WotC to Require Background Checks

Well this is interesting.

Over at Quest for Fun! there’s a new post about a new mandate from Wizards of the Coast, requiring stores that run official WotC events to do background checks on their staff. Here’s the relevant text:

As part of our commitment to safe and inclusive spaces, tournament organizers and retailers will be explicitly required to conduct background checks for all staff (as permitted by applicable law). This includes CFB Events’ Grand Prix, local store events like Friday Night Magic, and professional events like the Pro Tour and World Magic Cup as well as convention play run by Wizards. 

This is in response to an article that appeared on Milo Yiannopoulos’ website, which got a ton of attention (as most things that Milo does tend to do) which stated (in part):

…several such individuals who were convicted on charges of child pornography continued to serve as judges at Wizards sanctioned tournaments, where they held a strong presence among children who participated in the events.

On the face of it, this seems like a good thing, as Erik Tenkar notes:

I give Wizards credit for getting ahead of the narrative in this situation. It can only make gaming a safer environment for all.

However, Gary at Quest for Fun! has a different take:

Don’t get me wrong, I think background checks for judges is a good idea. However, being pushed to do checks because one nut job has unfairly and without warrant painted an entire community as criminals, is not the best motivation to do so. So sure, why not. Wizards of the Coast, go ahead and pay the money to background check your judge community.

I think both sides have a fair point. On the one hand, it is a good thing to have background checks for people who are going to have a lot of contact with younger players. On the other hand, it seems unfair for WotC to push the burden of paying for those background checks on the FLGS, whose margins are usually razor-thin as it is, and many of which go out of business on the back of two slow months.

As Gary points out, we haven’t heard the last about that particular aspect of the new policy. It’s a question of contract law, to be sure, which is an arcane and twisty field if ever there was one. I have no idea of the stores have a case about resisting unfunded mandates.

I hope some sort of solution to the conundrum can be found, or a lot of stores are going to decide the slim margins they make from running Friday Night Magic just aren’t worth it, and WotC is faced with a precipitous decline in their player community. That wouldn’t do anybody any good.

UPDATE: My wife, a teacher, makes the point that another route would be to make the employees pay for their own background checks, like teachers do with their fingerprints, etc. It’s not the worst idea, but I still don’t like the thought of forcing a minimum-wage FLGS clerk (or a volunteer judge!) pay a hundred bucks because of this policy.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

3 thoughts on “WotC to Require Background Checks

  1. I would think the best way to do it would be:


    (1) Background Checks


    (2) No unaccompanied minors

    And let the stores decide which.

  2. I run two game stores in KY. My staff has been with me for at least 19 years. I've had players come to me who were sex offenders and when we talked, I explained that there are children present and I would have to announce that x was a sex offender at any even they showed up to. I do believe in giving people second chances, but I explained that I didn't think that would help them and they all agreed.

    WotC continues to take things away from players, retailers, and judges: Promos, support, cool stuff and saddle us with more responsibility because they can't manage their own social media and online community. After decades of supporting them, I now have to decide if I want the expense of background checks to run these evens when I'm very careful to maintain a safe and peaceful community (trust me, it ain't easy).

    They expect judges to further their OP, so maybe they should shoulder that burden?

  3. and don't forget that clause of 'other people used by the store'… IE if you are a PFS GM… you now have to pay for a bagckground check because the store sells MTG products, even though you have nothing to do with MTG yourself… it's akin to 'a coke employee got arrested for a drug charge, so now everyone who buys any product in a store that sells coke must undergo a mandatory drug screening'

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