The Social Science of Magic the Gathering

A Blog by a Magic Player, who's an academic in her 'real' life


Here are some references for relevant literature on the social science of MtG. I’ve divided it into, a) the tiny amount of academic social science literature specifically about MtG, b) social science literature about gaming and ‘geek culture’ more generally, c) content created by/for MtG players that address ‘community issues’, and d) other academic articles that happen to discuss MtG, for example using it as a case study. At some point, my plan is to make this into an annotated bibliography.

a) Academic literature specifically about MtG

Barrett, R. (2017). ‘Unboxing Magic: An Exploratory Ethnography of a Collectible Card Game Discourse Community’. MA Thesis, James Madison University.

Chalk, T. (2017). Generation decks: The unofficial history of gaming phenomenon Magic: the Gathering. Solaris.

Martin, M. (2019). Magic: The Obsession. New Errands: The Undergraduate Journal of American Studies6(2).

Phillips, R. (2018). ‘Crisis and controversy in Magic: the Gathering’s contested online spaces’ MA Thesis, University of Cardiff.

Trammell, A. (2013). Magic modders: Alter art, ambiguity, and the ethics of prosumption. Journal for virtual worlds research6(3).

Trammell, A. (2010). Magic: The Gathering in material and virtual space: An ethnographic approach toward understanding players who dislike online play. Meaningful Play 2010 proceedings.

b) Social science literature about gaming and ‘geek culture’ more generally

Booth, P. (2010). Digital fandom: New media studies. Peter Lang.

Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (Eds.). (2000). From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender and computer games. MIT press.

Chess, S., & Shaw, A. (2015). A conspiracy of fishes, or, how we learned to stop worrying about# GamerGate and embrace hegemonic masculinity. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media59(1), 208-220.

Gray, K. L., Voorhees, G. & Vossen, E. (Eds.) (2018). Feminism in play. Palgrave Macmillan.

Isbister, K. (2016). How games move us: Emotion by design. MIT Press.

Massanari, A. (2017). #Gamergate and The Fappening: How Reddit’s algorithm, governance, and culture support toxic technocultures. New Media & Society19(3), 329-346.

Salter, A., & Blodgett, B. (2012). Hypermasculinity & dickwolves: The contentious role of women in the new gaming public. Journal of broadcasting & electronic media56(3), 401-416.

Shaw, A. (2015). Gaming at the edge: Sexuality and gender at the margins of gamer culture. U of Minnesota Press.

Taylor, N., & Voorhees, G. (Eds.) (2018). Masculinities in play. Palgrave Macmillan.

Taylor, T. L. (2012). Raising the Stakes: E-sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming. Mit Press.

c) Articles and blogs on MtG community issues

Estephan, J. (2018). ‘”Oh You’re That Girl That Won a GP”‘. [accessed 7 June 2019].

McIntyre, K. (various dates). [lots of community-orientated posts on this blog]

Miller, T. (2018). ‘Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts’. [accessed 7 June 2019].

Spartz, G. (2015). ‘6 Things You Can Do to Get More Women Into Magic’. [accessed 7 June 2019]. (also a follow-up here:

Taylor (Oeppen), C. (2018). ‘My Wonder Woman Moment in Magic’. [accessed 7 June 2019]. n.b. now re-posted on this blog, here, under the category ‘From the Vault’.

Taylor (Oeppen), C. (2019). ‘What Do Competitive Paper Magic Events Mean to You’. [accessed 7 June 2019]. n.b. now re-posted on this blog, here, under the category ‘From the Vault’.

d) Other academic articles that happen to use MtG as a case study

Martin, B. A. (2004). Using the imagination: consumer evoking and thematizing of the fantastic imaginary. Journal of Consumer Research31(1), 136-149.

Mageau, G. A., Carpentier, J., & Vallerand, R. J. (2011). The role of self‐esteem contingencies in the distinction between obsessive and harmonious passion. European Journal of Social Psychology41(6), 720-729.

%d bloggers like this: