card game draws diverse groups together – The College VOICE


Mia Finnigan has been playing Magic: The Gathering with her father since she was 8 years old.

Finnigan says, “I always play Magic with my dad, when I moved out we would play Magic every Sunday and just hang out and get lunch.” 

Image Courtesy of Hasbro Promotional Materials

First created in 1993 by Richard Garfield, Magic has grown to 50 million players worldwide according to Hasbro, the toy company that owns the brand. Players, who often gather in hobby shops, are drawn in with its “easy to learn, hard to master” rules. Magic is a collectible card game with a few different formats of games. 

The most popular format, Commander, lets players choose a single Legendary creature card to act as their commander. Players then use a 100-card deck to fight against three other players and their commanders. 

With a new expansion that came out on April 19, “Outlaws of Thunder Junction,” the card game continues to gain popularity. With the introduction of Play Boosters, a 14-card pack that always contains a rare holographic card, Magic has grown to new popularity. This growth also comes from numerous collaborations that Magic has done with other companies. These collaborations have included “Doctor Who,” “Assassin’s Creed,” and “Lord of The Rings.”

Part of what makes Magic popular is its social nature.

Finnigan was 14 when she recognized her transgender identity. She says, “I just didn’t feel comfortable with anything. Nothing I wore was right for me.” 

When she turned 22, Finnigan came out to her father as trans and the revelation had an immediate impact on their relationship.

“He wouldn’t talk to me and he told me that he couldn’t accept that I wasn’t his son anymore,” she says.

But the game of Magic played a part in reconciling their differences. Finnigan says, “I didn’t think I would ever talk to him again until I got a text that said like, ‘I miss Sunday Magic with you’ and that just, it broke my heart.”

She continues, “After he said that I sort of buckled and went over to his house. We just played a game of Magic. But after the game, he looked up and said, ‘This is going to be hard, but I want to get to know my daughter.’ And cue the waterfalls out of my eyes…We talked till it got dark and we were just talking. It was just really nice to have that sit down with him.” 

Finnigan is one of many who have found a community and a home in Magic. She says, “I met most of my friends through Magic, and when I came out to them they didn’t really care. They all had to get used to using Mia, but everyone loved me like nothing happened.”

While the Magic community can be accepting of others joining their space, like other tabletops, it is still a male-dominated game. 

When asked about the diversity in the community, Dennis Bradford, a Magic tournament judge, said, “The competitive level events are very male-dominated. I could count on one hand the number of women or female presenting players, which is unfortunate. I do think there are a lot of places where female Magic players don’t feel fully comfortable going, so they tend to avoid it.”

Although Bradford recognized that women can face opposition in these communities, whether it be Magic, Star Wars, or Video Games, he says he sees positive changes to the representation of women and the LGBTQ+ community in Magic.

Bradford says, “You’ll see greater diversity in the characters that are represented in the game and a pull away from overtly sexualized female characters represented in the cards especially, which I’m glad for.”

This is true, as prominent female and LGBTQ+ characters appear more frequently in Magic. Chandra Nalaar, a pansexual woman, has the most printed cards in the game, making her one of the most popular characters. 

Additionally, another popular female character in Magic, Alesha, is the first transgender character in the universe of Magic. 

Robert Placer, owner of Family Fun Hobbies in Hamilton, NJ, holds Magic game nights every Thursday in his store.

When asked how the inclusion of female and LGBTQ+ characters has changed over the years, Placer says, “It’s more common, it’s more accepted. I mean, heck, you can walk into Target and Walmart and Barnes and Noble and find all of these games on the shelves. So, I don’t think it’s as big an issue as when I was 15 years old.” 

Whether coming to play Magic or browsing the numerous games and toys in his hobby shop, Placer says he is happy with the diversity and the acceptance that he has been able to foster in his store. 

He says, “I’m happy to tell people that come in for the first time that [we welcome] all of our communities. We have every age, color, creed, sex, religion, ethnicity, and gender, including probably some genders that mankind has yet to hear of. They don’t care and I don’t care. They’re just here to have fun and play together.”



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