Back on January 18, if you tried to do something on the Internet you would’ve noticed that there was an issue. Reddit was down, and so were Wikipedia and many of your other favorite sites. Google had a giant black bar across its colorful logo—the first time that its logo was not seen on the homepage. All this was done in protest of two bills that were going through the American Congress: SOPA and PIPA. The Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act (In which PROTECT translates into the very long “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft” name), were well-intentioned but very poorly thought out. Intended to stop online piracy of movies, music, software, and counterfeit goods that were protected overseas, the two bills could (and most likely would) destroy free speech on the Internet because of the way it was written.
This was such a huge deal that I even wrote about it on my personal Magic blog, claiming that it would destroy the Magic community online. I hardly ever get behind political aspects when it comes to Magic, but I felt this was important enough that it would kill something that I hold dearly: the community. Since then, the bills have almost been shelved thanks to millions of people calling and e-mailing their representatives and senators. But this is such a huge problem that of course it wasn’t going to be the end of it; there have been several more bills that could be worse, including ACTA, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, (which would allow your laptop to be search by Homeland Security at airports), and the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, for which the bill’s sponsor, Lamar Smith (yes, the same one who sponsored SOPA), says requires all ISPs to keep records of everyone’s Internet usage for eighteen months to make sure no one was trading child pictures.
Let me get off my soapbox and stop talking about politics. The reason I wrote that piece on a Magic blog was that it’s bills like that that could threaten the online community. Why is that important? By reading this website, you are taking in part of it. There are no real numbers that we as the public can get about how many people actually read Magic content sites. DailyMTG is quite possibly the number one place to go, and I have a feeling that MTGSalvation, StarCityGames, GatheringMagic and ChannelFireball are on the next tier. By having this content available to us as Magic players, it allows us to grow and become more knowledgeable as players and as people.
If you’re old enough to remember, people used to receive information about new Magic sets and cards one of two ways: through magazines like InQuest and Scrye and the rumors that your local game store would hear. Those rumors would always be, “My friend, who’s a Level 3 judge, heard that they were going to reprint Force of Will in Sixth Edition,” or something equally as wacky. Now those rumors haven’t stopped since we use the Internet, but more people can read and respond to what’s happening in Magic. During my summers as a youth, I used to take the latest issue of InQuest with me on family vacations and read it from cover to cover—especially the spoiler list of cards and what stars InQuest gave them. Nowadays, I can look up what I want on my computer or smart phone from any number of various locations online (MagicCards.info being my favorite).
What was lacking in the old media was a one-way communication—we couldn’t respond to what we were being told. Thanks to the power of the Internet, we can. This is important for two reasons: First, we can have our voices heard by Wizards (which helped out things like the Planeswalker Points fiasco), and second, we become a community. With the emergence of social media, we can become a fully functioning gathering of people in which ideas and concepts are introduced and explored. And you should become a part of this as well.
This isn’t an everyone-else-is-doing-it type of plea—even though it’s true, it’s a great move for Magic. Grinders always talk about creating a group of friends to playtest and share ideas with, but since we’re much more causal, you might think it’s not needed. That’s entirely false. Being a casual/Commander player and involved in the online community can be a huge benefit. Not only are there articles written all the time about the casual player (like Kitchen Table Tuesdays here on GatheringMagic and several written on the main DailyMTG site, including Adam’s on Tuesdays), but because you can communicate back and forth with other players who have other ideas that you might love. I wrote about Horde Magic a few months ago, and I found that out because the guy who wrote about it put it up on Quiet Speculation, and it was picked up on Twitter where people kept tweeting about it.
Ah yes, Twitter. That’s one of those social media things that you may not be into. Don’t worry, let’s go over the more popular social media options you have out there. It’s not that scary once you get into it.
Ah, the good old message boards. I believe that everyone who has been on the Internet has at least interacted with one of these. It’s a place where someone starts an idea, and people can respond to it favorably or not. There are many different people who use forums, and they can be found anywhere. The most popular ones are Wizards’s own forums, MTGSalvation’s, and our very own here at GatheringMagic.
Once you create a user name, go to a thread (what the start of a topic is called), and read it. You can add your opinion—or facts, if you have them—to a discussion. That’s it. As long as you don’t do anything ban-worthy (like do anything illegal or against the site rules), it’s a very good option to dip your toe into the Magic community.
One of the most popular forums out there, where I use the term “forum” loosely, Reddit.com calls itself the front page of the Internet, and it’s true. Reddit is a user-generated site that links to everything on the web and is highly influential; they were the ones who started the blacking out trend about SOPA. On the site, you can find subreddits about anything you’re looking for, including Magic. You create an account, like any forum, and then you subscribe to whatever interests you. Then, when you log on, you can read about your interest rather than whatever’s popular anywhere on the site.
The unique thing about Reddit is the fact that you can upvote or downvote any thread or any comment. In each subreddit, there are the hottest upvoted or commented threads for the past while, so it can change multiple times throughout the day what you see on the front page of a popular subreddit. What you see at the top of the threads are the most popular comments. How you define what earns your vote is entirely up to you, which makes it kind of fun . . . but a little frustrating at the same time. What the upvotes add up to is karma points; the more karma you have, the more, well . . . nothing. It’s been memed before:
On Reddit, there is an area that’s known to house the people who believe that Storm Crow is way too powerful and understand that mana flows freely. r/MagicTCG currently has over thirteen hundred members, and it’s growing. They link to most everything that’s going on in the Magic online community, and you get a ton of new people who are getting into Magic who are asking questions, deck tech help, funny observations, and basically almost anything you could think of. There is also a separate Commander subreddit (r/EDH) that’s basically dead since no one’s posted anything new in two months.
