Inclusion, Diversity, and Representation in Board Games and Beyond (guest post by Elizabeth Hargrave)

23 July 2020 | 142 Comments

Wingspan designer Elizabeth Hargrave, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working and learning from over the last 4 years, recently posted an incredibly insightful series of connected thoughts on Twitter. Today Elizabeth joins us to share a long-form version of those thoughts here on the Stonemaier Games blog. Thank you for compiling the following, Elizabeth!

***

A little while ago, board game designer Eric Lang tweeted a pretty straightforward statement about inequality. I noticed a pattern in the comments. Every time one of us says, in some way:

“IT IS HARD to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games,”

there are people who chime in and say, in some way:

“THAT CAN’T BE TRUE! I have never seen a gamer/publisher actually be sexist/racist/homophobic.”

Let’s break this down.

First, just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. When your friends tell you the ridiculous things that happen to them, you’re not like, “THAT CAN’T BE TRUE! I literally don’t believe you that one of your neighbors came over and swam naked in your pool.” You’re just amazed along with them, right?

So, believe other gamers when they say that overt, intentional acts of sexism, racism, and homophobia DO happen in gaming. Things that are so obviously bad you might find the courage to call them out if you witnessed them. Not everyone has seen something like this. If you ask around, though, you might hear some doozies.

For some people, this kind of really ugly statement/act is where their definition of sexism/racism/homophobia stops.

But friends, the truly egregious stuff isn’t even what I’m thinking of when I say IT IS HARD.

Likewise, I pretty frequently point out the overwhelming white male majority in board game design. This chart sums it up well: among the top 200 games on BGG as of 2018, 94% of the designers were white men. 

When I share this chart, there’s always someone who thinks I am saying “Publishers are turning down women and POC out of outright discrimination.”

Do some publishers do this? Maybe. 

But, just as I don’t think there are horribly ugly, racist things being said every week at most game nights, I don’t think outright discrimination by publishers is the best explanation for the extreme lopsidedness of this chart. 

So what do I mean when I say IT IS HARD?

1. GAME NIGHT

What is the mental image that comes to mind if I ask you to think of a “typical boardgamer”?

The board game hobby is diversifying, but it’s got a long way to go. If you’ve been to a lot of public gaming events that are NOT mostly straight, cis white guys with lots of money to burn, you’re an outlier. I mean, look at this picture of Gen Con.

What happens when someone walks into a board game event and they don’t fit people’s image of a “typical boardgamer”?

It becomes clear that people assume we don’t belong. 

  • People stare at us, or ignore us, because they don’t know what to do with us. They might be so convinced that we don’t mean to be there that they ask us if we’re looking for the store next door. 
  • Women get hit on. Repeatedly. As if our only reason for coming must have been to find a man. Or, if we came with a guy, we might get ignored completely, as if we intend to just watch lovingly for hours.
  • Trans folks get misgendered. LGBQ folks get assumptions that we’re straight.
  • If we do manage to play a game, people often treat us as if we have no idea what we’re doing. They will tell us how to take our turns, and show shock and disbelief when we win.

None of that may be intentionally mean, but it all has an impact.

In these “cluelessly unwelcoming” spaces, some of us are unable to escape the feeling that there is a chance that “egregiously unacceptable” just hasn’t come out yet. For me, in most other situations, it’s really weird when there are NO women. So my brain wonders what’s coming. Did something happen here that made all the women leave and never come back?

Every time that I have written about this feeling, people have said, “Can’t you just push through? People mean well!”

Usually we can, and anyone you have met who is a gamer from a marginalized group absolutely HAS pushed through it. But it can be exhausting.

Remember a lot of people have to push through in a similar way all day at work. And then you want them to push through for their fun.

That’s not fun.

2. GAMES

Just like a game group that isn’t explicitly mean but falls far short of welcoming, board games themselves can create the same feelings.

In the top 100 games on BGG as of 2018, when you count up all the figures in the cover art,  46% were clearly white males, 20% were animals or aliens, then everybody else makes up the last third.

But the covers are just a representation of what’s inside:

  • If there are women or POC included at all in a game, how often are they portrayed with respect and agency?
  • If there are romantic relationships in a game, how often are they NOT male-female?
  • In the rules, how often are all players referred to as something more inclusive than “he”?

For a lot of us, this lack of representation becomes another thing that says, “oh! we didn’t expect you to be here.” Each game’s shortfalls might be tiny and understandable, but it adds up to a big, exhausting, pattern.

And so we push through.

3. ROLE MODELS

If every game event you go to, and every game you play, subtly makes you feel like you don’t belong, it can make a HUGE difference to have people in the world that you can look up to, who do make you feel like you belong.

For many marginalized groups, role models do exist in board games. Not a ton, but maybe more than we think. Which is why I make lists on my website: I got tired of people saying I was one of the only female game designers, and ended up finding over 200. A few weeks ago, I made a similar list of black people in the boardgames industry.

