It’s a fairly typical scene on a Friday Night: people hanging out and playing Magic: The Gathering. Maybe you’ve been curious about starting, or, if you’re like me, you played years ago and are thinking about getting back in. You don’t want to be that guy who slows down all the games with a million questions, so you decide against joining in. But what if there was a safe space to be a newbie or to learn about competitive play without that fear?
In 2011, Tifa Robles started teaching her female friends how to play in her living room. The group agreed that it could be a regular event so she asked Card Kingdom if she could run a bi-weekly event. Bi-weekly became weekly, and the Lady Planeswalkers Society was born. Nearly six years later, there are over 100 chapters throughout the world.
While it started strictly for women, over time it has evolved to be more inclusive. Their goal is to get rid of the obstacles that keep people from playing, from finding a safe space to upping your skill level. They are a group of people who want to have a good time without worrying what people think about them. The less obstacles people face, the more people there are to play against.
While they were changing, the community itself changed in response. Originally, people thought it was a joke and not needed. “Women don’t want to play competitive Magic,” and other nonsense was pervasive. Now, women are not only accepted, but wanted. They teach at conventions (GeekGirlCon, PAX West, PAX East, Emerald City Comic Con, and Evergreen Tabletop Expo). If you are hitting one of the conventions, stop by their tables, take a load off, and learn to play.
One of the interesting things about Magic is that you have no damsels in distress and that’s deliberate. Even when the target demographic was men between the ages of 18 to 25, they were still making powerful women. It goes to show that you can be powerful, even if you are scantily clad (I’m looking at you, Liliana of the Dark Realms).
If you are interested in making your own community more inclusive, invite that person who’s staring longingly at the game to sit down and learn. Be welcoming to new players and answer their questions. Find a common denominator when teaching the game. If they’re a video game player, use language they are already familiar with (i.e. red is aggro). Start your own chapter of LPS or restart a chapter that’s no longer active.
Starting (Or Restarting) a Chapter of Lady Planes Walker Society
- STEP ONE: Believe in your vision: a friendly, welcoming place where everyone can learn and compete.
- STEP TWO: Speak to Game Stores in Your Area: ask if they would be interested in helping you host events. If it helps, show them how successful it’s been elsewhere.
- STEP THREE: Generate Interest: make a schedule and stick to it, even if no one shows up. The most successful chapters are the ones that stuck through the tough times to get to the good times.
- STEP FOUR: Reach Out: if there is a lapsed chapter in your area, contact Tifa, and she will see if she can get ahold of the chapter for you.
Help Make your Store Be More Inclusive
The fact of the matter is that an inclusive gaming environment helps people feel welcome to come to the table, particularly if they’ve felt intimidated to play in the past. It’s really about talking to your store to see what they’re willing to do to help make their store more welcoming. Most stores will be receptive.
- Be welcoming to new players. Beyond having a welcoming and friendly attitude, see if you’re store is willing to offer prizes for newbies. While it’s easy to focus on your regulars and making sure that they get a good prize payout, you need to make sure that the newbies are getting something out of coming.
- Work with your store to host a few events where the prize structure allows for everyone to get a pack or hold workshops on how to build a deck or how to draft.
- Pay attention to the conversations happening in your play area. Make sure people aren’t making sexist or racist jokes. Make sure they aren’t treating people bad for being a woman, gay, or new.
- Talk to your store about incorporate a zero tolerance policy for harassment. Ask them to post it on your website and in your store. It might take time and work for it to start sticking, but it is worth it in the long run.
A few words of advice from Tifa for players thinking about quitting due to discouragement: “Don’t. Keep playing. Find a group who is going to accept you for who you are. Don’t stop doing something you love because someone’s not treating you right.” Make Magic fun and inviting in your store and see what happens!
Do you play Magic: The Gathering? Tell us why you love the game in the comments!
Featured Image: Lady Planeswalkers Society
Blog Image Credits: Lady Planeswalkers Society, Wizards of the Coast