Two days ago one of my gamer friends forwarded me a link that was making rounds in the Magic the Gathering community. Odds are good that you’ve seen it as well. Apparently a man went to a high level tournament, found people with exposed “plumber crack” and posed next to them. He then posted the results to Reddit where it jumped to Buzzfeed, Kotaku, and… Jesus, is that Time.com? And it has shown up on my Facebook feed about 5 times in the last few days.
Looking for the link? Well you won’t find it here. Your Google skills are masterful enough. Looking for a better picture? Again, I’m sure you’ll have no problem seeing it once you Google it. The picture I’m including just shows the man and what he was intending to ridicule, and protects the identity of just about everyone else caught in the picture.
Wondering why? I’m absolutely furious that someone would do something so cruel and invasive, and in the name of the game that I love.
Whether it’s motivated from a truth or a cultural bias, throughout my life I have had to be on the defensive about my love of RPG’s, video games, tabletop games, and Magic the Gathering. I clearly remember the time as a 15 year old I was accosted by a group of boys while entering a comic store and asked if I was going to “jerk off to the comics I was buying.” I played the RPG Vampire the Masquerade in dark basements where we never spoke about the campaign outside of that safe space. I have gone through relationships in which my partner told me I was too old to play Magic.
I even remember a time recently when a fellow Magic player and I were at a bar and someone asked us how we knew each other. Before I could say anything, he blurted out “we play cards together,” and changed the subject. Apparently “cards” can be interpreted as “poker” which is much more socially acceptable. Even though I never call up my Magic-playing friends and ask to play “cards.”
Maybe that’s why some of my closest friends are those I met through gaming. We had to endure isolation and potential ostracism to do this thing that we loved so much. I hadn’t really thought about it until now, but it’s true. The picture to the right is of 4 people in my gaming group from high school, and I still am in touch with them all today.
Over the years I have acquired 20 or so close friends who play Magic the Gathering. They are a diverse group: men and women, large and small, socially awkward and smooth. I have friends in this group who follow every sporting event and others who just don’t care. I have married friends, single friends, polyamorous friends, straight friends, gay friends.
And this is why I get so angry and sad when an article like this goes viral. Because instead of seeing the diverse group of fascinating, empathetic, and unique people that are allured by the complex game of Magic, they see a bunch of overweight slobs who dress poorly.
Let me get this out of the way too: in no way do I blame the victims in this situation. There have been calls of “well if they had found clothes that fit, they wouldn’t have been in this embarrassing place. Maybe this is a wake up call for them.”
Sorry, you don’t get to dress your cruelty as a public service message. Even if this was meant as a PSA (which the creator alleges was part of his inspiration), this is a terrible way to do it. Publicly embarrassing strangers for how they look is absolutely unacceptable. The photographer specifically chose to focus only on these people, thus this is the perception that outsiders see of who a Magic player is. Way to make a PSA that hurts the community as a whole.
Remember that these are actual humans with lives that go beyond the unfortunate fame they unexpectedly acquired. In an email thread, a friend of mine posted the following:
“Having been ‘that guy’, I don’t find this funny. It was pointed out to me once and a large production was made out of it, really fucking juvenile and I wanted to punch people, hard. Yes, I own a belt (several actually) and always try to wear baggy enough clothes to cover up, sometimes it just happens.”
And there’s this this tweet:
Yes, the people exploited in these photos might have had the option to be more on top of how they were exposed that day. But the guy who posted it also had the option of whether to post it or not.
So what do I want to get out of this? Why am I writing? Mostly to explain to the people who are sharing this on the Internet why I don’t think it’s funny and why they might want to think twice before perpetuating this story. I also want to defend this game that has brought me so much happiness. Not from the people experiencing a temporary wardrobe malfunction, but from the large population that desperately wants the stereotype of what a Magic player is to be true (sadly including the man who posted these pictures). Unlike the two dimensional snapshots taken at this tournament, each of us is a human with a detailed, complex life. If we could only get our fellow gamers to treat us as such, maybe the rest of the world would see that too.