No one who can name designers or reviewers or publishers would struggle to come up with the name of a white guy in those categories. Most board game media is full of them.

I originally made that first list of women designers to have something to direct podcasters and other media folks to, when they wanted to improve their coverage of women. But what I also realized is that it actually meant a lot to me to just see that many women in board games collected in one place. I unexpectedly choked up in an interview when I was talking about it the other day.

For every commenter on posts like this who says, “I don’t see the gender/race of board game designers,” I’ve probably heard from 10 women or parents who want to tell me how important Wingspan is to them, just for the names on the front of the box.

It matters.

4. LIFE

Something less talked about is how the rest of life intrudes to make becoming a gamer or a game designer easier for some people than others: White men, on average, have more leisure time, wealth, and income than other demographic groups, at least in the US. Gaming and game design are both expensive, time-consuming hobbies, and on average, the demographic groups that are already marginalized in this hobby are also more likely to be facing time and financial barriers.

Every day, the average US woman spends over an hour more than men on household chores and caregiving, and 40 min less on leisure activities. I know so many guys who leave mom with the kids while they go to game night. It makes me so frustrated, but it is very much in keeping with this pattern.

On average, white households have vastly higher incomes ($71K) than Black ($42K) and Hispanic families ($51K) and 8-10x more overall wealth. And in every racial group, women earn less than men. Those differences add up to a lot of games. Or, in designer terms, a lot trips to cons to pitch your games to publishers.

For sure, some white male gamers are poor, and some don’t dump their kids on their partners to game. It’s hard for them to get to conventions, too. But that doesn’t make the statistics go away. 

IN CONCLUSION:

  • I want gaming to be awesome for everyone.
  • I want to play more interesting games designed by people from diverse backgrounds.
  • I want the industry to grow massively.

And I believe those 3 things are inextricably linked.

***

I’ve read through this several times now, and every time I pick up something new. What’s your key takeaway from reading this?

Also read: Progress Report for Stonemaier Games BIPOC Support

If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on this blog each year, please consider championing this content!

Leave a Comment

142 Comments on “Inclusion, Diversity, and Representation in Board Games and Beyond (guest post by Elizabeth Hargrave)

  1. Many thanks for a great post Elizabeth – and also all you’re doing to raise awareness of these issues and amplify the voices of those less represented in gaming. I also applaud your patience in answering comments of those who struggle to accept there is a problem – whether in the games community or more widely in society as a whole.

    In the UK we have a similar set of challenges, although perhaps a bit less stark than in the US (whilst I visit the US reasonably often, I’ve so far only attended one convention, Gencon) – and I’m afraid we also have our share of straight white males who aren’t willing to acknowledge that they may, even inadvertently, contribute to and reinforce problems around representation. On a personal level, I’ve been reflecting lots recently about my own privilege as a middle-class white cis gay man – I think I was reasonably switched on to diversity and inclusion issues already, but have been reading up much more following the Black Lives Matter protests to better understand and address my own unconscious biases and behaviour, and take concrete steps to improve the games hobby/industry and society.

    I attend quite a few conventions in the UK and generally things have become better in recent years in terms of gender balance in attendance – although there’s still further to go and I’m afraid that the gaming hobby in the UK still feels disproprotionately white. Things that I think can help make conventions more inclusive and welcoming include: organising teams with diverse backgrounds and gender mix; published codes of conduct about diversity, inclusion and harrassment; commitment to diverse representation on panels (ie not solely white cis straight male panelists); accessible spaces for those with mobility issues; provision of gender neutral toilets (including relabelling toilets in venues if necessary); name badges with prefered pronouns; quiet zones; diverse representation on publicity material; etc. I’m now unlikely to attend a convention that doesn’t actively take this sort of approach, and will work with organisers to support and encourage such initiatives.

    As an independent game designer, I’m commited to ensuring a well-balanced mix of gender and racial representation in characters within my games, and on the box art (and I insisted that my publisher amend the cover of my first mainstream published game, which originally only showed a white boy, so that it included a girl of colour). I’ve subsequently realised that I could have done better in terms of positive representation of children with disabilities – I’d included glasses on some characters in my prototype and only realised after publication that the artist had removed them; and it never occured to me at the time to give some characters hearing aids or wheelchairs. That’s a lesson learnt for the future.

  2. Thank you so much for this article, Elizabeth; It was such a great read! As a queer person who mostly plays games with women and other queer people, I, and most of my friends, have definitely felt somewhat excluded and uncomfortable when we go into a board game shop or a board game cafe.

    I remember one time I went to a board game shop with my girlfriend (at the time), so she could buy some more dice for her DnD games. However, the staff at the shop immediately looked to me, completely ignoring her. Thankfully, things do seem to be improving.

