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Who am I to bestow such an honor upon people in the Magic the Gathering community?
The “honor” associated with being nominated or winning is highly subjective. Actually winning an award in this program should not hold any real value, and hopefully we can maintain that lack of value throughout the life of the awards. That is also why handing this program over to WOTC or some other association would ruin the intent of the awards and turn it into something that runs in the opposite direction of where these awards should go.
The awards came into existence in direct response to observed negativity in how content creators related to one another. Bullying and belittling was becoming the norm. Large content creators were being dubbed gatekeepers and were becoming apprehensive about promoting smaller content creators. Smaller content creators were losing motivation even though they were doing some great things with their channels. Some groups were not being represented, were being actively ignored or were being outright attacked. Factions were forming within the community that were making it feel unsafe. The awards are an attempt to create a platform and a reason for everyone to get together in a safe and welcoming environment…and nothing more.
These awards are the backyard barbeque of awards. They are meant to act as a reason to congregate. The goal isn’t necessarily the actual award. The goal is to share the stage with people with whom you normally wouldn’t and to meet people you normally wouldn’t meet. It’s the keg at the kegger. The reason ‘awards’ are used as a method of accomplishing this…everyone craves recognition. Suffering in obscurity is difficult for content creators. Connecting and feeling connected to the community is difficult as well. The ‘importance’ of the awards is that they are not important at all. It is a glorified shout out scratched onto a piece of glass. It should have significance to the individual and that is enough.
Diversity and Inclusion
This collage has received a lot of attention regarding diversity…as it should. Pressing our community to be more inclusive is something that should never stop. In our efforts to have an inclusive and diverse program, we need to talk about the intent of last year’s awards.
Last year’s sub-theme was ‘Women in Magic’. You won’t see that advertised in the show. Using a theme that identifies a marginalized part of the community as a selling point is hijacking the identity of that group for your own purposes. It was intentionally left out. You can highlight a community without using it to sell Pepsi.
But with that sub-theme, we were able to pull together a large group (over 35) female content creators. It was a fantastic representation of women and their participation was greatly appreciated.
The sub-theme is not random. It is intentional and it comes with a lot of hurdles to overcome. Many of the marginalized segments of our gaming community feel either ignored, attacked or used. The more marginalized the group is, the less they will want to participate in an event like this. For every person you see represented in that collage, about 3 responses of ‘no thank you’ were received. If you’ve been mistreated in a community, something like this can be seen as highly suspect. Even though we’re trying to do something good, that intention doesn’t always translate fully when viewed through the eyes of every group and individual. We’re trying to change the culture of the community to be more welcoming….to be more like a community in the realest sense.
Why are there so many white people in this picture? And why weren’t more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) asked to participate.
Several BIPOC content creators were asked. As mentioned before, there is a lot of hesitancy to participate in an event like this from marginalized groups. We have asked, and will keep asking for participation from all marginalized groups. We will also keep examining this platform to ensure that it is as welcoming and as safe as it was meant to be. It is built to be diverse and without diversity it is not fulfilling one of its primary purposes.
Who are these people?
They are Magic the Gathering content creators who gave their own personal time to talk about other content creators and to show some love for their community. There were some great moments in last year’s show such as our first non-English presentation and a tribute to cosplay led by a trans creator featuring two Brazilian cosplayers. You can also see in that show a joke that mocks the importance of the awards, two presenters attempting to give the awards to their cats, and one of the youngest content creators in our community singing a song. It was a really fun show and I’m exceptionally proud of it and everyone who participated. But mostly, I feel that the importance of the award itself was kept in its place. Content creators were the focus.
This was the award’s second year, the first being a proof of concept. And while it’s nice to point out these moments, we have to keep trending toward higher levels of diversity and inclusion. It must be the first thing we think about when we begin designing each show.
The failure to vet (ensuring compliance with the code of conduct) nominees was a huge mistake last year. This year we have put in place many safeguards to prevent that from happening again. This year moving forward, each nominee and participant will be examined by a large group of content creators to ensure that each of them adheres to the code of conduct. No exceptions will be made and disqualifications will not be made public unless there are some extraordinary circumstances. The goal here is to prevent reinjuring victims and to not use the awards as a weapon.
The Nomination and Voting Process
The process used for nominating and voting coalesces both audience and peer input. Ignoring the audience would be ignoring one of the main reasons for content creation, but it couldn’t be ‘all audience’, just like it couldn’t be ‘all peer’. We’re not creating a self-licking ice cream cone. There had to be a healthy combination of both. We’re still assessing just how “healthy” the combination is and how we can make it better.
The number one rule established for the awards is to always be open to criticism. Every critical remark and comment is noted and considered. This program could touch a lot of people in this community. It would be irresponsible to ignore any voice.
One of the best parts of last year’s awards was The People’s Choice award. It went to a kid from the United Arab Emirates. His mom ran the campaign to get him into the lead. This program is not a metric of the movers and shakers in the MTG community. It is not a metric at all. It’s just a reason for us to maybe stand together and say that on this one occasion, we’ll put aside our differences and share the stage. Nobody walks away with fame and fortune and nobody risks anything to participate. But they may walk away with the feeling that maybe they’re not alone. And that is all we’re trying to accomplish.
How can you can help? Continue to scrutinize the process and nominate nominate nominate nominate. This program is what we make it. Bring those who are not being seen to the forefront. Don’t let let our community be defined by any one thing. And never let this program get away with doing things the wrong way.
We won’t stop trying to make it better, and we won’t stop listening to criticism and advice. If you’re an MTG content creator, you’re welcome to join the design group by registering. And as always, your feedback is welcomed.