Magic Cosplayer Quit Due To Alleged Harassment

Image: Facebook/CSprankleCosplay

This weekend, the /r/MagicTCG was on lockdown after cosplayer Christine Sprankle announced she was quitting due to persistent harassment. The post discussing Sprankle being driven from the hobby quickly went to the front page of Reddit and was temporarily locked.

The finger of blame was pointed at Youtube channel UnsleevedMedia. Related posts on the subreddit were locked as other prominent Magic community members showed their support of Sprankle and shared their own stories of harassment from UnsleevedMedia.

Christine Sprankle has regularly attended Magic tournaments over the years dressed as popular characters like Elspeth, Freyalise and Liliana and earned herself the title 'the godmother of Magic cosplay'.

Her cosplay has been featured on the official Magic website and in the documentary series Enter the Battlefield.

However the attention she's drawn hasn't all been positive.

In an Instagram post, Sprankle announced she was cancelling her upcoming appearance at GP Portland and deleting her private Facebook account because she was "super tired of the harassment and would love to have some peace and quiet."

When news of this spread to Reddit, things got out of control. /r/MagicTCG moderators temporarily locked down the thread and locked related threads to contain the discussion.

In a sticky addressing the situation, the moderators explained:

"Last night, a post regarding a tweet from Cspranklerun was made, and it was very successful. It generated a lot of discussion, some good, some bad. The post continued to climb in popularity eventually reaching /r/all and the attention of many unsavory subreddits. With this newfound attention, users who are not part of our community began to raid our subreddit, posting some pretty hateful things in the hopes of stirring up more drama."

On Reddit, it's common for people from outside a certain community to join in high profile topics like this one. However when there is a coordinated effort from another community to disrupt the conversation (known as "brigading"), it can have detrimental effects to the original subreddit.

To address this, another comment from the moderators made it clear that any attempts to support, deny or dismiss the harassment would result in a permanent ban from the subreddit.

Telling victims of harassment that "it's just a joke" or to "grow a thicker skin" do nothing to help in situations like this and serve only to remove responsibility from the people being assholes.

One of the locked threads was a screenshot of a tweet from Sprankle, naming UnsleevedMedia as a major antagonist in this saga.

UnsleevedMedia, formerly MTGHeadquarters, is a Youtube channel with 143,865 subscribers that posts a range of Magic videos, including inflammatory content like this video 'satirically' accusing Magic Head Designer Mark Rosewater of sexual harassment based on a Twitter poll.

Other Magic the Gathering community members - including Hall of Fame member Eric Froehlich - have since come forward with their own allegations and accusations of harassment from UnsleevedMedia.

Wizard of the Coast have also chimed in on the situation.

UnsleevedMedia responded on Twitter to the controversy claiming people should "dig deeper and look for the truth" while accusing others of "Faux Outrage".

UnsleevedMedia's reaction to these accusations, and past allegations of harassment, mimics the behaviour that /r/MagicTCG moderators were banning users for. Dismissing their actions as just a joke or satire.

In reaction to this drama, another Magic Youtuber, The Professor from Tolarian Community College, posted a video detailing many instances of alleged harassment from UnsleevedMedia.

In this video, which includes numerous clips from UnsleevedMedia's past videos, The Professor addresses UnsleevedMedia directly about the harassment both of them have received and the consequences of UnsleevedMedia's actions.

"My phone suddenly rings, as you well know how scary that is, and I say 'Oh, death threat. I guess Jeremy made another video or series of tweets about me,'" says The Professor.

There are clips of UnsleevedMedia talking about Sprankle and her Patreon. He calls Sprankle a "serial virtue-signaller and crying for Patreon dollars cosplayer" while saying that she cries in her Patreon videos so that "loser beta cucks" will give her money.

Another of the instances highlighted in the video shows UnsleevedMedia accusing a Magic pro of pedophilia after a disagreement on Twitter. The Professor's response to the so-called defence of satire is simple, "there is criticism, there is satire and then there is calling a person a pedophile for tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, to see."

The video concludes with a heartfelt statement: "All I ask is that you consider the ramifications of your actions and ask yourself what kind of person you want to be. Is that how you want to shape the world around you? Is that how you want to shape other people's lives? It isn't what I want to do and it's not what this video is meant to do and I'll never do another video like this again. This was supposed to be a video on how to be a better control player.

"Is this the message you want to send out into the world?"

UnsleevedMedia's response was to call the video "unsubstantiated lies".

It is unclear what action, if any, Wizards of the Coast will take in response to this situation and the subreddit has resumed normal activity.