  3. I agree with the Conclusion of the article. However, from my point of view as a white male there is a psychological aspect you are missing. It involves your list of examples with “It becomes clear that people assume we don’t belong”. What I think you are missing is that many of the white males you are talking about here also have the feeling of being outcasts, different, ignored, bullied, and whatever – and decided to escape into fictional worlds with different rules, where they in an environment with like minded people could feel safe and part of a group.

    I’m not trying to trump a victim card with another victim card here – I’m trying to explain why gamer-groups from the outside can appear protected by a social wall. Because the social wall is often there – not to mean to anyone, but rather to protect those inside. If you as e.g. a woman want to be a part of groups within this community I believe the best way for you to approach it is to be clear what your intentions are to the group and show you are not the enemy, rather than waiting for them to trust you and invite you in. Show them that you are more like the people inside the social wall, rather than the people the wall is there to protect against. The other side of it is that the gamers need to be aware that people that aren’t very similar to themselves sometimes can be trusted, and that is where your article can help push things in the right direction by increasing awareness.

    I’m both a boardgamer, computergamer and roleplaying gamer – these games are where I feel safe, appriciated and part of something. Most of my fellow gamers are white males, but I play with people of a variety of genders, sexuality, age, ethnicity – and I feel like it adds to groups in all the types of games, and actively prefer to diversify my groups whenever possible. But even though I’m a white privileged man I’m also insecure in social contexts, feel people stare at me, ignores me, lonely, I have been both bullied and betrayed, assumed I had no idea what I was doing in a game. And for these reasons, I don’t always have the confidence to be as inclusive to others as i want to.

    1. It is not the responsibility of those sitting outside the circle to pry the circle open! We all have our baggage and traumas to deal with. That doesn’t give us the right to hurt others. Again: it is not my responsibility or the responsibility of underrepresented groups to fix the community! Your inclination to put that responsibility with those who feel excluded as opposed to the current members of the community makes me incredibly sad. In case you are unclear, you are part of the problem.

      Please read about my experiences below, and tell me how I can make my intentions clear with a new group of white men so that they don’t feel threatened. And when you add everything up, please tell me how to scale those “proofs” up.. Because as I try to move through the community, I encounter new people – new people I have to convince I am worthy of being a member of the group. Imagine how it would feel if you were in my shoes, and had to justify/prove that you are a member of the community every step of the way, as opposed to that being starting point.

      1. Anna, I think it is both the responsibility of those outside as well as inside the circle. My point was that waiting for people in the world to change and for introverted, socially awkward people tight-nit male dominated groups to contact and include you, is such a big obstacle women set for themselves. My point was to give you a more constructive way to get included. Realize that the people in these groups in many ways all their lives have felt alienated in social context – not because of their gender/sexuality/race, but because of other out of the ordinary things. And focus on what you can change or influence yourself, rather than external factors you cannot control anyway.

        You ask how you can make your intentions clear. Prove you are a gamer too! Say your opinion about game related stuff. What appeal to you about a game. Describe some cool game experience you have had. Wear clothes that signals you are part of “tribe”. I was at a board game cafe once, where I heard a girl wanting to join a group of guys about to start a game. I think the girl just wanted to play the game, but some in the group declined her. From the comment they made to each other after she left it seemed like those that declined her either did it because she was attracted to their handsome group member, and it was their boys night out together. They didn’t see her as a fellow gamer – they saw her as the “invading enemy” threatening their social group – maybe because the group previously have experienced women not supporting their mutual friendships or interests (unfortunately not uncommon either). Or maybe because the only times they themselves would consider approaching a group of women is when they were attracted to one of them.

        Another thing you should be aware of is how group of guys often talk to each other in groups. They tease and pick on each other, call each other names, flame each other for poor decisions, get competitive and trying to show they are the alpha of the group. If they are mature and used to be around women, they know how to navigate the difference in a mixed gender group. But as I tried to point out earlier – many gamers are neither mature nor used to be around women – so often men like these will often ignore you, to not step onto insecure ground, or they could talk to you as they would to they guy friends – and both can feel non-inclusive as a woman.

        And finally the world is also full of chauvinistic and/or bigot loudmouthed assholes. If you encounter groups controlled by such persons call them out on it, and if they still do see their wrongdoings and their friends doesn’t side with you, you should go away. Hopefully your reaction will still make them reflect and behave differently another time – but for now, they are not worth it.

        1. Nah, Anna’s right on.

          “We built a treehouse to hide out in because we feel like we’re persecuted when we participate in our hobbies.”

          “Oh, wow, yeah, I’ve been feeling isolated and I’d love to participate in our shared hobby, can I come up?”

          “No, you might persecute us!”

          Putting the onus on outsiders to take all the steps means that they’ll never even reach the treehouse, never mind that by the attitudes you describe, these groups would rather light the ladder on fire than lower it to let anyone new climb up.

