My Files Exerpt: The Dojo Philosophy by Zvi Mowshowitzbdm | September 10, 2009 | 5:07 pm
After a handful of delays, Top8Magic.com is about to publish our second collection of Magic: The Gathering writing from the game’s most respected and prolific authors. This time out we will be publishing a collection by Pro Tour Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz that begins with his earliest works and follows his nomadic writing career from website to website.
There is hardly a Magic site of note that Zvi has not written for in his career and he was among the very first to treat writing about Magic as a way to augment a Pro Player’s salary. This is common-place in the modern era but — as Zvi points out in the new material he wrote for the section on his Magic Dojo careeer — that was not always the case.
Zvi has written abundant new material for this volume including “director’s commentary” after many of his more famous and favorite selections. As Mike did with Deckade, Zvi has also written new material to sum up each era of his career. I am happy to present Zvi’s thoughts on The Dojo Philosophy. We hope you enjoy it and if you are interested in purchasing this volume, which will ship late September/early October, you can do so by clicking on this link.
The Dojo Philosophy
by Zvi Mowshowitz
In the beginning, we didn’t write because we were paid. We wrote because we wanted to share our wisdom. We wrote to make our name, to claim our ideas as our own while sharing them. We wrote because we enjoyed writing. We wrote because we felt it was part of our obligation to the Magic community in general and the Dojo in particular. We took in the words of others, and followed Sensei’s motto: Study and grow strong. In exchange, when our time came, we would report back on our decks, our tournaments and our ideas.
The system was not without its flaws. The average article quality on the Dojo back then would make you wince today. There was no editing of the submissions, which is mostly still true today but back then extended even to the basics. There were no regular columnists, only writers who could count on getting their work on the front page when it was sent in. In exchange for that, everyone was welcome and many of them took advantage of that. I remember coming back from a Pro Tour and not hoping but expecting tournament reports from anyone and everyone. There was a stable of people, the one that comes to mind now being Chris Pikula, who you could count on for a report win or lose, and as players got better results they reported more and more often. You’d expect to see the majority of the top eight, perhaps ten to fifteen more of the top sixty-four.
The attitude we had back then reminds me of the open source software movement, and for a while it worked amazingly well. Slowly that changed. Players started being more and more reluctant to write their reports, so we saw less and less of them. Content in general slowed down, and many of the best writers started becoming reluctant to take the time to write and share hard earned insight once the thrill of the concept had worn off. Finally, Frank started paying some of the writers. When he told me I’d be receiving product, I was taken by surprise but certainly didn’t object.
Product turned into cash, and cash turned into real money. Suddenly I was earning real money on the side by writing. I had a regular schedule, posting two articles a week. I had an editor. I even had a column name, Don’t Worry About the Vase. The black background I loved had become white and The Dojo had become a professional operation. The age of innocence was over. Having been given money for writing, money started to be a bigger and bigger consideration. Finally, Alex Shvartsman offered me a large pay bump to come with him to New Wave and write there. I would have preferred to stay, but the original Dojo was already gone and it was too much money for me to ignore. Thus began my career of moving from site to site for progressively bigger paychecks.
Do I miss the Dojo and its ideals? Absolutely, but we cannot go back. Magic will never be what it was back then, and running a site means paying for good writing and doing a professional job to make it the best it can be. That in turn means bringing in revenue, and the subscription model is the only way we’ve found so far to do that. Even if expenses weren’t a problem, no one is likely to ever have Frank’s kind of dedication again, and even he couldn’t deliver a product that would meet many of today’s standards. That is in no way a knock on him. He simply did not have that kind of time.