The movement to confront racism in the United States has reached a wildly popular trading card game, Magic: The Gathering, which said earlier this month it had pulled seven cards with racist names and imagery from its game.
Playing one card, named Cleanse, causes “all black creatures in play” to be “destroyed.” Another, called Crusade, provides gains to “all white creatures.”
The racist imagery of the Invoke Prejudice card is especially obvious. Beyond the card’s name, its photo depicts figures in pointed hoods resembling those of the Ku Klux Klan.
Players were not oblivious to the card’s symbolism — a 2008 comment on the game’s online discussion board called it a “Krazy kool kard.” Others pointed out the card’s ID number was 1488, a numeric symbol commonly used by white supremacists, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The card, originally printed in 1994, “is racist and made even worse by the multiverse ID it was unfortunately codified with years ago,” the game’s maker, Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, said in a statement announcing the changes. “There’s no place for racism in our game, nor anywhere else.”
Some prominent players say that beyond the issues with the cards, the game’s parent company has often shut out people of color.
Zaiem Beg, a Pakistani-American commentator and competitive Magic player, lives near the Wizards of the Coast offices in Renton, Wash., just outside Seattle. In an open letter posted online two days before the company’s announcement, Mr. Beg said he had heard from people of color who interviewed for jobs at the company, only to be inexplicably passed over for white applicants at the last minute.
Mr. Beg said in an interview that he often mingled with employees of the company at a poker establishment and in the parking lot of a nearby restaurant, and talked to them about problems at the company, like their complaints that employees of color were kept as contractors while white employees advanced to full-time jobs.
Wizards of the Coast said in an email that it was “taking immediate action to better reflect our values of diversity, inclusion and empowerment across our company,” and that its action to remove the cards was “one of many that we will be taking over the coming weeks to ensure we are living up to our values and those of our community.” It did not specifically address the claims over its hiring practices.
The collectible card game is a mix of chess and poker, Mr. Beg said, involving strategy and the random drawing of cards from decks built by players. Tournaments can have prize pools of tens of thousands of dollars, and there is a thriving ecosystem of podcasts and blogs that discuss strategies and lore.
Mr. Beg said independent podcasts and blogs fear being shut out by the company for criticizing it, which has led to a culture of “paranoia.”
Wizards of the Coasts’s “blessing” is essential for Magic content creators looking to make a living, Mr. Beg said, since the company can feature their content on its official Magic: The Gathering platforms. The fear of speaking out disproportionately impacts people of color, he added, since they would be more inclined to notice racism or microaggressions in the game.
Lawrence Harmon, a black player and podcast host, wrote in another letter, posted the same day as Mr. Beg’s, that “Both Wizards and the community at large are guilty of making black people feel unwelcome in Magic. It’s time that changed.”
He called on the company to promote black content creators and players, hire more black people in public-facing positions and talk to players of color to see how the game can be made more appealing to people of diverse backgrounds.