          If you acknowledge there’s a problem, but you’re not willing to help work on the it from the inside, you’re actively contributing to it. Quit making excuses for them and start calling out and working on behaviors. Did you reach out to that girl at the board gaming cafe, or did you just watch her walk out the door after she was rejected?

          If your personal gaming group is that insular, I wish you joy of it. You’re welcome at my table, but I know by your statements, I’m probably never going to be welcome at yours.

    2. Jannick, there are all kinds of reasons that groups can feel exclusive and you’ve certainly hit on some of them. I’m glad gaming has been such a refuge for you. I do hope my piece will help some groups be more self-aware about the walls they put up. Absent that, you’re right that the way in is to push through the wall — but that’s exactly the kind of thing I was talking about in the “game night” section of my post. It’s asking the people who are already marginalized to do all the work. That just doesn’t seem to me like a great recipe for getting people to stick around.

  4. Tim: My experience as a straight white male at conventions, in the gaming community, and in the game industry is not the relevant perspective for this conversation. It’s also not up to women and minorities to prove that they’ve been actively or passively excluded (though Elizabeth was willing share some of her experiences in the article, and there are other comments you can read from others below that illustrate their experiences).

    I don’t post articles on this blog–whether written by me or by guests like Elizabeth in this case–with a negative tone or for the purpose of pushing anyone down. There’s nothing in this post that bashes the game industry. Rather, the purpose of it is to highlight that there ARE people being excluded, and we can do better to include them. You’re right that this process takes more than words, but it starts with admitting that (a) there are a lot of people who have different experiences than our own (and from the limited perspectives we’re aware of, (b) admitting to ourselves that we’ve been a part of the problem, and (c) that we can each take active steps to be more actively inclusive (like me using my “considerable clout” to post this article).

    Also, Tim, there are countless examples of why this logic simply doesn’t make sense–this is truly harmful, exclusive rhetoric: “perhaps the reason is because there just aren’t that many minorities and women interested in designing board games.” If you need to look at another industry to understand this, look at women in STEM careers. 20 years ago, would you have said, “Most people with STEM careers are white men. That must mean that only white men are interested in STEM careers or have talents that apply to STEM”? Hopefully you wouldn’t have said that, but you’re applying the same logic here. Instead, look at the growth of women in STEM careers over the last decade thanks to some of those systemic barriers being removed. This isn’t a matter of lack of talent or desire:

    https://edventures.com/blogs/stempower/the-past-present-and-future-of-women-in-stem

    I’m not sure if this will help, but before even thinking about a reply to this comment, think back at your life for any times, places, or events where you felt unwelcome. Even for people of privilege, I’m sure this has happened to everyone at some point. Reflect on why you felt unwelcome and how it made you feel. Then try to look at that situation from the eyes of the people who were making you feel unwelcome. They probably didn’t even realize they were doing it, right? Or if they were, say, actively bullying you, they weren’t doing so to exclude you–they were doing so to feel powerful or because of their insecurities. That’s the position you find yourself in now (and me too). And the next time you hear someone share their stories like Elizabeth did in this article–or even just refer to the idea of feeling unwelcome or being excluded without providing specific examples–remember how you felt that time that you weren’t welcome somewhere. You deserved better than that, and so do women and minorities in the gaming community/industry today.

    1. This comment was a reply to a comment that disappeared as soon as I posted it. For reference, I’ll post that comment below:

      “Jamey I’ve been to 30 conventions of all shapes and sizes. From Gen Con multiple times to smaller more intimate conventions. I’ve been to a weekly board game cafe for years. I’ve played in multiple gaming groups.

      I’ve never once seen an “unwelcoming” environment. I’ve never once in thousands and thousands of conversations with random people heard of any one experiencing unwelcoming conditions.

      Jamey what are some specific examples you have seen of women experiencing unwelcoming conditions? Because this post has been discussed on multiple Facebook groups and I haven’t seen a single response that has given a specific example. Instead I’ve seen responses from a 30 year veteran female designer that hasn’t experienced this. And numerous players.

      Instead of claiming how unwelcoming the industry is perhaps the reason is because there just aren’t that many minorities and women interested in designing board games. Do you know of a specific example where a design proposed by a woman or minority was rejected for the sole reason that they were women or a minority?

      The solution isn’t calling out the industry for being racist and sexist and “unwelcoming”. It isn’t. If you want more minorities and women designing games you sponsor game design symposiums at conventions hosting women and minorities and showing them the design process. Use your considerable clout in the industry to set a positive example in the industry instead of calling it out in a negative fashion.”

      1. Nice response Jamey. Though, since we’re talking about it, I was super excited for Pendulum, but I can’t purchase a game with just one female character and no other representation. Minorities are left with choosing mythical creatures to play. And even though I am female, the goal is to become King, not Queen…at least the wording could be changed to “Supreme Ruler”.

