up around them, becoming more and more mainstream, and the only stories being told were about them.  Stories are everything.  They are the basis for our personal and cultural identities.  It’s not surprising that those aggressively gendered games at least perpetuated a deeply misogynistic gaming culture.  We’re still struggling with this culture today.  Game companies created games that catered to male players, who went on to become developers who created more sexist games and hired people like themselves.

While tabletop games exhibit the same sorts of sexist tropes that proliferate across all media, they simply don’t have the same history of ingrained sexism that video games do.  It’s hard to imagine Milton Bradley suddenly deciding that Monopoly is for boys only and covering the game board with scantily clad women.  Board games have existed relatively unchanged for millennia.  Gendered board games do exist, of course, resulting from the same kind of targeted marketing that affected video games.  The difference is that the medium itself is not gendered, despite what The Big Bang Theory has to say about Dungeons and Dragons.

I believe there is another reason that sexism in video games is more pernicious than it is in tabletop games.  Tabletop games can certainly be sexist; in fact, nearly every sexist trope can be found in one MtG card art alone (I’m looking at you ‘evil demon seductress’ and ‘why’s the girl always got to play the cleric?’).  The same tropes can be found everywhere we tell stories, from books to movies to television and beyond.  What is it about video games that makes their sexist tropes so problematic?

The answer is found in the very nature of the medium.  Modern video games, with their high-res graphic and real time decision making are quite possibly the most immersive form of storytelling humanity has invented.  The written word can come close.  Books let readers see through characters’ eyes and experience their thoughts, but they are not interactive.  They don’t allow their audience to step into the characters’ shoes in the same way that games do.

Furthermore, games do something that no other medium can: they incentivize particular behaviors.  Gaming can work a lot like a chemical addiction. Taking an addictive drug or getting an achievement in a game can both cause the brain’s reward pathways to activate.  The brain then reprograms itself to repeat that outcome, resulting in a behavioral shift.  So, when video games incentivize, for example, violence against women, there is a real risk of players’ brains physically changing in ways that could result in violent behavior in the real world.  While all games have mechanics that could incentivize certain behaviors, video games are particularly worrisome because of their immersive nature and the misogynistic history of video game culture.  While paper and pencil RPGs also have mechanics, and are also very immersive, the difference is that when the game is unlinked from graphics and technology, the stories are more open ended, games are more adaptable, and customization options are nearly infinite.  Ultimately, with TTRPGs, the players, not the gaming companies, control the content.  An individual campaign may be sexist, but the medium of tabletop roleplaying does not, itself, encourage sexism.

Both the video- and tabletop-gaming industries have a lot of work to do when it comes to combating sexism.  The in-person nature of tabletop gaming competitions can unintentionally exclude women who would prefer to cloak their identity behind a digital avatar.  Sexist comments can be found in the chat-channels of even the safest of online gaming spaces.  Writers and developers can help by consciously hiring diverse employees and writing three-dimensional characters of all genders and backgrounds.  The rest of us can help by looking critically at the games we play, and inviting our female friends and family members to play with us.  It will be a difficult journey, especially where video games are concerned, but the view from the top will have been worth it.

 

References:

http://www.themarysue.com/sexism-at-magic-tournament/

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/bossmonster/images/c/c0/BMA006_Seducia.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130211012442

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1154384/sexism-industry

http://www.polygon.com/features/2013/12/2/5143856/no-girls-allowed

Crash Course Games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPqR2wOs8WI&list=PL8dPuuaLjXtPTrc_yg73RghJEOdobAplG

Feminist Frequency: https://feministfrequency.com/

Indie Developer Spotlight: Beneath Nexus

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Indie Developer Spotlight: Beneath Nexus

by Michael Wells

Disclosure: I am a backer of Beneath Nexus on Kickstarter. Also, while I have not worked on this specific project, I have been in discussion with Silverclutch Games to provide writing for a future project.

Silverclutch company logo

It’s time for another developer spotlight! This time around we’re talking about Silverclutch games about their upcoming release Beneath Nexus. We had a chance to talk to Tom and Chris from Silverclutch at Too Many Games in Oaks, PA (check out our convention impressions here and here) and now we’re pleased to feature them and their project on our site.

The Project:

Beneath Nexus game logo

From their website:

Beneath Nexus is a dungeon crawling card game for 4 to 6 players. Discover powerful treasures and unlock forgotten secrets in your quest to reclaim the city of Nexus. The Heroes combine their unique skills and powers to overcome the trials of The Blight Lord who uses fiendish monsters and dark magicks to destroy all who delve Beneath Nexus.

