Wizards of the Coast, the company behind popular trading card game Magic: The Gathering, is speaking up about harassment and cyberbullying after a popular cosplayer publicly left the community following months of alleged abuse from a YouTube user and his subscribers.
On Nov. 24, cosplayer Christine Sprankle tweeted that she was unloading her Magic: The Gathering costumes and cosplay gear in the wake of months of harassment. Sprankle, who has been contracted by Wizards of the Coast in the past and is considered one of the most popular cosplayers in the Magic scene, spoke about harassment she suffered after Jeremy Hambly, a controversial YouTuber who is seen as a toxic member of the community by other YouTubers and personalities, posted a degrading video about her and other cosplayers.
“It has been a rough year,” Sprankle said on her Twitter account, which she has since made private. “And I have blocked and not said anything about him because I wanted it to die but without a doubt MtGHeadquarters/UnsleevedMedia has made my life hell this whole year with his unnecessary videos/tweets about me and other members of Magic.”
Hambly operates two popular Magic-oriented YouTube accounts, Unsleeved Media (with 153,000 subscribers) and The Quartering (close to 24,000 subscribers). One of the videos Hambly posted about Sprankle has since been taken down by YouTube for violating the company’s policy on harassment and bullying. Tweets from Hambly refer to the now-removed video as "Playset of Beta White Knights Protecting Sprankle from literal email assault!" and "Playset of Beta White Knights Prevent Rape of MTG Cosplayer Sprankle." Upon request for a copy of the video that was removed by YouTube, Hambly told Polygon he didn’t have a version saved that he could send to us, as “it was a live stream [and] I don't have a local copy.” Hambly said he has “appealed the strike and expects to win.”
Sprankle told Polygon via Facebook Messenger that “things have gotten much worse” since the harassment began months ago. To try and combat it, Sprankle said she’s “deactivating and making my profiles private in an effort to let it die down so I can recover.”
Sprankle’s story caught the attention of prominent personalities in the community, many of whom are YouTubers, and Wizards of the Coast itself. The company released an initial statement via its official Magic Twitter account on Nov. 25, condemning harassment in the community. The company doesn’t refer to the specific incident that led to Sprankle’s departure. Instead, Wizards of the Coast acknowledged the issue and said it’s working on ways to improve the community and safety of those in it.
We're saddened by what happened in the Magic community this weekend. Cyber bullying and harassment are unacceptable, and we support those who come forward with their experiences. No one should be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome. We're working to be a part of the solution.
The same day that Wizards of the Coast released its statement, Hambly released a video on YouTube addressing the situation. Titled “This Is What Real ‘Harassment’ Looks Like,” Hambly called the situation “really pathetic Twitter drama.” Hambly added that he was under a “full-scale assault from people who have been misled or have been waiting for a moment to try and ‘get rid of me.’”
Hambly goes on to say that Sprankle is pushing a “false narrative.” Hambly asserted he made one video about Sprankle six months ago but hasn’t spoken at length about her since. In his recent video, Hambly continued to express his own frustrations with people sending him harassing emails, negative Facebook Page reviews and tweets calling for him to be suspended.
In a statement to Polygon, Hambly said he’s been doxxed, review bombed on Facebook and received harassing messages because of Sprankle’s tweet, which he called “slanderous.” Hambly’s statement can be read below:
Ms. Sprankle decided to leave the MTG cosplay community last week. She falsely equated it to unproven claims of "harassment" by me because of a salty video I did over 6 months ago. Since then I have been doxxed, received countless threats of violence, hundreds of hateful messages, I've been review bombed, called sexist, and much worse. This was made worse by prominent members of the community further perpetuating this irresponsible at best and possibly slanderous tweet by Ms. Sprankle.
She also said she recently went through a break up and it looks like I am the recipient of misplaced anger here. I feel bad for what she's going through but he comment has caused significant targeted harassment, campaigns to ban me from the game, and direct financial impact to my business. Prominent content creators like The Mana Source and Tolarian Community College have helped signal boost this lie and many of their followers have been caught organizing false flagging campaigns of my patreon and my youtube channels. I am now considering my options of how to handle this damage.
Unlike those who are harassing me I have documented the harassment in several videos I suggest you watch if you are actually looking to report on this fairly and I feel bad for actual victims of targeted harassment as these false claims are damaging to real victims. (like myself)
Being told to die in an oil fire along with having pictures of your home sent to you is what real harassment looks like and this hate mob is directly responsible, Christine is directly responsible for her slanderous tweet. I am curious if you will report this fairly but if you look at the actual evidence it's clear who the victim is here.
On Reddit and Twitter, the community tells a different story. Magic fans began tweeting out previous incidents with Hambly from past videos. In one video from Oct. 26, Hambly makes transphobic comments about people who play competitive games in Magic. Others, including a content creator for Magic named Athena, have accused him of using people’s full names in videos, leading to harassment from Hambly’s followers.
“I’ve had acquaintances from high school reach out asking if I am okay after randomly finding his vids,” Athena wrote on Twitter.
