If you’re like me then last week you came across an article on Vice about the representation of women in the design, development, and overall creation of our favorite card game, Magic the Gathering. As many of you know, misogyny, feminism, and representation are topics I’ve written about on multiple occasions. Not only have I covered these topics but plenty of our staff contributors have done so as well. I’ll let you dig into our archives for a little while and then meet me back here once you’re up to speed.

But today we’re not going to talk about the problems. We’re going to talk about solutions, and we’re going to talk about what progress Wizards of the Coast and the community at large have made to address these topics that we here at Hipsters of the Coast, and the authors of the article at Vice have talked about time and time again.

Progress in Staff Representation

This is the topic that the Vice article primarily focuses on so it’s where we begin our journey today. The Vice article begins by informing us that in the past  twenty-three years only nine women have worked on the Design and Development teams for Magic the Gathering and that four of them only did work up until 2004. So that leaves us five women since then. When I researched this topic myself looking at the original Mirrodin block through Dragons of Tarkir I discovered only three women involved.

Dragons of Tarkir was released last spring. Since then, Wizards has released five core expansions, two Duel Decks, one From the Vault, one online-only expansion, two reprint sets, and one Commander supplement. They have also announced this fall’s core expansion, From the Vault, duel deck, Commander supplement, a new Conspiracy set, a reprint supplement, and the winter core expansion. Including recently published sets, my original number of three grows to five with the additions of Melissa DeTora and Jackie Lee. If we look ahead to the upcoming expansions we can grow that number to six with the addition of Alli Medwin.

So obviously this still isn’t great. It was recently pointed out to me that Wizards works very far in advance in design and development, so that even if they began making changes a year or two ago we wouldn’t be seeing results until this year and next year. I’m not interested in waiting for those results to appear if they ever do. There are solutions we can present now to kick-start progress in this area. In fact, Wizards may have already begun to do so, perhaps without even knowing it.

Take a look at the product pages for Tempest Remastered, Kaladesh, and Aether Revolt. Each of these has an expanded set of credits and each expanded set of credits has female representation. For Tempest Remastered Alli Medwin and Alexis Janson are credited. For Kaladesh there’s at least six women credited with the design of the world itself while three women appear on a similar list for Aether Revolt. Why is this important? It’s a list of women! Designing Magic the Gathering!

Representation isn’t that complicated. Including women (and minorities but we’ll get to that in another article) in the credits for the design of the game shows that women design your game. It’s as simple as that. Then other women see these credits and they say to themselves, “Look, there are women designing games. I can do that.” And then women go and become game designers. It’s not rocket science.

So why then does Wizards mostly stick to the most basic credits? Maybe it’s an active agenda by corporate overlords. Maybe it’s a lack of resources to put credits together. Maybe it’s just because no one ever told them they should do it differently. I am going to decide to believe, for the purposes of this article at least, that no one ever told them to do it differently. So here we are, telling you, Wizards of the Coast, that you should greatly expand the credits for the design, development, and creation of Magic the Gathering.

Check out the credits for Settlers of Catan on page fourteen of the rule book. There’s a lot of credits there and that’s a good thing. Not everyone is going to be Richard Garfield or Klaus Teuber. But it takes more than one person to design a card game. Why don’t the credits always include the creative team? Why don’t they include the editors? The flavor text authors? The computer programmers putting the rules into MTGO? The in-house staff that volunteers to playtest in the future-future league? The marketing team that puts together the promotional videos? A lot of people make Magic the Gathering. Why are they missing from the credits page? This is low-hanging fruit, Wizards.

Improving representation in your staff isn’t easy, and at the highest levels of design and development Wizards is doing a bad job. But they can easily start making the right moves in representation by expanding the design credits for their game.

Progress in Character Representation

Staff isn’t the only place representation matters, especially for a game that has put an enormous emphasis on story and visual mediums. Here, in fact, we can easily see the progress Wizards has been making. In the past few years we’ve seen Wizards of the Coast’s creative team put a premium on non-male and non-white character design. We were given Magic’s first openly transgender character in Alesha. We were given Magic’s first gender-neutral character in the planeswalker Ashiok. We were given Magic’s first autistic character in the planeswalker Narset. These are huge strides for representation.

We’ve also seen great improvements made in the representation of women. While it’s not perfect, the majority of the Tarkir Khans and Dragon Lords were female. Emrakul is identified as female. The majority of the Gatewatch are now female. There are currently eighteen Standard-legal planeswalker cards in Magic and eleven of them are female. While the writers of the Vice article are correct to identify that female illustrators are woefully missing from Magic’s creation, they completely fail to mention that the artwork itself is full of female characters.

The next step is to improve minority representation in the game’s characters, but it seems that the plane of Kaladesh may finally start to make a small dent in improving that problem. So even though Wizards has a huge staffing problem when it comes to representation, it’s clear to see that the creative team is making progress. Perhaps there’s a correlation between the fact that the creative team appears to be the one with the best gender ratio and is the team that is making the most visible progress?

Progress in Content Creator Representation

There’s one last place I want to touch upon with respect to representation which is a place that the authors of the Vice article seemed to completely ignore: content creation. Magic the Gathering is more than just a card game. It’s a flourishing community of players, fans, designers, artists, economists, and content creators, like the authors of the Vice article. It’s just as important for the community’s independent content creators to also be represented across gender and race.

This is one area where Wizards has made strides while much of the community has failed to keep up. In the month of July, DailyMTG.com has featured content by Melissa DeTora, Gaby Spartz, Meghan Wolff and Maria Bartholdi. That’s four women writing alongside some of the game’s most notable male content creators including Mark Rosewater, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Kenji Egashira to name a few. Yes, four women is not a lot in the grand scheme of things; but we’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for progress.

There are a lot of women creating content in the community and a lot of it is very high quality. By putting it side-by-side with their premiere content, Wizards acknowledges the value of the content being generated by these women and that helps make great strides in representation. It’s a lesson that some sites, like Star City Games (two female contributors in July), have begun to take to heart while other sites, like Channel Fireball (zero female contributors in July), haven’t quite grasped.

Representation is hugely important and the Vice article authors are right to bring up the problems. However, the solution isn’t as narrow as “hire more women.” Yes, hire more women. Everyone should hire more women. It’s proven that hiring women will improve your company performance. But that’s not the only place that representation is important and we can see that Wizards has absolutely made progress in some other areas of the game.

And oh yeah, we all need to sit down with Wizards and the Magic community and have a serious discussion about minority representation.

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.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.