        I appreciate this post, because it is so tiring to have to confront white males who get angry with anyone bringing up inclusion. Specific examples? People were shot down on BGG regarding cultural appropriation for the game Tuki. The original poster (OP – did I prove myself?) may even have been a white male, but he is part of the solution, because he started a conversation to make people consider their actions and opinions.

        A few days ago, Anna Wassenburg from the Dicetower made a video review on El Dorado.

        Stenobro commented, “…No one really cares about the “colour” of the characters in the game. No one involved in the making of this game is racist”.

        I responded, “ I care about the color. Just because someone isn’t “racist” doesn’t mean they don’t perpetuate ignorance. History books may be written by “non-racist” people, but they still exclude people of color. Your comment is hurtful, but good because it reminds people of color that ignorance and racism is still prevalent.” To which he replied,

        “…wow, get over yourself. Colour is one of the most important things in your life. It’s sad”.

        This is the kind of garbage that exists in the gaming world and the saddest part is, these are the people sitting at the table across from you.

        1. Alaena: I have some good news about Pendulum! While there is a character who was king (which I think is fine–specific characters in fictional worlds can have specific genders), the players are competing to become the “ruler,” not the king. You can see this on the very first page of the Pendulum rulebook:

          “In Pendulum, each player is a powerful noble vying to succeed the Timeless King as the true ruler of Dünya. Each noble in the game is unique. Players command their workers, execute stratagems, and expand the provinces in their domain in real time to gain resources, votes, and move up the four victory tracks: power, prestige, popularity, and legendary achievement. Use your time wisely, as the player who has shown themselves the most fit to rule during the final Council will be declared the new Timeless Ruler!”

          As for the genders of the characters you can play in Pendulum, there are 2 clearly male characters, 1 clearly female character, and 2 characters (Mesoat and Drenkhir) whose unique races (dragon and sphinx) who don’t have any features in the art that identify them either way. That said, in the descriptions of those characters, they are labeled as male, while we should have either made them female or not identified their gender.

          I take responsibility for this oversight, though I think it’s worth viewing in the context of our other games: Charterstone features 3 male characters and 3 females. Scythe features 3 females and 2 males. Tapestry’s cards feature an even split between men and women.

  5. Thank you for putting into words how I’ve felt about my profession as a commercial photographer as well! I’ve been so eternally greatful for my gaming group and their welcoming and open arms, but this does not ring true for the other aspects and communities in my life and have always struggled with the ability to describe the long term effect all of all the ongoing small(ish) subtle pokes it has on me. Thanks!!! Wonderful job!!

  6. Thank you so much for using your platform to advocate for a more inclusive and diverse gaming community! Thank you Elizabeth, and thank you Jamey. For the non-believers, maybe if enough people say it, you will start reconsidering. So here is my experience: I am a 32-year old white woman who has been playing board games for 5+ years. Every time I have walked into a game night, I am surrounded by white men – very very few women, even fewer non-white people. Every time I have sat down to play with said group of people, there will be at least one instance of all of the following: 1) I am belittled for saying that I like a certain kind of game (the flavor varies by week: it could be that I like short games, it could be that I like non-confrontational games, it could be that I like coop games, and so on and so on). 2) I am told that my strategy is wrong or sub optimal without me asking for input. 3) I am targeted with sexual innuendos or am on the receiving end of comments about my appearance/clothing. 4) if I dare to become competitive, one of two things happen: I win and passive aggressive behavior surfaces from a guy who lost, or I lose and am mocked for trying to win. You know when I stopped trying? When I attended my first “Girls’ night” at the local board game store. I didn’t realize the mental toll those game nights were having on me until I experienced an environment where I didn’t have to brace myself for the experiences I described. First time in my life, I walked into the room and there were people who looked like me. There was no belittling, there was no inappropriate behavior, and I could sit down and play without being afraid that smiling too much or being friendly will be mistaken for interest in anything but gaming. And you know what made us inclusive to a diverse group players? The shared experiences in majority white men game nights.

    Additionally, the themes that speak to most gamers (considering the current make-up of the community) are not the same themes that speak to me. I don’t care for wars, aliens, zombies, or anything dark themed. Elizabeth’s game was the first game I was giddy to buy (to a point that I wrote a python script to check Amazon for its price every 15 minutes and notify me when it becomes available so that I can buy it). I bought 3 copies over time and gifted them to friends who like me found the theme so much more appealing than many other best-selling/popular games.

    Are the men I have played over the years bad people? No. Do they mean to make the environment unpleasant? No. But the impact is the same regardless of their intent. To those of you in the majority: it is not enough to not be that dude, you have to speak up when you see these things done by your friends. Being a complicit bystander doesn’t make you any better. It is not my responsibility to make this community more inclusive. It is the responsibility of those who have made and continue to make the community non-welcoming and of those who enable them by not speaking up.

