Sometimes I write nice things about Wizards of the Coast. When I do, some of my friends ask me why I do it when there are so many things Wizards does that are unsettling. I tell them that everyone deserves credit when they do a good job as well as criticism when they do a bad job. Also, even when Wizards does a good job there should be criticism and when they do a bad job it’s worth highlighting the good aspects.

But most importantly I tell my friends that no matter how many times I write positive pieces about Wizards of the Coast, I can always count on them to let me down again. This brings us to this past week and the presentation of the design and development teams for Conspiracy: Take the Crown.

Conspiracy Take the Crown Design and Development

Top (Left to Right): Shawn Main, Nik Davidson, Bryan Hawley, Ken Nagle, Matt Tabak
Bottom (Left to Right): Kelly Digges, Ben Hayes, Yoni Skolnik, James Sooy, Gavin Verhey

These ten are not the only people responsible for creating Conspiracy: Take the Crown. Dozens if not hundreds of people who work for Wizards of the Coast (and Hasbro surely) are responsible for bringing Magic expansions and supplemental sets into being. I’m sure there’s even a lot of diversity among this group. Wizards fails spectacularly by giving representation only to the white men in the core design and development teams.

I don’t know how many people behind the scenes worked on Conspiracy but their faces don’t get displayed prominently on Their names aren’t listed in any credits. This is a massively upsetting decision by Wizards of the Coast because you can’t just say you’re committed to diversity and representation as a company and then put up just pictures of white dudes when crediting the creators of the game. You really can’t. If you say you’re committed to diversity and then put all your white men on pedestals then you’re not really committed to diversity.

Representation is a very simple concept to understand. If 50% of your population is male and 50% of your population is female, then in general subsets of your population should include equal representation. According to a 2014 study cited in this article by the Washington Post, 48% of all gamers are female. Another study from the same year, cited in this article by the Guardian, puts that number at 52%. So it’s probably safe to say that 50% of the people who play games are Women. Magic, however, doesn’t quite meet that standard. On his personal blog, Mark Rosewater has claimed that their market research shows that 38% of Magic players are female.

So when Wizards says 38% of their players are female and industry studies say that number should be closer to 50% it’s easy to look at the picture of the ten white men who are being credited as the creators of Conspiracy: Take the Crown and understand that there’s a disconnect in the representation of women among the creators of the game.

I can put it even more simply if you need me to. If 40% of the people playing Magic are women then 40% of the people creating Magic should be expected to be women otherwise the sub-population of people creating Magic is not representative of the population of people playing Magic. It’s simple math.

Solving the problem is pretty easy: feature more of the women who created Conspiracy. This doesn’t mean that I want Wizards to fire four of their designers/developers and hire women to replace them just to placate me. That’s not what I want. What I want is for Wizards to understand what representation really means and find a way to better represent the women and minorities who are helping create their game.

The easiest way to do this is to stop focusing solely on the core design and development team. By doing this Wizards is basically saying that there aren’t any women or non-whites creating Magic. This is similar to when, with a single photograph, Paul Ryan made it clear that there are no minorities working for conservatives in Washington, DC.

Every GOP intern is white. That’s the message this picture sends. The picture I shared above sends a similar message about Wizards design and development teams. They’re all white. They’re all male.

Is every GOP intern white? I don’t know. It seems unlikely, but that’s the impression I get from that photo which has zero representation of non-white interns. So how does Wizards avoid this situation? Publicize the fact that there are women and minorities working on the creation of Magic. It doesn’t matter if they’re writing flavor text, editing rules, coding Magic Online, working in marketing, or legal, or branding, or whatever the case may be. Show us that women help make Magic.

But what if there are no women helping to make Magic? I know for a fact this is not the case. There are plenty of women involved and while, sadly, none of them were on the core design and development teams for Conspiracy, they exist and without them the game doesn’t get made. If Wizards is committed to improving gender and minority diversity in their community then it’s their responsibility to improve how they represent themselves.

I know Wizards knows this is a problem. You can see it in the characters they featured in the Conspiracy story. Kaya, Adriana, Marchesa, and Selvala are all women and are all prominent characters in the story. Kaya is non-white. Daretti and Grenzo are non-human but Daretti is confined to a wheelchair. There aren’t a lot of white men in this story and there’s a reason for that. Wizards knows they have a representation problem but perhaps they don’t realize that it isn’t just confined to the characters on cardboard.


What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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