Beneath Nexus is a tabletop card game that offers an exciting roleplaying experience in a quickplay format. It is inspired by Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs and aims to recreate the feel of those games using predetermined heroes with decks of unique abilities. One player takes on the traditional GM role and plays the Blight Lord, a boss character for the other players to take on. To do so, the other players choose heroes that are drawn from traditional role-playing class archetypes and must strategize how best to use their complimentary abilities to overcome the monsters and spells that the Blight Lord arrays against them.

Beneath Nexus is currently up on Kickstarter and has nearly reached 75% of their goal at time of this writing. Take a look and consider backing this exciting project.

Developer Interview:

I sent a few questions to Silverclutch Games and Chris took some time away from their Kickstarter and Convention schedule to respond.

What made you want to get into game development?

Tom and I have both played games since early childhood. Tom developed his passion for gaming when he was introduced to Magic: the Gathering in the 3rd grade. I played the classics with my father, and he was relentless. Instead of a healthy hobby, my passion for gaming lies more so in my hunger for revenge against my dad for absolutely decimating my brother and me for years in Risk, Stratego, Checkers, and Uno. We began gaming together when Tom joined my Pathfinder RPG group when we were in college. Both of us have always been curious about how games work and have been ready to criticize any game that comes our way. We ended up making games because we knew what we wanted to play and wanted to share those ideas with our friends.
How did Silverclutch Games get started?
Silverclutch Games is a product of my desire to own my own business and Tom’s desire to create awesome games. Tom was developing an introductory dungeon crawler for a handful of months when I approached him with the idea to start our own game design business. That was June of 2015. We incorporated in August, 2015, with the plan to create accessible, easy to learn games that engage the hobbyist gamer.

 

What were your inspirations for Beneath Nexus?
Tom and I are huge fans of D&D, Dungeonworld, etc. We play roleplaying games regularly, but many of our friends can’t be bothered with the hefty rulebook and long playtimes. That bums us out! Beneath Nexus was created so that new players and casual gamers can get a taste of the fantasy adventure genre without having to do homework in the meantime.
What about Beneath Nexus is most interesting/exciting to you as a designer?
We tried a lot of different things, mechanically, with Beneath Nexus. We wanted it to be easy to learn, quick to play, and interesting for both hobbyists and newbies, so we had to experiment with a bunch of different ideas. What excited me most about the process was translating player feedback into mechanical changes. A lot of hobbyists tested the game, so their comments were very direct and specific. The casual gamers that had much more general feedback were the most fun for me because the playtesting notes became a puzzle of vague notions after a few play throughs. Tom seemed most excited by the balance of the asymmetry of the game. Making sure the Blight Lord wasn’t too weak or too strong was a huge task when we incorporated it. Tom dug into it immediately and really shined there.
Hero- Lunja
I had the chance to play two games of Beneath Nexus at Too Many Games and was very impressed by how polished and balanced the game is. A great deal of obvious care went into the design of the heroes, their abilities, and the ways that they interact with each other. Using the whole party’s abilities in just the right way to overcome a challenge feels a bit like the moment in Magic: The Gathering when the cards in your deck line up and play just right for that devastating combo. Meanwhile, the Blight Lord’s abilities and Monsters keep players on their toes and can easily punish careless or reckless play. The game looks like it is rewarding for players on either side of the table.
The game is already available in a print and play format if you want to give it a go. I can’t wait for the physical game to be released. For more information about the game and Silverclutch Games, check out the Beneath Nexus Kickstarter and their website.

Free Game Spotlight: Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest

Free Game Spotlight: Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest

Dev: Hibernum
Platform(s): iOS, Android
Release Date: December 15, 2015

Guest Post by: Michael Wells

Welcome to the July Free Game spotlight! This month we’re talking about Poke– wait, we’re not talking about Pokemon Go? No we’re not. If ever in the history of games there was something that didn’t need a spotlight, it’s Pokemon Go. No, this month’s game is Magic the Gathering Puzzle Quest.

mtg puzzle quest

Pictured: Not Pokemon Go

First thing’s first, Magic the Gathering Puzzle Quest is a free-to-play game. It’s a free download with options for micro-transactions. Most of the micro-transactions require the game’s premium currency, but some exclusive cards or characters can only be purchased with real money. It’s got daily rewards, event rewards, and PvP ranking rewards to keep you coming back in the hopes of convincing you to open your wallet. If you’ve played any free-to-play game since Farmville, you know what to expect. That being said, the game is worth trying for two reasons. First: the game respects your time. Micro-transactions are available, but aren’t necessary to engage with the game and get a real sense of progress. Second: the game is fun to play.

