Friday, January 12, 2018

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.