Today we’re going to talk about Brian DeMars’s article from last week [Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Verbal Diarrhea, Generally Offensive Language] on Gamer Language. First off, DeMars is 100% correct in his analysis of the situation. There are things that we, Magic players and gamers in general, have incorporated into the way we speak about gaming, that need to be dropped from our vocabulary ASAP.

I don’t have anything critical to say about the article. In fact, I think Wizards of the Coast and game stores should be making an effort to take the ideas in this article to heart, and build a culture within both Magic Online, the competitive scene, and local gaming stores that is supportive of all players, not just the ones who feel like running their mouth off without any regard for the people around them.

No, what I want to talk about is the dreaded Comments Section of articles like this because there’s a lot to unpack here. Normally my advice is to avoid the comments section of articles like this. They are simply a breeding ground for trolls, men’s rights activists, and self-proclaimed “edge-lords.” Still, I learned three valuable lessons from reading every single comment on the article (180 at time of writing) that I want to share with you all.

Lesson #1 – Facebook Sorts Controversy to the Top

Let’s start off with an understanding of what is a “top comment” according to Facebook (the system Channel Fireball uses for their comments). Unlike Reddit which has their karma system of up- and down-voting posts, or Twitter which will let you know when a lot of people you follow “like” a post (but not when they reply to it), Facebook simply pushes posts with a lot of responses to the “top.”

The result is that by default you see the most controversial comments before anything else. Innocuous comments like “Great Article” and “Thank you” don’t get a lot of replies. As such they’re not considered “top” comments. On the other hand, posts defending the use of “cancer” as a description for a bad hand get a lot of replies, pushing them up the list of “top” comments.

The lesson here is that Facebook thrives off of controversy and therefore it’s inclined to push it in front of your face. This can and likely does create the misconception that the entire comments section of this article was a cesspool of negativity when in fact that was not the case.

Lesson #2 – The Majority Reaction was Positive

180 top-level comments is a lot for this community and by my count just over 50% of them had a positive message in reaction to Brian DeMars point of view. Digging a bit deeper showed that many people appreciated DeMars for having the courage to write this piece knowing the kind of reaction it would get from the trolls and edge-lords who plague the Magic community.

One interesting facet of any comments section, but especially one like this, is to watch it devolve over time. Looking through the first few dozen comments things were overwhelmingly positive. At least two-thirds of the first 30 or so top-level comments had something nice to say about the topic.

However, as the comments grew the negative side of things began to emerge and many of the later comments shifted towards the trolls or were meta-comments about other parts of the comment section. That’s not entirely unexpected and it’s certainly fascinating to see. The important lesson though is that the comments do not represent the real reaction of the public.

Internet trolls are often a very vocal but very small minority representation of the community. Many of the positive comments were along the lines of, “I didn’t think this kind of article needed to be written until I read the comments section.” It turns out that most people who have a positive reaction don’t feel inclined to say anything. Many of them probably already know to avoid the comments section as a rule of thumb. So a 50/50 split of positive/negative reactions in the comments very likely implies a split that leans much heavier towards the positive side of things.

Lesson #3 – But, Some Magic Players are Horrible People

Even if the positive/negative split was closer to 70/30, the Magic community is still full of horrible people and Brian DeMars was 100% justified in writing this article and Channel Fireball should be commended for having made a change in their position towards social justice issues.

If you read through the comments of the article you’ll know that for the most part one single troll was responsible for most of the negativity. It wasn’t surprising to see the comment section evolve this way because it really only takes one spark to create a dumpster fire. The arguments are all predictable and non-compelling but that isn’t the point.

The most important lesson to learn from the comment section of this article is that these viewpoints exist in our community and the people who defend them will stop at nothing to make baseless arguments defending themselves. It doesn’t matter that their arguments are indefensible just that they have a soapbox on which to make them.

In the end it might even be a good thing that the comments turned into a dumpster fire because it helps solidify the fact that horrible people exist in this community. They’re playing at your local game store. They’re the reason some people never come back. You might have never thought about it that way. You might never hear the offensive language either because you tune it out or just don’t associate with those people.

But, it’s there. And some people hear it. And that young kid who played once and asked you for help with their draft deck but never came back? Their parents heard it. And that shy guy who is a freshman at the local college and looking for a new place to play as he adjusts to a new place? They heard it. And so on and so forth.

You shouldn’t read the comments section, but if you do, make sure you learn something from it.


Rich Stein is glad we turned the comments off here at Hipsters of the Coast because he, like Brian DeMars, was giving too many people incurable diseases.

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