Context

I’ve been reading quite a bit about the new Magic the Gathering card, and what Oestrus had to say about it.  I’ve been thinking about what Effraeti had to say about chivalry, and Matticus’ comments therein.  I’d like you to go read these things before I continue.  I’ll wait.

Done? Great.

I also discussed this with my partner, and we’ve continued that discussion further. For me, the first things I noticed about the picture, were what the woman was dressed in – not how much, but how much appeared to be in disarray – which led me to notice the sexual overtones of the piece. My partner first noticed a huge man holding a much more diminutive woman down by the throat. Both of us felt that this could be an offensive piece of artwork, regardless of its context.

Context

Now, both of us do believe very strongly that context is important. However, there’s three types of context with this type of work, like there’s three types of context with the Ji Firepaw quest text.  Those three things are:

  1. The apparent context at the time of viewing: for the MtG card, you have the image, and whatever happens to be written on the card.  For the Ji quest, you have whatever may have come before it in the game, and the surroundings of the NPC at the time. These are all the context you can expect to be the same for everyone.
  2. The greater context of the situation. For the MtG card, it is the story that Oestrus explains. For Ji, it’s whatever additional lore information that exists outside the game, or beyond that point in his narrative. We cannot expect everyone to know the lore, because not everyone knows all of the lore.
  3. The final context, however, is the most important of all, and that context is what the individual brings with them, what has gone before, what is going to color their opinion.  This context has little or nothing to do with the game itself, but with real world experience, other games, or even the way they were treated yesterday afternoon.

These things provide the entirety of context. Just like Oestrus commented that we are leaving context out all too often when talking about things that offend; we must also remember that this lore context does not live in a void from the real world, either. The context of our individual lives shapes how we perceive the lore context, which in turn, shapes how we perceive the game.

Do I believe that Ji should get new dialog? Yes. Not as much because of the language, but because of the difference in the language based on the gender of the toon. Also, editting something that’s in beta testing isn’t nearly as big of a deal. I think it was responsible on Blizzard’s part to make a considered look at the comments of beta testers. That they decided to make the change says to me that they were in agreement.

Do I believe that the MtG card should get new art? I actually do. There are plenty of ways to show this combat that don’t have sexual overtones (which, from Oestrus’ description shouldn’t exist) or that give the woman a more visible strength that, frankly, is just not shown well in the small magic in her hand.  

Am I going to scream and yell and never play MtG? Well, no. I’m not going to scream and yell, and that one card is not going to be in my decision to not play the game. I haven’t played in over a decade, and it’s not a hobby I’m going to get back into.

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Posted on May 1, 2012, in General. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. This discussion about Magic the Gathering has been really interesting because Magic is noticeably behind World of Warcraft, in terms of the general attitude towards women and in terms of their player base. Surprisingly, most of these attitudes have nothing to do with Wizards of the Coast or anything having to do with the cards themselves.

    Wizards really tries to go out of their way to not portray women poorly in the lore or in the cards, with the flavor text, or the art. That’s why this whole discussion around Triumph of Ferocity was really surprising to some people. It felt like it came out of nowhere.

    I really think you hit the nail on the head, with regards to context and what we as individuals bring to it. I feel that this is the most unique type of context and the kind that makes it the most difficult to appeal to the majority of people. When you’re dealing with so many different types of opinions, experiences, and expectations it does become much more difficult to create one type of card, or character, or piece of dialogue that sits well with all of them.

    I know it sounds like a cop out, but I think all anyone can really do is try. Someone is going to feel left out, or like something doesn’t speak to them, or rubs them the wrong way. What I think we as the consumers can do is have more of those conversations with ourselves as to why are we offended, why do feel this way, what are we doing to influence these feelings, etc.

    Great post, Shoryl. Thanks for writing this.

  2. While I don’t think it’s a cop out at all that we need to continue to have these conversations, I am also an introspective person, so these conversations aren’t just about getting my opinion out there, but also about refining and adjusting my opinion to align with my ideals as well as try to consider context that I might not be bringing to the table personally.
    When I first read your post, I was nodding my head in agreement with much of what you had to say. What the discussion I had with my partner and some of the further reading did was make me realize that we all bring context to everything. I felt I had something more significant to say than would fit into comments, which meant a post, instead.
    I’m glad that you appreciate the dialogue that has been going around.

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