Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Interview with Craig Wescoe and Getting Women on the Tour

Craig Wescoe tweeted about an interview he did over the weekend, and I was listening to it... blah, blah, typical questions... what do you think about Mythics? What's your favorite format? Etc etc. And then my ears perked at this question.

"What do you think Wizards or the Magic community as a whole should do to get more women into the game?"

Here's a transcript of his answer after the jump, as well as links to the full Interview on YouTube:

Video 1
Video 2

TMC: What do you think Wizards or the Magic community as a whole should do to get more women into the game?
Craig: Oh that's actually a really good question, and I've put some thought into it because I think it's something that Wizards should be exploring. And one of the best ideas that I could come up with is considering ranking... for women, y'know, tally up who the top rated women players are in the world and, say, give an invite to the top 10 rated female players in the world. And y'know, say that maybe 1900 is what that threshold would be. I think that would get a lot of women more interested. Because it's like, "hey, it's easier for me to qualify. I really want to put forth the effort to qualify for the Pro Tour," y'know? And I think that would be a good thing, to have women on the Pro Tour.

First of all, I know now that Craig wants more women at the Pro Tour. And obviously I do, too. But what are the real benefits of having more women in the competitive field?

I don't believe in diversity for diversity's sake. I can see reasons to do that for the college application process but not in competitive Magic.

What does the Pro Tour represent to people? I know that for the PT-ers themselves, it's a chance to exhibit their skills as a player and a deckbuilder. It's a chance at a lot of money. But to the rest of the Magic community, the Pro Tour is a beacon. It's a representation of a certain lifestyle, a place you want to be. We hear tons of stories about the players both outside and on the battlefield. We hear tales of good times being had. The Pro Tour is a reason to play Magic, for some.

It is living the dream.

I think currently, men can have this dream and feel this way about the Pro Tour. But for some reason, most women may not feel this way. It seems harder for women to put themselves in the shoes of someone like Brian Kibler or LSV. Brian Kibler is a great representative for the game; he makes winning look fun if not easy. But there's no female equivalent.

I think the major lack of represention of women on the Pro Tour is also kind of a signal to most women that "this isn't happening for me." Even if there are one or two female Pro Tour regulars, they're definitely the exception to the rule.

The other major obstacle is that getting good at Magic requires networking -- you can't improve if you don't play with and against the better players in your area. Where can women go if they want to network with the best female Magic players? Um? Pardon? If I asked that question to any of the players in my area with any seriousness, they would laugh at me.

Even I know good women players, but we spend most of our time testing with other men, not other women. So in order for a woman to gain contacts, all her contacts will be men, and getting accepted by male peers is kind of a different process when you're a woman versus a man. In addition, not all women may be comfortable in an environment where they're surrounded by men all the time. Even women that are hardcore Magic aficionados. Usually a woman in her playtest group is the only one, and she has to deal with that. I might also mention that Magic society is a bit different from the norm and can certainly be hostile to women beyond what one would normally expect.

So, to summarize:
A) Women are less incentivized to try to get on the Tour for a variety of reasons
B) It is genuinely harder for some of them because of the networking aspect

Getting more women on the Tour would mean:
A) Other women players would see that it's possible and that it could be a dream worth pursuing
B) Possibly this would result in more women Magic players in general, particularly competitive ones, which could work to start solving the networking issue, even two women per playtest group is better than one

Now then, examining Craig Wescoe's suggestion in particular...


  • Making it easier for women and not men is a bit discriminatory. There are inherent problems with providing a loophole available to only a few players.
  • Women may lose the respect of the community if they aren't competing on the same level as men.
  • If women receive the invitations but don't use them, that would defeat the entire purpose. It's not entirely clear whether the top 10 female players actually were trying to qualify to begin with.


  • Making the PT seem obtainable for women would highly incentivize them to try, meaning more women at PTQs and events. 
  • Letting other females guide the way seems like one of the best uses of the Pro Tour. Once females become relevant figures on the Tour, they'd have more reason to produce community output through articles, etc.
  • Having ten women on the Pro Tour is substantially better than one or two. One or two women would get singled out. With ten, each woman is better protected against individualized hate. I suspect being the lone woman at a Pro Tour is not an easy business and taking on the role of "community role model" would be a lot to add on for little gain.

I never thought of Craig's suggestion - but then again, my mind does not wander to thoughts on how to make qualifying easier for women. I have thought about incentivizing them through alternate ways and perhaps making women more interested in, at least, casual Magic.

If I were going to help create a route for women to competitive Magic, I would probably just tell them to start at FNM, which is a lot less scary than PTQs. Then decide whether a larger venue is preferable. My journey into competitive Magic is actually an article I'm currently writing but still working on. Saving for another day perhaps.