There are several reasons I am having trouble explaining my research to out-group individuals and anthropologists - but this one is happening pretty repeatedly - which is that people who do not know the game DEFAULT assume that is it virtual and computer based as opposed to physical.
I do not know if this is simply because of the name of the game or because unless you now preface the word "game" with a descriptor
"table top game"
but even "card game" is now assumed to be virtual - the opening paragraph of my "research" paragraph contains this:
"Magic itself is a strategic collectable card game that is played in organized settings. Each player has a deck of cards and the game is completed though card interactions, with rule-sets updates every three months by Wizards of the Coast (WotC). Methods of playing the game, accessory sets for the game and the locations where the game is played vary widely"
so there are cards, there are decks, there are accessory sets and there are multiple locations:
"There is nothing that indicated to me this was a physical game"
There was a lot of working going on in the class to attempt to define the mechanics of the game as opposed to the culture or the questions.
Interestingly on top of the description above being not considered enough - ( or simply not creating the right associations when read to be understood) the enthusiastic description by a student who plays was put in identity terms "you're a wizard who's fighting other wizards and you're building an army"
Actually no, I cannot say that - that is what the game is for that one person - but has almost nothing to do with a description of the game or the game mechanics....
Other suggestions for "describing the game" also put the game in specific contexts that are coded as very specific other types of games that all end up being male-coded-video game spaces and there was resistance to my attempts to define it more in sports term - even though the community culture is more in line with sports cultures than the things attempting to define it:
"Poker with Dragons" was accepted by the room but "chess" and "football" were not.
basically unless I fed into the concept of something that aligned with a concept that kept it separate from "mainstream" concepts by adding the fantastic element the room did not accept my own definitions and insisted that people who were not me define it in a way they can access.
I eventually managed to regain the narrative by saying that "focusing on the mechanics of the game for this study is like saying you need to understand the operation of fallopian tubes to define motherhood in a culture"
This is the most feminine space I could inhabit to stop the conversational cycle. "How can it be like a sport" when I described the rules changes were met again with resistance "sports don't change rules" but there were enough student athletes in the room so I wasn't alone in pushing back on that - in organized sports there are adjustments to the rules every few months, those rules are the responsibility of coaches to communicate to players. Because there is no specifically defined role like coaching in Magic - dissemination of those rules shifts is one of the instigators for communities to emerge.
I fought hard agains the game and the community being defined exclusively by the visual fantasy aspect first of all because it is not the way players and community members identify themselves in-group and secondly because they had already created cultural bias by distancing themselves from the act of participating in this game "I don't understand how it works" was not brought up for anyone else's study.
This is important. They don't need to understand it any more than "playing a game" - they might not individually understand brass player, gardening, computer programming, seal fishing, rabbinical ritual but no one else would be asked to explain how the ACTION of the thing worked, they would then focus on the community and questions -
I had assumed I had screwed up the writing - it is on review to write this entry that I realized the paragraph does the work they would rather have described as a form of identification through markers that separate it as "fantasy" which is the work of making it "othered" and marking it as such.
Even though I was the only person in the room who has both done the work, and is a community member - my attempts to define it were immediately ignored in favor of someone else and then I was pressed to accept that person's description as a universal placeholder.
I believe that unconscious bias and policing of that description is in play when attempting to define it. The identity narrative "we're wizards and we're battling with armies" SOUNDS like a video game so it can be understood as a video game - this is in effected coded as both white male space and as "not something ____ does"
I think I was watching the process by which game play is systemically made "less" or policed into less ""respectable" niches and I think it is entirely unconscious on the part of the class, and myself because I accepted the fact that I didn't "explain the game" until I reviewed my own work.
I did - but I didn't mark it as what they were already expecting it to be. And I will not be accepting the invitation to mark it through it's fantasy aspects unless they are relevant.
I need to think hard about this - this isn't a group of people trying to police others. And I reacted defensively because I this type of policing is one of the reasons that community of activity is getting corralled into "fandom" studies instead of more accurate descriptions of community and identity through acts instead of through consumption.
That's a super strong impulse to define it through things that carry cultural weight that has a lot of different values and social capital attached to them.
I also need to figure out how to push back against that typing to keep the "fill in the blank" nature of defining play and games and "gamers" from defining the study. Those things are involved but they aren't the focus - but maybe they will be :-(
Also I need to be clear - the enthusiastic player who defined it through identity in the game ( as opposed to actual play of the game) saw that description as a net positive and actively disagrees with the idea that it can/is identified differently by others. That player was surprised to find out there were people who were highly engaged who play that couldn't care less about the fantasy aspects or the story.
That player also is not someone who is engaged in the forms of community activity that are labeled Vorthos and Melvin. The person is enthusiastic but not universally representative. (Trick category the only thing "universal" in the Magic Community is that they all interact with the cards in some way.)