Alright so we’ve apparently made the front page of MtG Reddit with our rejection of WotC’s new background check policy and as such have become a symbol of various things to different people as well as a lightning rod for a bunch of “Pizzagate” level theories about us harboring some sort of judge-pedophile ring. As such I figured I would try to keep the conversation sane and answer a few of the questions that have come up.
What is happening?
So before I get into how/why we’re reacting to these events the way we are, a bit of a rundown of said events is in order:
Recently a Youtube personality (Jeremy Hambly) was banned from Magic events for the harassment of women (at least one of whom publicly quit the Magic scene over his behavior, and endured quite a bit MORE harassment as a result). Immediately following this WotC came out with previously unseen guidelines that allowed them to keep certain people out of events (even events they were not taking part in) that were fairly obviously related to this banning. Good on WotC as far as we’re concerned, taking a firm stand against misogynistic behavior that’s driving women out of Magic is something we applaud.
Following these events a group of trolls doxed the magic judge community. The reasons for this weren’t entirely clear (since this had nothing to do with said judges) except that they appeared to be aiming to cause as much human misery as possible and apparently they thought the people who volunteer their time to make Magic a better game were a good target. Following this they falsely accused the Magic judge community of being pedophiles based on something in the range of “no evidence whatsoever”. Now, if you’re familiar with internet troll culture, falsely accusing large swaths of people of horrible things in order to stir up as much trouble as possible is par for the course, and if WotC had either remained silent or treated this as the sad cry for attention that it clearly was then this would have lasted 10 internet seconds and everyone would have stopped caring about a bunch of adults throwing tantrums weeks ago. Unfortunately, instead, WotC panicked and demanded background checks for judges, TOs and pretty much anyone that’s been employed by anyone that sanctions Magic events. Anyone that has an even passing understanding of how internet culture/outrage works can of course predict what happened next. The trolls felt totally validated, WotC had all but admitted the “truth” of their made up nonsense, and the judges were subjected to a renewed campaign of harassment based on this “confirmation” from WotC, that they were in fact a secret pedophile ring, based on zero data. The judges are, of course, quietly quitting in droves (I knew about a dozen judges and a half a dozen more people who were becoming judges a month ago, I now know zero active judges and zero people with any interest in becoming judges). WotC has made its position clear and it apparently would rather throw TOs, their staff, volunteers, and judges under a bus than it would take criticism from a group of malicious internet trolls that the game absolutely would be better off without anyway.
What are you doing?
We refused to comply. What WotC has done has resulted in them avoiding a small amount of criticism from a campaign of misinformation waged by a small group of disgruntled malcontents in exchange for their entire judge program being harassed (possibly out of existence). Additionally the people who sell their product are being forced to undergo a set of checks that are absolutely unprecedented in this industry (I have never even HEARD of a product that requires every retailer that promotes it to undergo a background check, implying that there is something specifically unsafe about people that sell and/or play Magic). As well as, of course, condoning an ongoing campaign of harassment and generally reprehensible behavior toward the various women that they were harassing in the first place. Since hateful behavior toward women was the uniting ideal that put this group together in the first place.
Yeah but isn’t it a good idea anyway even if the reason it came into existence is bad? Think of the children!
So the problem here is that this is an objectively useless measure. It is what is known as “security theater” and it is not possible for it to accomplish anything useful (which is why in 25 years of Magic it would have prevented zero incidents). So when an LGS gets background checks for its owners, then those background checks are looked at… by the owners. That’s it, that’s the procedure. The thing some of you think is happening (that these are being sent to some central body where they process this information and publicize the results) is illegal (WotC cannot legally ask for employee background checks from us as we are not their employees. They would have to take our word for it. Even if they could, they couldn’t publicize them anyway). If this meant that we were actually aiming to hide something we would simply have gotten the background checks, looked at them, laughed, and thrown them in the garbage (or better yet, not, but claimed we did, since there’s no legal way for WotC to confirm that we got them done anyway). So in the end this isn’t about not doing background checks, that option has always existed, this is about being angry that WotC perpetuated a campaign of harassment aimed at a bunch of innocent people by taking the easy way out.
But it can’t HURT can it?
A lot of things don’t hurt us that we don’t do, and we don’t do them because they’re pointless. If literally no scenario exists where doing this is useful then that is a pretty poor argument for it. Furthermore this DOES hurt, as laid out above, it has actively contributed to a campaign of harassment aimed at innocent people, and has added a veneer of legitimacy to some extremely heinous lies. That’s real harm, and this doesn’t do real good. So no, we won’t “just cooperate”. This is an actively harmful and stupid decision that we are not interested in complying with for the above stated reasons. It would be a lot easier for us to comply than it is to refuse, that is simply not an option we feel we can morally take.
But if your customers want…
Our customers have been overwhelmingly supportive, almost universally so (and we are incredibly grateful). The only criticism we’ve received is from people we have never seen, or met in person. To be blunt we owe these people nothing and we don’t really care about their opinions. The people whose opinions we DO value have demonstrated a large amount of support for our decision. Honestly, if our actual customers collectively asked us to, we would have acquiesced and backed out of this but there is a clear line between “people who have a problem with what we’re doing” and “people that are actually our customers”.
I bet if Magic hadn’t been terrible for years, and sets were selling like they were RTR you wouldn’t be taking this stand!
Yeah probably. If this product was doing well we’d be a lot more likely to jump through unjustified, idiotic hoops to continue selling it. That WotC decided to do this after years of terrible Standards certainly factored into our unwillingness to budge. However, we would be making a stink about it either way, we would just be a lot more willing to try to fix what was broken rather than abandon it. Some things are more worth the effort to salvage than others, and WotC has been salting this earth for long enough that we are far more willing to leave it behind than we might have been years ago. We are a business, and I’m not going to claim otherwise, but yes, we would have made the same stand. It would simply have looked different and have had a different context.