Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Geek Love

This is my short, less angry response
Edit: The Australian edit is gracious enough to not mention the bad date by name, but includes a last paragraph that leads me to believe the whole situation was set up to fail.

I feel obligated to respond to yesterday’s Gizmodo article, titled, My Brief OkCupid Affair With a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player, because it really strikes at the heart of why I started this blog. In the article, author, Alyssa Bereznak tells a cautionary tale of woe about how she went on a date with someone from OKCupid, only to find out that he was a world champion Magic: The Gathering player--The HORROR! The article illustrates the very real stigma some people associate with fantasy gaming--a stigma with which I myself still struggle.

I suspect that Ms. Bereznak realized that what she was about to write was mean-spirited, because she began by trying to reduce her culpability in the story. The first thing she wrote was, 
This story sounds mean. It's about a girl judging a boy because he's a nerd (like so many of us!)” 
which is analogous to saying, “The racist stuff I’m about to say is not racist, because I’m black.” except, replace “racist” and “black” with “nerdist” and “a nerd, too”. Her second paragraph likewise begins with a justification intended to reduce her own responsibility: 
Earlier this month, I came home drunk and made an OKCupid profile.”
It’s okay, she’s not really a lonely person living in the 21st century, the only reason she made an OKCupid profile was because she was drunk. Her street cred remains intact.

Believe me, I have had my share of bad dates on OKCupid, but I also met my wonderful girlfriend of three years through the site and we are gloriously happy and entangled. 

The heart of the article describes two dates that Ms. Bereznak went on with MTG champ, Jon Finkel. He brought up his accomplishment on the first date after what is described as normal conversation in which Ms. Bereznak mentioned that her brother was a gamer. While the exact details of this segue are not included, it sounds like a natural place to bring up a major related hobby. Apparently she thought otherwise. She likened champion card player status as something akin to having a child, or being divorced (i.e. something that must be disclosed immediately as a potential red flag.)

The real problem with Ms. Bereznak’s argument comes during her description of their second date and the “three strikes” against him:
“Did he still play? "Yes." Strike one. How often? "I'm preparing for a tournament this weekend." Strike two. Who did he hang out with? "I've met all my best friends through Magic." Strike three.”
Please note how she phrased this. None of these strikes have to do with his personality. They all have to do with the fact that he has a particular hobby, that he does extremely well. Even the fact that they went to see a play about the life of Jeffrey Dahmer on their first date didn’t make this list! If anything, the poor play selection is the ONE THING mentioned that would be a justifiable reason not to go out with him again, but she does anyway.

Then she continues to shift the blame to him, seemingly equating Magic players with pedophiles and rapists. 
“I later found out that Jon infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates with at least two other people I sort of know, including one of my co-workers. Mothers, warn your daughters! This could happen to you.” 
As though he lurks in the bushes waiting to leap out and tap his mana at unsuspecting passers by. Horror! You could have an a bad date with a NERD!

Opinions on the author’s shallow viewpoint aside, I feel it is also necessary to bring up that she then chose to BROADCAST THIS TO THE WORLD! Like pantsing the nerdy kid in the global lunch room, Ms. Bereznak not only posted about her bad experience on a major online publication, but she called out her date by name! I flashed back to the time in middle school when, after asking out a girl I liked, I approached her in the lunch room, only to have her tell me that she thought I was joking when she said "yes" the day before--this was followed by the expected middle-school jeers and tears. While I understand that Ms. Bereznak was writing an article on online dating, airing this sort of specific, dirty laundry and tearing down a guy -who sounds like he was open and honest- for her own self-aggrandizement amounts to cyber-bullying. Period.

I started ROFL Initiative to force myself out of my shell about my own nerdy enjoyments, because a person’s hobbies do not define their whole character. Based on Ms. Bereznak’s description, Jon was polite, likely attractive and not creepy to talk to. Did he make a poor choice for a first date activity? Yes. But that did not deter her from agreeing to a second date and had NOTHING to do with the fact that he is damn good at Magic.


  1. There are no words to express how infuriated this makes me. What a closed-minded beeyoch! The nerd-hating has got to stop!

    I am proud that I met you, Sporkchop, via OKCupid! 3.5 years of blissful entanglement and counting! :-) I hope that someday we can teach our (as of yet unplanned for) children to play D&D. I can't imagine a better family bonding activity than heading off on an interactive story-telling adventure full of imagination, team-work, dragon slaying, and math!

    Cheers to OKCupid for bringing like-minded people together! Cheers for Geek Love! :-)

  2. Sounds like this chick was looking for something to complain about. Doesn't seem like it made for a very good read either.

  3. I don't think the piece reads particularly well either, but she seems to be getting an untoward amount of flak for her dating preferences. The comments on the original piece are developing a very unpleasant tone that I am going to sum up as, "Lady, you are stupid for disliking Magic and this guy was nice and therefore deserves your romantic attention."

    But romantic attention does not work that way.

    She has the right to stop dating people she doesn't think will suit her. If she thought Magic deserved mention on his profile along with any kids or past marriages, that's because being a world champion Magic player seems like it'd be a pretty major life event. I mean, he didn't end up there by accident, did he?

    Just because a guy is nice does not mean the gal is obliged to keep dating him if she doesn't want to.

  4. Alicia, I agree that it is entirely her choice to not want to date him and to not date him, regardless of her reasons. What I disagree with is:

    a. Her seeming implication that playing Magic at a competitive level is akin to a social disorder. Simply saying, "we had nothing in common" is a perfectly valid reason to not want to date him. But she seems to suggest that there is a "type" of person who plays these games.

    b. Her choice to publicly air these grievances in a way that -depending on his own confidence level- could potentially really humiliate the guy. I honestly would have had much less of an issue if she had not mentioned his name and made the article a more general discussion of bad online dates.

  5. Are we sure it was Finkel? The image in the article has Shadowmage Infiltrator, but it could just have easily been Jens Thoren (aka Solemn Simulacrum), who is an incredibly boring person (and also former World Champion), in which case she was justified (because Jens is boring).

  6. Yeah, it was Finkel, because in the American version of the article, she throws his name around quite a bit. On the upside, Finkel took questions on Reddit yesterday, and basically said that he asked her out because she seemed like a nice, nerdy girl. He thought things went okay, but clearly doesn't plan to contact her at this point. He said he's got a tournament to focus on, so he's not too worried about it.


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