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Comments

    One asshole does something horrible, so now lets tar and feather every male in the community (without accusation, facts or proof) as just as bad as this one guy. Suddenly it's like there are no women who have ever played Magic and the hobby is now a misogynistic cesspit of toxic masculinity and exclusion <---- The twitter reaction to this whole thing.

    Condemn the man, not the community.

      Nevermind that these things keep happening.

      If the community is unwilling to root out the shitty people, it is complicit and therefore worthy of the criticism.

        Exactly.

        If this guy has a bunch of subscribers then it's more than just one person, clearly there is a part of this community that follows and believes in this guy and that is an issue that the community needs to deal with otherwise yes they will be seen as misogynistic.

        100% agree, but painting the whole community as "evil and wrong" is not the way to do it. This guy is at fault and should be blackballed because of it. But when these things happen, the whole hobby becomes those at fault including a lot of innocent players who just want to enjoy the hobby.

          I fail to see where anyone has blamed the whole community.

          People are only blaming this moron of a youtuber and his rabid fanbase.

          Last edited 28/11/17 5:37 pm

          I just read this whole article from beginning to end and I never got the impression that it was calling out ever male in the MTG community as being somehow terrible. In fact, unless I misread some of the names or misgendered some of the people, some of those speaking out against harassment were male themselves.

          Last edited 30/11/17 12:37 pm

      It’s one guy who mobilises a whole host of followers to aid in the harassment. It’s a large group, a sub-community that should rightly be called out for its actions.

      Which is all this is doing, nothing in the article I read says all males in the community... Hell it looks like there’s plenty of men detailing their own harassment.

      Why you need to try reduce this issue in such a way is kind of beyond me.

        Because the focus is placed on the community, not the people who are actually the problem?

        An idiot is found, elevated and enabled and then everyone begins the impotent Twitter war, attacking everybody else for a few weeks until another hot button topic takes their wafer thin attention.

        So in actuality, nothing is actually done.
        It's about standing against something and a lot less about standing up for something.
        Even the author has stated he believes the greater community has been supportive and positive, so why tar them all with the same disgusting dishonest brush?

          Again I feel like I read a different article.

          This is not just one idiot, it’s a ringleader and his entire community. Now that community is whatever percentage of a larger community, so if that larger community doesn’t want to be associated with that it’s kind of up to them to call out the behaviour as inappropriate.

          Which based on this article is what I had assumed the MTG community is doing.

          As an outsider to that scene my takeaway was that a group of people were doing awful shit and that the community itself was starting to take a stand against it.

        Note: I talk a few different areas here, if something is not coherent enough to be understood properly, please ASK for me to explain further and I'll rephrase or try better to explain. Psychology is a tricky thing.

        Because I'm someone who has cognitive pattern recognition (Basically: Pattern recognition occurs when information from the environment is received and entered into short-term memory, causing automatic activation of a specific content of long-term memory.) and as someone who notices these patterns a lot easier and sooner than others, I tend to point them out so that we don't make the same mistakes again.

        What I see here is a repeat of the "Gamers are not your audience" and "Gamers are misogynistic harassers" narratives that spawned the whole Gamegate BS. All that in-fighting has caused a lot more problems than it solved. The same thing has happened to comics and now (for a second time) it is happening in the MTG community. The larger community, through their "kindness" to protect a smaller section of the community, has gone from hating on one individual and their actions to creating this war within the community of "Us vs Them", leading to a very high possibility that a lot of innocent people who just want to play the game are now going to be afraid to do so because they have to be on constant guard about every tiny word they say, who they watch on Youtube, and opinions on matters in the larger community. A lot of middle-ground people are going to be thrown in with "him" because they don't want to join in the mob mentality and that makes the overall community worse off than it used to be.

        At no point will I say "Don't do anything about it". By all means call this shit out and deal with it. Get the toxic people out of the community so that it may thrive, but at the same time please try to keep a level enough head to realize that a lot of people are going to see the mob mentality as an attack on the community when you paint everyone with the "all males in MTG are misogynistic and exclusionary" brush.

          Ok I just reread the entire article.

          Nothing in it paints all males in the MTG community with any kind of brush and I still don’t see where you’re coming from.

          If you’re deep into that scene you may be bringing your own biases to the table, because that article seems to pretty definitively state that most of the community has been acting in a positive way to stand up against this harassment.

          You suggest that calling out these issues in the past has ended poorly and to an extent you’re right, but you’re failing to notice that the way we react to these things evolves each time it happens.

          Each instance not much changes but in aggregate people’s toleramce for inappropriate behaviour diminishes and eventually after enough cycles of outrage things do change.