Athena isn’t the only person who has detailed having to deal with harassment after one of Hambly’s tweets or videos is uploaded. Emma Handy, a Magic streamer, recounted an incident in which she received a wave of harassment. Handy told Polygon that while she hasn’t been affected to the same degree as others she’s worked with, she’s still been in uncomfortable situations due to Hambly’s videos.
“Many people that I work with, like Erin Campbell, have had to deal with large amounts of hate from Jeremy in the past, and I’ve dealt with some of the collateral damage that came with it,” Handy said. “For example, when Erin was targeted due to her receiving a preview card in the Amonkhet expansion, a fair amount of the hate she received was due to her being a prominent member of the LGBT community. I ended up having to deal with a fair share of people who ended up directing that hate towards me due to the fact that I’m close with Erin and transgender myself. I ended up blocking roughly a dozen people ... over the course of a day or so before things died down.”
Hambly has said in his videos that he doesn’t set his followers after people, but testimonies from other YouTubers say that Hambly’s videos also include the full names and Twitter bios. Brian Lewis, the host of a well-known Magic YouTube channel and friend of Sprankle, uploaded a 20-minute video to his YouTube channel addressing what was occurring in the community and Hambly’s role in it.
“Do you really think that nothing happens as a result?” Lewis asks. “Do you really think her inbox doesn’t fill up with hate? That she doesn’t get the same death and rape threats that you are on the receiving end of now? I know when you’ve made a video about me because my inbox, it just explodes. My phone suddenly rings, as you all know how scary that is. I say, ‘Oh, death threat! I guess Jeremy made another video or series of tweets about me.’
“Are actions such as this one intentionally whipping your followers up into an aggressive frenzy?
Lewis’ video includes screenshots of multiple tweets, from both Hambly and Hambly’s followers, demonstrating the toxicity that many Magic players are speaking out against. As the conversation continues, prominent members of the community, content creators and streamers have started to detail years of toxicity toward trans folk, people of color and women who play Magic.
Hambly told Polygon that he always tries “to remind people watching my videos to not contact people I may be speaking of.” Hambly added that he rejects the “notion that doing a video critique somehow makes anyone responsible in any way for someone else's personal actions.”
Players are asking Wizards of the Coast to take action against the harassment in the community and at official events, many of which Hambly attends. Hambly, as said in his video, refuses to step back from the community amid calls for him to do so. In a new video on his Quartering channel, Hambly said he thinks it’s important that he stands his ground, adding that he’ll “continue criticizing things worth criticizing.”
“It’s important that I stay in the hobby, because I will not let these people drive me away,” Hambly says.
Hambly told Polygon that while he “lost a few subscribers over a two-day span,” the channel has begun to see some growth. Hambly added that if Wizards of the Coast “tries to take action against me with a DCI [Duelists' Convocation International, the official authority behind competitive Magic play] ban (which they may likely do) that would only hurt my fans as I do a lot of on-site event coverage.”
A longer statement from Wizards of the Coast, posted on the official Magic website on Nov. 28, echoes the previous sentiment released on Twitter last week and addresses Hambly’s concerns. Elaine Chase, brand director for Magic, outlined a number of actions the team is working on to try and quell harassment in the community, including investigating reports of bullying, updating code of conduct violations and reexamining how live events are held. Chase doesn’t refer to Hambly or any other individuals by name, but does reference that the “community can be spoiled by the behavior of a few individuals.” Part of Wizards’ statement can be read below.
We are incredibly proud of the Magic community and the tremendous good it does in people's lives. Magic is a game meant to bring people together—it's right there in the name "The Gathering." Our community is filled with stories of lifelong friendships and bonds forged through tapping lands, casting spells, and swinging in with everything for the win.
Sadly, that sense of community can be spoiled by the behavior of a few individuals. We at Wizards of the Coast are disheartened about bullying and harassment in the gaming community; unfortunately, the Magic community is not immune. No one should be subjected to threats and intimidation. No one should be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome while enjoying something they love. All people should be able to express their joy for the game without being attacked, whether that's in a local game store, online, or somewhere in between.
With multiple people alleging that Hambly’s videos are full of harassment and derogatory comments about women and trans people, questions about whether his YouTube channels are in jeopardy have started to arise. Hambly acknowledges that his video from six months ago about Sprankle has been removed for violating the company’s harassment and bullying policy, but it’s unclear whether other videos have been reported to YouTube. Hambly mentions that people have been reporting his Patreon channel, his Twitter accounts and other videos he’s uploaded in the past. If evidence is found that his videos violate the site’s policy, YouTube could take action.
According to YouTube’s policy, cyberbullying and harassment consists of “deliberately posting content in order to humiliate someone, making hurtful and negative comments/videos about another person, unwanted sexualization, which encompasses sexual harassment or sexual bullying in any form and incitement to harass other users or creators.” Numerous people on Twitter and Reddit have accused Hambly of uploading content that crosses these boundaries.
Polygon has reached out to YouTube for further comment and will update when more information becomes available.