The thing you should know is that this area is the most visible of our subculture to the rest of the Internet. Since it’s part of a larger site, one can stumble across here much easier than, say, a site completely devoted to Magic. Please be on your best behavior when you visit r/MagicTCG (basically any site, but here especially). Oh, and one more thing: Reddit can become very addictive. You have been warned.
The following section revolves around a simple concept: following people and them following you. The four main social media outlets here (Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter) all rely on you following people to know what’s going on. For all of you socially awkward penguins out there, this is your chance to speak up and engage (no matter how hard you think it might be).
I’m lumping both of these together because they’re the same in concept and almost the same in execution. Most of you might already have a Facebook account and understand the idea of how it works. You make an update to your status—whatever you’re thinking, a link to something you found, whatever. Then, your friends (people who follow your status updates), can either “like” or “+1” it, or even comment on your status; it’s here where you get a conversation going. Did you know there was an Official Magic Facebook page? You do now.
The ways these two are separate from each other are just in the small details. Facebook lets you create Events, which let you organize events (wow, what a handy name)—like who is coming, when it’s going to be, and so on and so forth. For example, here’s the event for Grand Prix Seattle/Tacoma coming up in March (which I plan on attending). I can see who else is attending and talk about restaurants or hotels in the area.
On the flip side, Google+ lets you move all your friends into circles. By dictating who’s in what circle, you can communicate to those people without letting others outside of the circle see what’s going on. Say you only want to talk about Commander to a group of friends without boring your non-Magic-playing friends. Done. It’s a pretty cool concept that I imagine that Facebook will soon implement.
This is the most unique of all the social media networks out there. It’s basically a micro-blogging service on which you can post pictures, blog posts, videos, music, or any kind of media. This becomes social media rather than just a regular blog post because you can “like” it, and you can reblog it. This basically is the mash-up of Twitter and Facebook, but with pictures instead of a character limit.
This can be among the most expressive and free-flowing things you can do online. You can respond to others’ questions and posts, adding your own info. For those wondering what this would look like, I point you to always-up-to-date MTGFan, Mark Rosewater’s own Tumblr account, where he answers questions and takes names, and finally to everyone’s favorite new account, Magic Cards with Googly Eyes. If you do not smile or are at least happy with the googly-eye Tumblr, you are a communist and have no soul.
Tumblr is very easily customizable to suit your tastes and needs. If you’re that creative type who wants to express himself or just give blogging a go a little piece at a time, this is the place I would recommend you start.
This is my preferred way of interacting with the Magic community (besides articles and my blogs). Twitter may get a bad rap about how people use it (“I had eggs for breakfast this morning, lol”), but it’s a completely viable tool for use of communication. Because you have a limit of 140 characters, you have to keep everything to the point; you can’t just ramble on for no reason just because you like seeing the words that you wrote.
Anyway, what makes Twitter so great is that it’s instant. You can find out what’s going on right at that moment and react to it. There’s a reason that GGSLive and StarCityGames use it to communicate to the people streaming their feeds during live tournaments. When a new set is announced or there’re rule changes, or a card get previewed, Twitter is always the first place I go to watch everyone’s reactions.
However, if you’re not following someone, you can still find out what others are saying about a topic. Because of hash tags, you can click them and follow what other people who are using the same hash tag are tweeting about as well. For example, Commander on Twitter is hash-tagged #CMDR, so you can follow the conversation on there as well. Of course, hash tags can also be used as the punch line of a joke, which I do quite frequently. With Twitter being so mobile and easy, smartphones and laptops give you easy access to this world. I’ve been standing at the PAX party with WotC employees, taking questions about the set and tweeting their answers back to the public (#PAXPARTY). I’ll see live updates about FNMs on Friday nights (#FNM), and even how people are doing in the PTQ (#PTQSEA).
What makes this media so great for Magic, and especially Commander, is that it’s possible to receive instant feedback. It’s not just a reaction to something, but it can be used as a conversation about why Kokusho should be unbanned (I don’t think it should). But you can have that argument, and by replying and retweeting tweets, you can interact with anyone you want. But, of course, that also means those people don’t have to reply back to you if they don’t want to. I usually try to, but that’s just me.
You’ll notice I didn’t include podcasts, YouTube, or blogs on my list because, while you can interact with them, it’s still mainly a one-way street. You can talk about what you’ve read, seen, or heard on these social medias, and a majority of the people who do create this content tend to be on one of these (if not more) areas as well. Were you to create a blog or a podcast, I would suggest doing the same thing.
If you want to get into this great online community (without creating content) but haven’t taken the plunge yet, I suggest you try one of these avenues and see where it takes you. I’ve given all of these ways a try, and I keep coming back to Twitter, no matter how hard the other medias pull. In fact, if I’m given one moment to brag, I’m among the most followed Magic personalities on Twitter who doesn’t work for Wizards or play on the Pro Tour. I mainly talk about Magic and Commander, with some other stuff filled in as well (like the whole SOPA thing).
And the great thing is that you can do the same as well if you want to. All you have to do is sign up and start friending people and jump in conversations. If you do start up on Twitter, drop by and say, “Hi” (@MTGColorPie). Being involved with the online Magic community is pretty awesome, and I invite you to join up with us. Like I said, I don’t want this to be an everyone-else-is-doing-it plea, but it’s something you should check up on.