Interlude 002: The Magic of Psychology with Dr. Billy San Juan


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This episode was recorded at San Diego Comic-Con 2016.

Joe goes to Comic-Con every year. This year, he was adamant that he’d be able to find science at a science fiction convention, so he met up with his good friend Dr. Billy San Juan, who writes extensively on psychology in popular culture and holds a PsyD. They talked about a couple of different things, but mostly focused on the psychology of Magic: the Gathering and other trading card games.

Billy San Juan holds a PsyD and is a Magic: the Gathering Judge. He has participated in and hosted several panels at pop culture conventions.

A lot of this discussion is about personality in both the community and the story elements of Magic: the Gathering, though we also touched on Batman and had a further discussion on the role of science fiction in driving science fact. This is San Diego Comic-Con, after all.

Some notes:

  • The three player psychographic profiles were created by Mark Rosewater. There’s an interesting article on them here, and Billy and I actually ran into Mark soon after this interview.
  • Joe references “limited” as a format and Billy mentions that drafts are also “limited.” Both sealed deck and draft are subsets of limited formats, where you are presented a “limited” pool of cards at the event with which to construct a deck. Joe was referencing limited in terms of sealed, sometimes used for Grand Prix and Pre-Release events.
  • Slivers are a hive-minded race in the Magic multiverse. In-game, they share abilities and power with other slivers. They appeared in both Magic 2014 and Magic 2015, as well as several older sets.
  • Judges know the rules of Magic. That does not mean they are good at Magic.
  • Brian Kibler was at the panel! He talked about how being a geek has more or less shaped his entire career and livelihood, but that’s a different discussion altogether.
  • Dr. Travis Langley wrote Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Night and has contributed to several other publications on the interface between popular culture and psychology. Dr. San Juan has contributed to a couple of them!
  • We’re actually talking about the final episode of Justice League Unlimited: “Epilogue.” It’s available on Netflix right now–Season 2, Episode 26. We get to see some more of the complexity behind Batman on it.
  • Alan Kistler is a pop culture historian and consulting geek. He has a great podcast called “Crazy Sexy Geeks” on iTunes and SoundCloud which I highly recommend and is also the author of Doctor Who: A History and has co-authored chapters with Billy in The Walking Dead Psychology and Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology.
  • Dr. Janina Scarlet is a scientist, psychologist, and a full-time geek. She has a book due out this year called Superhero Therapy and has contributed to other literature alongside Drs. Langley and San Juan and Mr. Kistler.

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