The Puzzle Quest series began back in March of 2007 as the first successful attempt to take the match three gameplay of Bejeweled and match it up with RPG combat and character progression. It was a surprising two-great-tastes-that-taste-great-together moment and has inspired a whole sub-genre of puzzle RPGs. The first game was a modest hit but its more ambitious sequel failed to find an audience. Puzzle Quest 2 languished on various app stores for several years before publisher, D3, quietly made the game to free-to-play. Since then, D3 has used the basic match three plus combat gameplay as a platform for licensed properties like Adventure Time, Marvel, and, most recently, Magic the Gathering. While the previous licences were odd fits for the formula, Magic the Gathering gets the game back to the strengths that made the first game such a surprise and also provides its own welcome twist.

Read the rest of this entry

My first Tournament

My first Tournament

At the beginning of November, I attended my first “big” tournament for Magic: the Gathering. My expectations for how I well was going to do going in were not that high, but I was determined to play every round and do my best. Let me say right off the bat that I am aware that I am not the best player around. Misplays and getting my timing down are still 2 big things I need to work on. I also went in with a deck missing a much needed card due to the price of said card. With both those already against me, I still went for the experience, the practice, and the fact that my opponents could make the same mistakes I do.

One of the great things about the game is, no matter how good a player you are, a game can come down to what cards are in your deck and what you draw on your turn. You can go from being behind in the game to taking the lead with just the right draw. The “top deck” has won and lost games for people time and time again. This has become a part of the game that everyone both fears and rejoices over. I have been on the receiving end of both types more than a few times in the many years I have been playing and it can make or break a game.

So out of the 9 rounds I played, I ended up going 2-7 at the end of the day. Bad match ups, misplays on my part, and bringing a not “complete” deck all helped with my record. I also wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was for how every match went. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is getting disheartened or upset when things are going bad and letting it show. It’s going to happen at some point when the match isn’t going your way, but showing it is letting your opponent know just how bad things are going for you. It was a good experience overall for me, and one I was happy to have done. It helped prepare me for what to expect when I attend my next one, and it showed me some things I still need to work on to improve my play.

-Fluffy the Necromancer

Gaming: It Brings People Together

Gaming: It Brings People Together

I’ve been playing games for as long as I can remember. I remember late nights playing Monopoly with my siblings, playing Uno at the dining room table with the whole family, and challenging my brother to Mortal Combat. My childhood was filled with my brother or sister teaching me how to play games like Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario and more. It has always been my experience that gaming brings people together.

This is my experience even now that I’ve graduated to playing MMOs and Tabletop RPGs. All types of gaming are designed to cultivate friendships. Friday Night Magic and L5R events help players meet people of like minds who challenge them at something they love. LARPing events create an environment where you feel safe doing what you love with people who have similar passions. MMOs and programs such as Xbox Live allow gamers to connect with people across the world. This is a beautiful medium that encourages teamwork as well as challenges that can help us grow as people.

More recently, I’ve started gaming with a friend I’ve known for several years. This friend and I met online through a Facebook group and only spoke through comments and the occasional message. Last week, we decided to play Lord of the Rings Online together. This has given us the chance to get to know each other outside of Facebook, which will help our friendship grow into more than just liking each other’s posts.

A love of gaming helped to cultivate the friendship I have with Crymson Pleasure. It’s helped me meet new people and become closer with those I already knew. If it wasn’t for Dungeons & Dragons, I wouldn’t have some of the friends I have today. If it wasn’t for World of Warcraft and LOTRO, I would still think of some people as just Facebook friends I never talk to. Gaming is a way that I can stay close to my best friends, even though I live across the country. It’s a way for me to meet new people, both near and far, and create new connections across the globe.

I know that gamers get a bad wrap. We’re called nerds and geeks and losers who have no friends. We’re told that there’s something wrong with us because we have a passion for video games or card games or tabletop RPGs, which will result in a lonely existence. Well, I’m here to tell you that those people who put us down, they have no idea what they’re talking about. They don’t have access to the vast network of gaming friends around the world that we do. They don’t understand that gaming is an amazing connection to the rest of the world.

So, let’s ignore the haters and continue being a close-knit community of like-minded individuals. Let’s continue having fun and showing the world that we’re happy with who we are. Let’s continue making new friends and coming together to make sure everyone’s having a good time doing what they love.

And, while we’re at it, tell me about some of your experiences with how gaming has brought you closer to the people you love in the comments below!

-Vanri the Rogue

(image source)