Wizards of the Coast moves against harassing players, and leads in the industry in actions to promote inclusion.
Over the last several days some major moves have taken place in the gaming industry regarding player inclusion and harassment. We have seen words and anti-harassment policies for a while across the industry from manufacturers to major events. But strong action is taking place and I have feeling it will only be the beginning. Here’s what has gone down:
cosplayer Christine Sprankle (seen in the video below)announced she was quitting due to constant longterm harassment in the Magic: The Gathering community.
Sprankle blamed YouTube channel UnsleevedMedia, and was met with other prominent BTG community members offering support and corroborating stories of harassment from the YouTube channel.
Here is a twitter post from Sprankle on her decision:
It has been a rough year. And I have blocked and not said anything about him because I wanted it to die but without a doubt MtGHeadquarters/UnsleevedMedia has made my life hell this whole year with his unnecessary videos/tweets about me and other members of Magic.
Wizards of the Coast responded with the following: Taking Action on Harassment and Bullying statement. Some excerpts:
We are incredibly proud of the Magic community and the tremendous good it does in people’s lives. Magic is a game meant to bring people together—it’s right there in the name “The Gathering.” Our community is filled with stories of lifelong friendships and bonds forged through tapping lands, casting spells, and swinging in with everything for the win.
Sadly, that sense of community can be spoiled by the behavior of a few individuals. We at Wizards of the Coast are disheartened about bullying and harassment in the gaming community; unfortunately, the Magic community is not immune. No one should be subjected to threats and intimidation. No one should be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome while enjoying something they love. All people should be able to express their joy for the game without being attacked, whether that’s in a local game store, online, or somewhere in between.
WHAT WE’RE DOING RIGHT NOW
We are investigating reports we’ve received as quickly as possible. We know you’d like us to act faster and to share more information with you about this process, but we simply can’t. What we can tell you is that we take violations of our Code of Conduct very seriously, and violations can result in removal from organized play, the Wizards Play Network, and all Wizards accounts.
We are reviewing and updating our policies and reporting processes for Code of Conduct violations. We recognize that it is time to carefully reconsider how we work with retailers, tournament organizers, players, and community members to deal with harassment and bullying—online and offline. We have been working on this, but we will work faster. Expect announcements and explanations over the next few months about policies that we hope are clearer and processes that are easier to access and resolve issues more quickly.
We are going to be more proactive about setting expectations for behavior at Magic events and in all Magic spaces. Some of you may have taken a survey recently about what makes you feel comfortable and included at Magic events and what doesn’t. That is part of a project we’ve been working on that will clearly express how players, retailers, tournament organizers, and us here at Wizards expect each other to behave anywhere people are enjoying Magic. Think language and visuals at premier events, stores, and wherever you play Magic that are clear reminders of the respect we expect all players to be treated with. We’re shooting to get that out there by the time you’re playing Rivals of Ixalan.
These are first steps. We want to be leaders in the gaming community on this issue and will continue to figure out ways we can help tackle the problem.
WotC then updated it’s list of Banned DCI members and gave Unsleeved Media’s Jeremy Hambly a lifetime ban, permanently ending his sanctioned competitive play career. As you can imagine, the wailing and gnashing of teeth has begun in full.
What it All Means
We’ve all seen a LOT of nasty and bullying behavior over the years online, across the gaming industry. No community is completely safe from it and while many organizations talk the talk – WotC’s actions show they are dead serious about controlling harassment and bullying. WoTC is a large enough company that when they they take action like this, it will often lead to similar actions by others in the industry. The tightly controlled MTG competitive play structure gives the company great control if they wish to use it.
I would not at all be surprised to see other manufacturers with company controlled competitive events following suit. FFG immediately springs to mind. In an odd twist, Games Workshop currently does not have a strong set of formal company controlled competitive events, and thus lacks the strong leverage to be able to deal with harassment. But that is now; and I can certainly envision GW using a variety of soft power levers to start to deal with the thorny community issue. Nottingham is clearly taking steps to increase inclusion in the hobby and I can’t see them ignoring this issues in the years ahead.
The bigger question is will WoTC stand alone or will other big outfits move with them to start to institute change in the community.
~What’s your take on what’s occurring in the industry and how the big companies should proceed?