          Look at what happened to Bill O’Reilly, repeated outrage finally had an effect and opened the door for others to be called out and punished.

          As for your comment about the silent majority who just want to do their shit in peace... that’s all well and good, but abusers thrive through tacit approval of people who aren’t their victims. By not picking a side you in effect legitimise the negative behaviour by allowing it to continue.

          It sucks but sitting on the fence in a case like this and demanding that you not get involved isn’t neutral, it’s you saying you don’t care about people getting abused as long as you’re not affected. Which I feel has many more troublesome implications for patterns we could repeat.

          What is this?

          Your post makes no sense, it can all be summed up as "I feel insecure so I am going to act like this article is Buzzfeed or Polygon diarrhea" when its not. Chill baby, this article is really not that preachy and should be the template by which all social action posts go by from now on.

          Mase, MASE!!! I've only just e-met you and you're making a VERY POOR IMPRESSION!

          So you think that in order to keep the peace and quiet within the community, harassment must be tolerated--nay, denied? If there is a "war" it's only because there's a significant amount of people on the side that to different measures argues for harassment or against combating it. Do you even realize that regardless of your intentions, the position you're taking makes more of an accomplice to them than not?

          This whole post comes across as "I have special mind powers you don't, therefore *words*"

          As someone who supposedly is much better at recognising social patterns than us Normals, it's weird that you don't recognise the pattern where communities dogpile on someone for no goddamn reason other than they are a group of toxic, gatekeeping assholes. You don't need to invent psychohistory to see that.

          You don't 'notice these patterns a lot easier and sooner than others'.

          There's no pattern here. You are projecting your own fears and concerns, not recognising anything. And I've seen you do it before on articles regarding sexual harassment, not other topics.

          You're just someone with a conservative attitude who is scared that attention given to 'minorities' will somehow damage the level of privilege you and people like you enjoy.

          That's not a crime, but it's not a superpower either.

      You need to check your priorities mate.

      This is not about you. This is about a rabid youtuber and his windowlicking fanbase harassing people. Nothing you have claimed above as been said.

      This is not about you at all. You are not a victim. Stop claiming to be one.

      This comment is so absurd that I signed up just to be able to respond to it. Let's lay out the simple facts:

      1. No one has claimed that there are no women who has ever played Magic. The claim, based on what women players themselves are reporting, is that when they play in ORGANIZED EVENTS, they are subjected to gender-based harassment, unwanted attention, and micro-aggression. This naturally makes them less likely to attend game store events and tournaments. I witness this first-hand in how my wife is treated at store events, even though she is the one who got me into Magic and is a more skilled player than I am. The same type of harassment has also been widely reported by LGBT players: All you have to do is to follow some of the high-visibility LGBT players on the tournament scene and listen to their stories.

      2. The targeted harassment that Christine Sprankle faced is consistent with that which has been reported by women in the Magic community. The difference is that she has much higher visibility, so that it is amplified in her case.

      3. The community reaction is in no way accusing all males. That is an absurd characterization of what players are saying. The discussion is focused on the specific attacks on Christine Sprankle and the broader problem of how women are treated, and those who are responsible for that treatment. I have never sensed that there is a broad-based attack on male players.

      4. There is ample evidence (especially in the case of Jeremy/MTHQ).

      Your reaction is somehow heavily biased: I see literally none of what you are talking about. No one is painting the entire male community as "evil and wrong", but the problem cleary extends beyond one person. If anything, the article focuses to heavily on Jeremy/MTGHQ, and too little on the broader problem. While he is clearly one of the biggest perpetrators in terms of actively harassing and attacking women players and content creators, the broader problem is not going to vanish if he leaves the community.

      Last edited 28/11/17 7:30 pm

    Is there just ONE fandom out there thats nots constantly infected with toxic masculinity and harassment?

    I appreciate Kotaku running stories like this that shines a light, no matter how large or niche a fandom is. May this sunlight continue to make things better.

    Have a nice day!

      So far one of the rare ones is Star Trek online of all things. Lot's of females playing without harassment as a rule, large LGBT community as well

      It's unfortunate that things reached this point but I believe that the greater Magic community's response has been largely positive and supportive.

      No. Because as long as people are thinking in absolutes with a "Us vs Them" mentality, there's going to be constant claims about toxic parts of the community. Where once we were united in just being a fandom, things are now about personal ideals and principles having to be along "these exact lines".

        Sure, when it comes to "it's not okay to harass people," people need to have their ideals and principles aligned along those exact lines.

        Except that's not just a rule in fandoms, that's a rule that holds in our entire modern society.

