Where Magic Diversity needs to go

This is going to be a more serious post. I am really passionate about this issue. After listening to Shivam Bhatt on Commanderin’, I felt really inspired to write this out on paper and publish it.

First of all, just to clarify, the title is not implying that Magic is not more diverse than it was when it began. The player audience and developer team has diversified since the beginning of the game, and there is now a much larger spectrum of players. However, there are still some marks left from the times where the audience and developer team were predominantly white males. Though the audience is still mostly comprised of white males, the “second generation” of Magic, which includes me, seems much more diverse in terms of race and gender.

Why is it positive to have a more diverse cast of characters? It is important to have a more diverse cast of characters because people will enjoy the game more if they have a character that looks like them, that acts like them. The more diverse the characters are, the more people can identify with them, and the more diverse the Magic audience will be. This is why a diverse cast of characters in Magic: the Gathering is important.

narset

How far has it came? It’s come very far. Very, very far. They recently traveled to Tarkir and we picked up an Eastern Asian planeswalker, Narset, however they lost their opportunity to tie her in to the general story and keep on printing new Narsets, possibly drawing in more Asian players, and possibly more female players. It’s so unfortunate that they left her behind and didn’t take the chance to draw in an even more diverse audience.

kaya

We’ve also recently gotten Kaya, an dark skinned female planeswalker. This is another large step for Magic, even more so than Narset, because she came in a set that wasn’t about just people of her race, she was in a set with a lot of people of other races. However, I think they also lost the chance to tie her in to the story and include a character that more people can identify with.

So, they’ve come far, but there still is a critical problem. First of all, some of the more diverse characters are only allowed to be in sets with people like themselves. Like Narset, who is in a purely Asian world. Is Narset not allowed to be someone who stands out of the crowd? Does she have to only be in a world where there are only Asians? It’s an improvement from pure white males, but it feels like more like something meant to please angry audiences rather than a real attempt at diversity.

They’ve improved by one step with Kaya. They actually put her in a set with people of other races. That’s a big step for Magic, but it still feels a little bit like something meant to appease, not a real attempt because they still won’t tie anyone in the larger story. Why can’t you do that? WHY CAN’T KAYA JOIN THE GATEWATCH? WHY NOT?

Now, that’s a nice transition to talking about the Gatewatch. What’s the Gatewatch? It’s the multi-planar Justice League, and it’s 80% white. Anyway, Chandra doesn’t look that Indian. Her father, Kiran, seems pretty non-indian.

I understand that the Gatewatch is a result of the past of Magic filled with white planeswalkers. The only planeswalkers that they chose to support are white. Hopefully they can factor more diverse characters into the Gatewatch, instead of keeping it so white. Hopefully these changes are on the way, or we’re going to be watching a bunch of white people sweeping through not primarily white planes and saving them.

saheeli

However, Magic has given itself one last chance. That chance is Saheeli Rai. That chance is right here, right now. You can get Saheeli Rai on the Gatewatch train as a precedent to help diversify the Gatewatch, which is seeming like the focal point of the story.

This is one of my longer posts, and more heated posts. I really feel passionate about this. I know that I’ll lose lots of viewers over this, but I can’t let this lie. Let the internet trolls run free in the comments section.

Goodbye,

Kai Chang, Crazy About MTG

(EDIT: Thanks Shivam and Commanderin’ for the feedback! You’re all great!)

 

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16 thoughts on “Where Magic Diversity needs to go

  1. Right on.

    Unfortunately, if I had to guess, I think we’ll be waiting a while before we see a less white Gatewatch–I don’t think WotC is going to have any planeswalkers join up in their first appearance because they want to see how folks like any new planeswalkers first. Although, in Saheeli’s only Magic Story appearance so far, she initially withholds materials from Rashmi in order to protect the fabric of the multiverse, and some of the other recent developments you mention demonstrate that they are hip to Magic’s ongoing diversity issues, so maybe they are writing Saheeli as someone that can fast-track for the Gatewatch.

    Long-term, I think Koth will join whenever he shows up again (the Conspiracy 2 art for Phyrexian Arena has confirmed that he’s still around, so he should show up in the buildup to the next Phyrexian invasion), and it wouldn’t surprise me if Narset (and Sarkhan) joined when we return to Tarkir (Fall 2018 or Spring 2019, if I had to guess). I think Ajani and Elspeth will both be joining before them, though, moving the needle the other way first. (I should perhaps explain, I’m convinced that the story is pointing to a return to Theros for Fall 2017.)

    Dark horse to join sooner rather than later, though? It could be Kaya. It wouldn’t surprise me if she turns out to be from Amonkhet (which, as you note, would be a choice on WotC’s part that has a few of its own problems, although there is also a nice flavor synergy between it being a plane obsessed with the afterlife and her being a ghost-hunter). If this is what they are scheming, though, Conspiracy should have been enough lead time for testing her out and seeing if they want to have her take the oath in Amonkhet block. It’s clear from comments Monique Jones and Kelly Digges made after her debut that she’s a character for whom they have bigger plans.

    In any case, fingers crossed that progress comes sooner rather than later.

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      1. Ack, I’m sorry–I got too sucked into my own taste for guessing what’s coming in my reply, to a degree that wasn’t particularly useful.

        I’m glad you wrote this, I agree, and I hope we will have seen oaths of Saheeli and Kaya by this time next year.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. So it’s one thing to say that Narset is Asian. Tarkir itself is clearly inspired by the Mongol Empire, which was Asian. Arguing over the fact that Asia doesn’t exist in the setting is just semantics.

        But saying that Kaya is African American because of the color of her skin is a different matter all together. There are black people in this world that don’t live in America. And even in America, there are many black people who don’t consider themselves African Americans, because they they or their families immigrated here from countries like Jamaica and Haiti, which are non-African countries with a predominantly black population.

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      2. Sorry if my last post came off as hostile or something, didn’t mean to. I wasn’t infuriated or anything, just pointing out why it doesn’t make sense to refer to her as African American.

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