    Elizabeth and Jamey, once again, thank you for using your platform to advocate for change. I and others like me greatly appreciate it.

      1. Thank you and Elizabeth for starting this conversation and to you for using your privilege to educate others. I am sure you two are dealing with some negativity right now, and to be honest, if I felt safe I would expand and use my full name. Alas, I have learned to be very cautious when participating in such conversations online.

  7. Elizabeth, thank-you for writing your article and designing games. When I was proofreading Mariposas, my wife was pleasantly surprised to find out the designer was a woman because that is not what she has come to expect game designers to be. Also, she works in finance and is used to being the only woman in the room. I believe part of the burden of changing the demographic lies with publishers and it takes intent on their part. When I first created the food characters for Yes! Broccoli!, they were 75% male and only 25% female, and characters fell into fairly stereotypical roles. However, my intent from the start was that those numbers be more like 50/50, so I revised what I had done so that the numbers were more balanced and the result matched my intent. This also had the result of making the game better. My point is that without making more diverse representation a starting goal, I might not even have noticed the imbalance, let alone fixed it. So, publishers and designers should make better representation one of their goals and then act on it in order to help change the status quo. This will, at minimum, help the hobby feel more welcoming to diverse types of people as they can see themselves in more games. This change might not appeal to the hobby’s current target demographic, but publishers should do it anyways and help widen that demographic.

  8. This is a good read and will surely be an eye opener for many of us. As a 50 year old white male, I would not consider my self racist or sexist or biased against LGBTQ+, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that I am and just wasn’t fully aware of it. And perhaps that’s the first step, much like alcoholism, admitting you have a problem, in the process of inclusion. And even more importantly to pass this information down to our children in the hopes that they never have this “problem” and that they can live an inclusive life. It’s certainly not going to be easy for us (me) to change, the more I read and start to understand what is wrong and how and why, the more i realize how complex the issues are externally and internally. I become defensive and then resolve that I didn’t even understand why I was defending something and that clearly just the fact that I had such a strong reaction show how deep the emotions behind all of this go. Anyway, that my long winded way of saying I will try to be better, I will try to understand more, I will try to be more inclusive in all my choices in life. I have a problem but I can change.

    Thanks for the article,
    Rich

  9. I think regardless of the post’s content, I’m glad to see that this has sparked a lot of conversation. There are some very interesting responses. The post really made me think and focused on some points that I haven’t thought of before.

    However there’s an aspect of this issue that I think is ignored. I’ve seen some back and forth about publishers just trying to appeal to a target market. That lack of diversity itself is not a problem, but can be the consequence of a problem. Etc. I think a lot of these arguments are too focused on the situation in first world countries.

    To me, there’s a clear solution (to improve racial and cultural diversity):
    If board gaming spread to more diverse countries, it would diversify the hobby. Publishers in African countries would want to publish more games with African characters. By pushing the hobby across borders we would be aligning the financial and social goals that seem to be in conflict in places like America or Europe.
    Obviously board gaming as a hobby is dominated by white men – board gaming as a hobby is massively focused on countries that have more white men.

    I live in South Africa, where shipping alone almost DOUBLES the price of certain board games. The hobby just isn’t nearly as accessible here as it is in America or Europe (some local gaming groups have been trying to address this though, but I don’t think they have any international assistance).

    Unfortunately, this probably won’t improve gender diversity in the hobby (which I do think is at least in some way caused by unfair barriers-to-entry and not just a lack of interest).

    1. It has been exciting to watch what NIBCARD Games is doing in Nigeria. They are locally manufacturing locally designed board games, and have their eye on reaching the level where their games can compete globally, in quality of both gameplay and manufacturing. And women are involved from the start!

      1. Very glad to hear that these initiatives are popping up in the rest of Africa too. Definitely going to check it out! :) I really hope board gaming continues to grow in Africa and the rest of the world. I think there’s an incredible amount of potential out there.

  10. Jamey or Elizabeth

    Question: what do you think is the reason 94% of the top 200 games are designed by white men?

    A) the board game industry is inherently racist and sexist so only games designed by white men get chosen for publication

    B) board game publishers choose the best possible designs both artistically and financially and these just happen to be designed by white men.

    C) the board game “hobby” happens to be one populated heavily by white men thus they would be equally as heavy represented in its designs and creations?

    Curious to hear your summation.

    1. Tim: I don’t think A, B, or C would accurately represent my answer. Rather, for the reasons noted in Elizabeth’s post, women (and people of all marginalized identities) are often excluded by the unwelcoming practices/environment of the game industry/community, and as a result, I would guess that far fewer women than men have tried to design games. That’s really unfortunate, because I want more Wingspans, Mansions of Madness, and Rajas of the Ganges in the the world. It takes awareness, work, and effort to address the disparity so we can all benefit from a unique array of games.