        I'm generally against tribalism and I think it's a big problem in modern politics and political discussion, but if the "Us vs Them" mentality is "Us people who don't think it's okay to harass people vs Them who do think that's okay" then I am 100% on board.

        Magic has never been "united in just being a fandom." The treatment of women has been an issue since its infancy. For more, you should read Titus Chalk's book Generation Decks on the history of the game. What is different is that awareness of the issue has increased. This has happened for a number of reasons: Cultural shifts, the emergence of high-visibility women players, commentators, writers, content creators, etc., and the emergence of organizations like Lady Planewalkers Society, Planewalkers for Diversity, and Play It Forward that proactively address the issue.

    Why is this guy trying to talk like Donald Trump?

      Because Donald Trump proved to the entire world that you can be completely despicable and reach one of the most powerful positions in the world. It's why it's vital for us more than ever to say this sort of shit is unacceptable.

      They cater to the same crowd. A bunch of bigoted a-holes with nothing better to do than worry about people who are doing no harm to them.

    Remember when sharing our similar interests in stuff brought us all together in fandom?
    Those were good times.

      Ah, the days before gamer bros. Good times, good times.

    MtG has always had this cancerous subsection of the community, its always try hard zero skills tournament deck stealers that turn around and attempt to push their stupidity upon the community and wonder why a lot of the scene sticks to local stores rather than surfing reddit and the like.

    It is completely unsurprising that a fat neck beard has social inadequacies when it comes to females.

      It's also pretty easy to lose perspective when one is a 'hardcore' hobbyist of any stripe. That's why balance is so important. Having a life outside the hobby is crucial. Unfortunately, it seems that certain people treat the hobby community as their life. It can cause a lot of social tension and psychological problems.

    So where's the evidence?

      Did you even read the article, my dude? There is nothing wrong with taking a hard "innocent until proven guilty" stance (heck I am heavilly against the social justice stance of "believe her" without evidence), but there is evidence that you are electing to ignore.

      The physical evidence is in the videos and tweets, then there is also anecdotal evidence from other people that have also experiencer abuse from this neck beard fedora tipping nob.

        I know I'm gonna be horribly downvoted here...

        But Unsleeved has always been the "bad guy" of the MtG community for years now since his falling out. So the fact that everyone is targeting him for this isn't really "newsworthy" or the fact that everyone is using this to dig out all the dirt on him. Now the question here is when you are the most hated person on a community with lots of dirt is it fair to just lynch him without checking his side first?

        At this moment in time it's basically one lynch mob vs another lynch mob.

        And now you have a huge dumpster fire from both ends =/

          Calling someone out for harassment is not a "lynch mob." It is, literally, calling someone out for harassment, period. The Professor's video is shockful of evidence in ther form of screenshots and video clips. Jeremy/MTGHQ's response is that these are all unsubstantiated lies. There you have the two sides of the story.

            It became even better now. Jeremy/MTGHQ now seem to have actually watched the video of the professor and called it a "fair" video but without any evidence for harrassment.

            It seems that anything other then screenshots of private messages and mails including death threads will not count as harrassment in his view.

            He is quite a jerk.

          Except one of these lynch mobs is a bunch of cancerous turds and the other side is just sick of being abused, they aren't the same.

        I did, even been double checking. The title even says 'alleged' because there's no real hard evidence, at least against the woman in the topic. He admits himself the amount of times he's talked about her, with even Tolarian saying there was another video that he removed (which I also want to see).

        The guy sounds like a total asshole with a low filter that immediately speaks his mind when a topic comes up, which is the real conflicted part for me even defending him. But I haven't seen any comments or e-mails or whatever from Sprankle that would suggest he's been harassing her. If she reveals countless e-mails coming from him then I would side with her. But at the moment a video and a couple of tweets doesn't really count as harassment. Just a guy being an asshole.

        Now if the discussion is about whether you can blame someone for how a community is acting then that's different. I'm on the side that he shouldn't be blamed for what other people are doing, even if it is a result of any videos he makes. You can't control how other people act and I don't think it would make a difference to include a Jackass warning in your video. It's also hypocritical to say that you can blame him for how his group of people treat her, but ignore blaming her for how her group is treating him. It's just a shit show altogether.

    My dad once said that the hardest part about having a son is teaching him to be a man. When you look at these guys on the warpath, clinging to the 'toughest' guy they see because they have no idea how to defend their masculinity themselves, you can see they've learned manliness from TV.
    On some level I think they all know that it's the source of their insecurities. They know that if the women in their lives ever suspect something they'll find out they're still boys and laugh at them. So they push their fake masculinity on everyone and hope that it's enough to stop people digging too deep.

