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Alyssa Bereznak, Gizmodo Intern, Faces Backlash for Criticizing MTG Champion

Update: Prior to their date, Magic: the Gathering champion Jon Finkel mentioned to Alyssa Bereznak his interest in going out with her was “because you’re hot and I’m shallow.”

A close friend of mine and former colleague at the UC San Diego Guardian, Alyssa Bereznak, who interned at Gizmodo, is currently facing criticism from various online platforms today: Reddit, Canvas, Nerd Puddle, and several other forums, which I confess I’m not savvy enough to be aware of. (Yes, I still use “noob” — that’s how out of the loop I am.) Even Australia has joined the conversation.

In response to her post on August 29 titled “My Brief OkCupid Affair With a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player,” where she recounts ending a relationship with a man she met on OkCupid because he’s the world Magic champion, the internet is in uproar. People are genuinely perplexed: What’s wrong with dating a world Magic champion?

But first, a message to Jon Finkel, the gentleman in question:

I understand I reside in L.A. while you’re in New York City, but would you entertain the idea of dating me instead? (I excel at Skype.) Given Alyssa’s recent article, I imagine your inbox is overflowing with love letters from devoted Copper-Leaf Angel role players, but hear me out. Amidst the smear campaign against you, I’m convinced you’re more than just a Magic champion; you’re a champion of life and love. I’m certain those cynical singles in NYC wouldn’t recognize Prince Charming — a master not just in Magic but in all aspects of life — if he vanquished them with a Thunder Dragon. In contrast, I’d be thrilled to welcome you to “Infiltrate my Shadowmage” or whatever gaming analogy you prefer.

For the rest of you: This is every Gizmodo intern’s dream. Alyssa effortlessly generated over 600,000 page views with a simple anecdote — she’s well on her way to becoming the Intern of the Month. (Besides, this isn’t the first time clueless guys have attacked her appearance or attempted to sabotage her online reputation because they couldn’t handle rejection. Been there, done that.)

A fellow writer at Gawker recently opted to ridicule Californians for their “intolerable” reaction to the East Coast earthquake. While the response was significant, it pales in comparison to the current uproar. It seems the entire state of California isn’t as influential or omnipresent as the Magic community. Once again, we’re reminded: Nerdy white males dominate the internet.

It’s one thing to objectify a victim of sexual assault (or a perpetrator) as “attractive.” However, no feminist outcry can match the fervor of online gamers defending their honor, albeit in a somewhat pathetic manner that holds little significance in the real world. That much is evident.

The only thing missing is reaching Christwire status on the trolling scale.

Now, Alyssa, I’d text you, but this is much more entertaining. While I’m not taking sides, and I understand this is the burning question of the moment, I can’t help but wonder: What’s the issue with Magic enthusiasts? Your anecdote about the bad date was amusing and reminiscent of Gawker, but where’s the explanation of why it was unpleasant, beyond the Magic aspect? At least he’s the type of gamer who ventures outdoors.

Also, he thoroughly defeated my boyfriend — and probably boyfriends worldwide — in a virtual thumb war. If that doesn’t earn him bragging rights at the next UCSD Guardian reunion, I don’t know what will.

Update: Forbes believes Alyssa was trolling. (No surprise there.) According to “The Science of Gawker’s Nerd Baiting,” more antiquated than a reigning Magic champion:

I firmly believe Alyssa knew precisely what she was doing when she penned this post. It’s the classic strategy of online nerd-baiting to attract traffic, and this, more than any other instance, demonstrates its effectiveness. People love controversy, so writing a post disparaging something beloved or expressing an opinion that invites vehement disagreement is a surefire way to attract attention. While this tactic is familiar across many Gawker sites (including Gizmodo), this particular case takes it to a whole new level.

Mentioning Magic in an article is bound to provoke nerds. Should Alyssa have avoided the topic simply because some Forbes writer suspected she was “selling her soul for page views”?

Absolutely not.

Furthermore, I call foul on the notion that “Alyssa is riding a wave of nerd tears all the way to the bank after this post.” Paul Tassi of Forbes suggests she’s receiving a substantial bonus check at month’s end.

Ha! Not likely. Interns aren’t exactly rolling in dough. Thanks for clarifying, Paul Tassi, that your critique of soulless nerd baiting is, ironically, a soulless plea for page views. Moving on.

Update: For better or worse (probably better), Alyssa is moving out of her apartment today and is temporarily offline. Meanwhile, Finkel, who likely wouldn’t be caught without internet even during the apocalypse, entertained his adoring fans (and potential suitors — seems the OkCupid quest paid off!) with an official Q&A session on Reddit this afternoon. (Or, in Reddit parlance, an AMA.) What did I learn? People are utterly fixated on this guy.

Here are the AMA highlights:

Q: What was your initial reaction upon reading Alyssa’s article about you? A: I felt somewhat violated, to be honest. Although the article itself didn’t paint me in a negative light (at least in my opinion), it’s akin to someone publishing private emails to your partner or excerpts from your diary — it just feels wrong.

Q: How many girls have propositioned you since this blew up? Also, did Felicia Day reach out to you? A: If you count messages from Twitter users across the globe saying “I’d date you,” then quite a few.

Regarding Felicia Day, it seems she made a tweet or two about it, but I’m not particularly familiar with her, aside from knowing she’s a wonderful woman who gamers seem to adore.

Editor’s note: “Made a tweet”? What kind of internet phenomenon are you?

Q: Do you genuinely care about the Gizmodo article and the exaggerated reaction to it? A: I find it rather amusing, to be honest. I mean, the article could have been much worse. I don’t think I’m that pale anymore (at least compared to before) after spending the summer biking and playing basketball. Also, I’m not sure if I’ve ever dressed like someone from a hedge fund, but being described as “tall and thin” and not disclosing my former prowess in a game isn’t the worst thing.

Q: Did you look Alyssa up before the date? A: Yes, I did. She had a touching article about her father and Ayn Rand. That’s one of the main reasons I agreed to a second date with her.

This last response warms my heart and brings everything full circle: before Alyssa became known as the Magic girl, she was the Rand girl.

However, as of today, what used to be a search for “Alyssa Bereznak” yielding articles solely about Ayn Rand now predominantly features rants from online gaming enthusiasts and their supporters (along with a couple of defensive pieces in response). It’s yet another indication that this modern-day witch hunt will soon be forgotten, and everyone will move on by dinnertime.

Q: Is pimping easy? A: Let me check with Snoop Dogg…

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