      1. Hey Jamey! Out of respect and admiration for your work, can I ask you to reframe this answer? “Women don’t try to design games (because the environment is unwelcoming)” isn’t the same as “women (and people of all marginalized identities) are routinely kept out of game publishing because of unwelcoming practices/environment”. The distinction is important, because read directly, your answer puts the fault with women and suggests if they just tried to get through the abuse, we’d have more games like Wingspan. I think we all know that’s not the fault of women or anyone who’s not a cis-het-white male. This actually stands to me as a great example of what Elizabeth’s post says about how our language can be unintentionally hurtful :)

    2. I’d say a combination of B&C (which are really the same thing), in a feedback loop, with the possibility of a little A sprinkled on top.

      I can attest from lots of playtesting events that the population of game designers is still heavily white male, so even if A never happens, the set of published games will be heavily from white male designers.

      Also, B includes the fact that publishers have a financial interest in working with already-successful designers, which inherently reinforces the white male status quo.

      So my question becomes, if C is really pushing this, WHY is the hobby so heavily populated by white men? It’s way too skewed and consistent to be random, and I don’t believe it’s that white men are just inherently more interested in playing games. Play is a universal drive. And so my post was a lot about what makes it hard for people who aren’t white men to stick around even if they are interested in board games. Eventually, if folks stick around, some portion of them will become designers. And if we’re more thoughtful about it, maybe we can speed up that process a little bit.

    3. Also, upon reflection, I’m realizing that I answered your question in my post. I know that pie chart got shared as the cover image but it was really a passing point in a much larger topic. I hope you find time to read the whole thing, I think you’ll find it interesting.

  11. Such a shame. I really liked Wingspan. It is one of my wife’s favorite games. We will not be buying another one of her games. Elizabeth Hargrave I truly wish you the best in life and I hope you find happiness one day. You have so much anger in your heart and it truly saddens me, and you are so talented. Please one day not only forgive everyone it is that you hate, but also forgive yourself. We are all flawed.

    1. I really don’t understand your comment at all. Elizabeth’s post doesn’t seem angry at all, but comes across to me as a well reasoned discussion of the topic.

    2. Ironically, you’ve admitted that the characteristics of the designer (regardless of their ability to make good games) influences your decision to buy a game. Which is one of the points this article, you clearly disagree with, makes.

    3. Completly agree with Craig here, she attacked No one in this post and only discribed her view, some facts and her feelings. I understand your frustration, as a white male i dont see this kind of problem on a regular basis and therefore i cant completly understand how it feels. So I feel helpless and simultaneously like “the bad guy” even if I cant recall being rude to someone. But we can learn to understand what behavior hurts people and then er can act better to make an brighter future for our children.

      1. Haha we were going to ask him if he bothered to discuss this with his wife first. Thanks for being SUCH a strong voice for inclusion <3

    4. Hmm – industry professional discusses a rampant problem with sexism in same industry. Your reply is to gaslight that woman and mention denying another access to something she enjoys.
      Ron, I think this article is largely about you, mate.

    5. Ron — this is exactly the sort of rhetoric that she’s speaking against? Don’t you see that? She’s trying to make gaming more inclusive and all you have to offer is shutting her out and declaring she has too much anger in her heart. Seriously?

    6. Just have to add to the chorus that this response is to an extremely honest, open, and important topic is quite disappointing… and simultaneously illustrating just how important and on-the-nose Elizabeth’s article is.

    7. Ron, where in this post does Elizabeth display anger and hate? Your anger and hate is clear. So much anger and hate towards Elizabeth that you’re not even going let to let your wife play her favorite game anymore. Your comment and actions accurately prove Elizabeth’s point. BTW, I do hope one day your wife can forgive you for taking away a favorite game of hers.

    8. What are you even talking about? Hate in her heart? I see no evidence of that anywhere. In fact, Elizabeth seems to be one of the kindest designers working, as well as one of the most talented. Speak for yourself, troll. Yikes!

    9. Maybe some understandable frustration with the stays quo but that post had zero “anger in her heart”. If anything it has empathy and love.

    10. So.. I was going to buy Wingspan.. but now.. thanks to your words… as a gay man, I’m going to buy TWO copies! To make up for your “lost business.” Ps. F U.

  12. Another interesting post. Reminds me of a post that was shared in a group I belong to that talked about how rule books/games aren’t deaf friendly. I know that my initial thought would be – how are they not deaf friendly? They can read just as well as the rest of us can’t they? Turns out that ASL is vastly different than the English you and I speak and we’re isolating a group of gamers by not acknowledging that and trying to come up with a solution. Of course the million dollar question is how.

    1. Is there somewhere explaining how ASL is ‘vastly different’? Bit of a tangent but I feel like I should learn more about this.

