Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Preferred Name

Rodolfo "Rudy" Barrett


Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication


Alex Parrish

Jen Almjeld

Mathew Ezzell

Cathryn Molloy


This exploratory ethnography hopes to turn communication scholars’ attention to tabletop gaming communities and genres by presenting relevant theory and a pilot study on the community of Magic: The Gathering, the world’s most popular collectable card game. By approaching Magic’s gameplay as discursive action and its fandom as a discourse community, this thesis applies a critical genre lens to inclusivity issues in Magic as a microcosm of “geek” or gamer subcultures. A body of qualitative and quantitative data was gathered through semi-structured interviews with Magic players and ethnographic observations of both local weekly tournaments (Friday Night Magic events) in Charlottesville, VA and larger regional Magic tournaments (the Grand Prix circuit) in Baltimore, MD, Secaucus, NJ, and Pittsburgh, PA. The data offers implications on a wide set of potential research interests within tabletop gaming communities such as identity-performance, inclusiveness, and manhood acts. Although a majority of the interviewed community members have always felt welcome within the community (87%) and feel that it is inclusive to difference (90%), there are several opportunities for improvement in light of the observed and reported phenomenon of non-white, non-male players being looked down upon in Magic play spaces. This research is preliminary and exploratory. Ideally, future research in the same vein will be conducted on tabletop gaming communities.