2019/10/24

Mediatization of a card game: Magic: The Gathering, esports, and streaming

The journal Media, Culture & Society has recently published my article Mediatization of a card game: Magic: The Gathering, esports, and streaming. This piece explores the recent shift of the genre-defining trading card game towards esports. By analyzing Twitch streams, paratextual material, and online discussions in the period from September 2018 to March 2019, leading up to the first major tournament - The Mythic Invitational - played using the new digital adaptation Magic: The Gathering Arena, I show that this top-mediatization is a contested process with its own discontinuities and opposing forces. To a certain extent, the new competitive structure organized around esports-like league consisting of 32 top ranked players from the season 2018-2019 turned many of these selected professional players into advocates of this transition, although not all of the changes were welcomed by the community. The "legacy" ways of playing - the tabletop version and older digital adaption Magic: The Gathering Online - remain supported, but Arena is central to the new stage of the game both for competitive and more casual audiences. Furthermore, the more mainstream interest in Magic: The Gathering draws attention to various long-standing issues in the player communities, such as the often uncontested notions of meritocracy and the lack of diversity.

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