As part of my series on women in the world of Magic and gaming, I got a chance to sit down with Helene Bergeot. She is the Director of Organized Play. With the recent changes, she has become a focus of criticism from various sources. Most recently, a player from France made a comment on a message board that he was going to “rape” her. This led to a lifetime ban.
I asked her whether she believes that there may be a cultural divide that caused an unexpected reaction from this side of the pond. Lucas Florent is in San Francisco and has expressed a desire to explain to her. Helene said that it really is not a question of her personally, since a corporate decision is made regarding this type of comment. The people she knows in Europe also “realize that it is not okay to post something like that.”
The reaction has caused Greg Leads, the President of WotC, to announce they are listening to feedback and have setup a website for that purpose. I asked Helene why she believes that she has become a focal point for criticism. She believes that it is a mix of having a closeknit community that are passionate about the game and not being one of the people players are already familiar with such as Aaron Forsythe and Mark Rosewater.
“I have to say that some of the comments that I was reading focus on my gender. We are in a community that is full of men.” Ultimately, however, she believes that it is because of her position as the Director of Organized Play which would be the same for any other person.
I, for one, did not realize how long Helene has been involved in Magic. “I started working for Wotc 16 years ago. I started first in France. I was not a player. Back in 1994, I was working Kenner Parker a division of Hasbro. Playtesting many different games. When I started playing Magic, I thought this is fabulous. It is something so different from anything I have been playing.
“When I started with Wizards, there was no tournament structure. I was always on the staff side. We had to run the tournaments ourselves. The first large tournament we had to run was French nationals in 1996 with no judges. We have made a lot of progress. A lot of my longtime friends are from when we were tunning these tournaments. In Paris, I got to see a lot of these people I have not seen in 10 years.”
I also asked her if she has any advice for other women looking to make it in the world of gaming or specific strength a female may have because of her gender. “Specific strength is to focus on what you want to do on a professional level. What I want to do for my job. Gender should never come first. You want to be respected for your job, for your abilities.”
On a less personal level, I asked her about the changes in the Pro Tour and the Judge program. Helene confirmed that in the North America region, Pro Tour Qualifiers will be run by stores even if not in stores. While 2012 is going to be focused on getting stores ready to do so, the focus is definitely to change to that model. She also said that her goal for growing the Judge Program is directly related to having a Judge available for each Core and Advanced store.