Less than twenty-four hours ago the Magic community was in an  uproar over the often contentious Travis Woo. Although Woo has built himself a reputation as a controversial figure among Magic’s plethora of personalities, no one was quite prepared for what took place on his MTGO live stream on Tuesday. The hour-long supposedly objective look into Adolf Hitler’s seminal work, Mein Kampf, was offensive, misguided, and entirely unnecessary. The response from Channel Fireball was not surprising. Travis’s apology posted to Facebook was not surprising. But getting a message on Twitter from Travis asking to be interviewed discussing his statement? I wasn’t expecting that.

On Travis Woo

No really, I was not expecting that at all.

Woo began by explaining his motivation for reaching out to us. “I made some mistakes and made some bad statements,” he began, acknowledging reality. “The initial goal was to engage in a thought experiment which was just to figure what a group of people was feeling that allowed them to engage in this kind of mass atrocity against another people. I think these things are good to know so we can prevent them from happening in the future.”

This mirrors Woo’s apology posted to Facebook but he expanded for me what exactly went wrong, “It was a difficult thing to do and I shouldn’t have attempted it. The execution was poor as well. I made some statements that out of context are atrocious, and I made some statements that even in context were questionable, factually wrong, and associated with a certain type of hateful thinking. I don’t feel that way. [Channel Fireball] doesn’t feel that way.”

What Travis Woo did was inexcusable. Regardless of his intentions the fact remains that he disseminated some of the most vile pieces of Nazi propaganda into the community via his Twitch stream. As a result he has been suspended indefinitely by his publisher, Channel Fireball, and will likely face some kind of punishment from the DCI, the precedent for which was set when Alex Bertoncini was given a six-month ban in 2013 for insulting players while streaming coverage of the SCG Open. Ultimately it’s up to Woo to decide what to do with his life. Does he learn from his mistakes, change his ways, and forge ahead, or will he continue with these kinds of “thought experiments?”

When asked what he thought the best-case scenario was for how people view him going forwards, Woo offered, “I hope that my statements can be seen in that context, of trying to help, but I was doing a very poor job at that. That’s the best case scenario. [That people think] I was trying to help but didn’t do a very good job.”

The problems with the line of thinking that led to Woo’s breakdown are manifold. Most problematically however is the idea that we can dissect something as complicated as Nazi Germany, analyze all of the little pieces, and then somehow solve the problem. This line of thinking gets applied to any number of things such as being a female gamer, or life in America for young black men. Time and time again people use these “thought experiments” as a way to push racist, sexist, or otherwise prejudiced views in the absence of any dissenting opinion.

Woo wants people to think of him as someone who was trying to do good, was trying to look at something objectively, and just did a really poor job of it. Woo continued to explain to me, “I am someone who is obsessively objectivist in the pursuit of learning and trying to do good things. Trying to see things from other perspectives, even when the perspectives resulted in atrocity. Isn’t it helpful to know what evil is thinking?”

Reality is that it isn’t helpful to look at things this way if it is the only point of view you consider. You can’t isolate Adolf Hitler’s psychotic perspective from the rest of the realities of Nazi Germany. Situations like this are complex, and the flaw in Travis Woo’s premise is not only that he can perform this analysis but that he can also find some good in doing so. He’s already acknowledged that he was wrong about the first part but he still holds that the latter is valid.

Can any good come from this kind of academic thought experiment? There is certainly knowledge to be had, that’s for sure, but it’s critical that we ensure we analyze all facets of a system, not just the ones that we’re drawn to. For whatever reason, Travis Woo was drawn to Adolf Hitler and the result was he ended up with a very skewed, extremist, and factually incorrect concept of Nazi Germany. As a community we are people who are all at risk to Woo’s line of thought. We are analytical people and our primary outlet for that is a complex card game.

Would you discuss the current Standard meta-game but only focus on Abzan decks ignoring everything else? You’d have a woefully incomplete picture of reality and your perspectives would be obviously flawed. This applies to any academic endeavor we may engage in. Know all the viewpoints. Seek out alternative perspectives. Question everything. You will never have the complete story no matter how hard you try by it’s valuable to continue seeking knowledge.

Most importantly though, be excellent to each other. Do you know what the most helpful thing would be to preventing another Holocaust? Be nice to one another. Be sympathetic. By empathetic. Have humanity. Be a good person. The value of academic study pales in comparison to the value of just being decent human beings to each other.


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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