    This dude is a disgrace to the beard. Please shave it off.

    Eh. STO's got a pretty large racist/Fascist contingent. They hang out on Earth Spacedock and in space in the Beta Quadrant and try to start fights. Everybody kinda just learns to turn off zone chat, though.

    While there surely are various cases, in terms of gaming communities it seems that some in such communities see it all as if it were some game in which they get to play as Sith - about which see e.g.:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kb5TyWS4qA
    and feel at that perhaps quite empowered from statements by "Darth Trump", such as: "... was unable to handle pressure; they folded like dogs." and wild bashing by him and his campaign of perceived competition (with even having copied, from a Twitter-account with plenty arguably anti-semitism, a pic depicting "Crooked Clinton" as if a tool of the Elders of Zion).

    Particularly YouTube doesn't seem to mind all that that comes with what sometimes seems even worse than tabloid, while many of particularly YouTubers seem to thrive on being scandalous as the decadent masses caring for such bring views in not few numbers.

    Thing tho is that even if e.g. YouTube is considered by many to be extension of game-worlds, such doesn't apply to all of the internet and even less so when it comes to phones and much more. Meaning that e.g. John Oliver may perhaps even enjoy if many are on Last Week Tonight media channels throwing abuse at him, but such doesn't necessarily apply at all in regard to private account he may have e.g. on Facebook and even less so when he just wants to sit down to have a cup of tea in a public venue.

    In other words, some game-world surely even features bashing as eventual part of game-play (with players agreeing to ToS etc.) - such as that in some games some sort of elections e.g. for clan leader happen and devs are pretty much clear that they tolerate a lot in terms of role-playing where it is up to clans etc. to themselves lay out some rules and look after them if they care for such (even tho mods in game do not tolerate e.g. posting RL pic of someone else without permission of such person, etc.). But that game-world is that game-world. And RL is RL, where many these days make use of the internet to stay in touch with friends and family, to read up on things, and much more with which there is no reason whatsoever that particularly Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ought to be kicked (and just because some guys are living in their villas with full accounts and no care in the world, or just because some think that the "internet" ought to be all as they know a pub as, such isn't a reason that by now more than 3 billion persons with internet-access ought to all bow to what a fraction of even a single-country's population considers as legit fun and as if everyone else were servant of their daddy they can bash however they want).

    And even if someone argues that the entire internet ought to be considered separate from RL, it is quite easy to argue that the internet is a multi-verse and not as if some domain of some x-chan. Similarly, just because there is a record store in a street with plenty of loud music inside doesn't mean that a book store next door would have to have loud music inside as well.

    With all that I am myself not a fan of some notion about corporations breeding their customers in their image, and I do not have a problem with "blowing steam off" in appropriate venues. But when many seem out wanting to shame whoever raised them as apparently no decency whatsoever, all while politicians seem too occupied by bashing each other and everyone, I do not find it surprising that some are trying to take a more pro-active stance about these issues.

    Which then further down the line of course has issues, such as that going to a shop wearing a shirt having a political statement on it, many would probably not consider as justified for the shop to ban based on that - but at the same time e.g. a restaurant requiring a very specific dress code, such isn't considered by many really that weird. But in either place and many other places it isn't considered ok to e.g. harass other customer or staff even if public law doesn't care much about such particular issue - with it many places being quite normal that service can be refused and someone even asked to leave when it isn't based on discrimination as such as it is for a considered valid reason.

    All in all, just meaning to say that even if some e.g. Trump fans think that his behaviour is the norm (while ignoring that in a some capitalist societies many swallow what the guy with money does when they do not want to end up among hundreds of thousands homeless persons - and ignoring that politicians often have some immunity), and even if liberal laws, such as freedom of speech, assume somewhat tolerance even of jerks, there isn't really as if all trumping right to fight for position of ultimate jerk with no regard whatsoever to collateral damage.

    So if someone organizes e.g. on YouTube a "league of trolls" where harsh treatment of participants by participants is considered pretty much a feature, I myself do not see a problem with it as such if it is made clear to viewers that it is a sort of "troll-fight club arena league". But for non-participants to be as if forced to submit to the rules of such a "fight-club league", that arguably is as ridiculous as if expecting that e.g. I can kick-box anyone on the street based on some that it is normal "social interaction" in a kick-box ring.

    If I have any problem with The Professor's condemnation of this incel garbage-human it's that it was far too milquetoast. Taking the high-ground might give you a warm feeling of moral high-ground, but often does little else.

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