      1. Not sure about ASL, but BSL skips out all the unnecessary “linking” words such as “like, the, a, of”. It’s more like stringung together ideas and actions. To the point where if they are deaf from birth some don’t read because they have no reference for these words. So a text only rulebook is not going to work.

        That’s my limited understanding, willing to step aside if someone has a better answer.

        1. Or if you are a Trekkie, remember how hard it was for Picard to understand the aliens in the episode Darmok? They spoke the same words, but not with the same meaning.

      2. ASL is its own language, with its own grammar and syntax. Although certain signs can translate into specific English words, translating them directly would be the equivalent of all those bad Chinese subtitles you see in bootleg Kung Fu movies.

        When people write ASL down, also known as “Glossing”, it appears different from standard English. It not only includes specific words but various classifiers, punctuation tags (to indicate changes in gestures that can change meaning), superscript/subscript indicators (usually for head or facial changes), and even signs that don’t have a direct English equivalent.

        ASL Gloss: YESTERDAY PRO-1 INDEX-[at] WORK HAPPEN SOMEONE! MAN CL:1-“walked_past_quickly” I NEVER SEE PRO-3 BEFORE.

        English: “Yesterday at work a stranger (some guy I’ve never seen before) rushed past me.

  13. As a professional data analyst I have learned the hard way not to ‘curve fit’ data into preconceived conclusions. A good scientist will look at data and ask “What conclusions can be deduced from this data” … and then empirically test those conclusions with this attitude:

    Until and unless there is sufficient evidence to support a positive claim, disbelief (the null hypothesis) is the only reasonable position to hold.

    As a past advertising creative designer I have also learned the reality (also the hard way) that, if you want to get the attention of a target market, then one of the best statistically proven ways of doing so is to use images/creative that directly reflect the demographics/psychographics of that target market.

    A study from this website in 2017 found that 91.7% of boardgamers were male.(1) Also 64% of boardgamers were aged 21-39.

    Another study found that nearly 90% of boardgamers were white.(2)

    Therefore white males aged 21-39 is the target market.

    An advertiser that cares about sales targets will then predominantly use creative that specifically and strongly appeals to that target market.

    To emphasize … the market research data drives how product designers invent and how advertisers promote. If the market data shifts then the designers and advertisers will shift in accordance.

    Again, boardgamers are predominantly white males aged 21-39. That is just data without commentary or interpretation. A good researcher could then create proper testing methodology to determine why this is the case.

    Knowing the above facts there is little surprise to discover that boardgame designers are of an almost identical demographic. Trust is a measurable commodity and, just as people trust advertising creative that mirrors ‘who we are’, customers will more readily trust a product designer if they are ‘just like them’.

    Again, just data without commentary or interpretation.

    As the article points out, white households more than likely has the money to spend. So why would businesses do anything other than tailor everything they do to attract their best customers?

    This leads to a central question: should businesses operate with social justice considerations when in doing so it would produce a net loss in sales revenue?

    As an example, the cover of a boardgame box is pure real estate; every pixel has measurable dollar value to it. We know our target market and what images they most respond to … how much of that real estate are we willing to depreciate (meaning we aren’t going to get the same return on investment) just to meet the measures of inclusiveness and diversity?

    It is a really confronting question to ask I know. Yet for a struggling games studio who are operating with incredibly tight margins every single cent you spend has to have a maximum return on investment. It’s not about sentiment, opinions, or fairness … its just about keeping your doors open, your staff properly paid, and the engine of your business powering along.

    The exception is this: inclusiveness and diversity could be part of the psychographics of your target market.

    Meaning, enough of your target market could be ‘woke’ to these these ideologies, therefore this measurable data will, once again, drive your design and creative. If your target market ‘cares’ about inclusiveness and diversity then you would be foolish not to follow suit. If your target market doesn’t care, then, purely from a business perspective, neither should you.

    UNLESS … inclusiveness and diversity matters so much to you that you want to ‘make a difference’. Go for it I say! You just have to embrace the idea that a measurable part of your expenditure will not get an optimized ROI and that this expense is in fact your investment into promoting your ideology.

    Personally (data-head and dispassion aside), I would like to see more companies have a ‘social heart’ and dedicate more budget to social justice issues; not just because the optics of doing so is good for marketing, but because they actually do sincerely care. Yet this has to be always balanced with the reality that if they are not making profit then business owners will end up with no business at all.

    Thanks for stimulating this conversation.

    (1) https://stonemaiergames.com/5-surprises-from-our-demographic-survey/

    (2) https://www.meeplemountain.com/articles/whos-at-the-table-board-game-players-and-communities/

    1. Why are white males aged 21-39 the “target market”? Your logic seems circular to me. You are arguing that it makes sense to target games towards this market because they are the ones purchasing the games but isn’t it also possible that they are the ones purchasing the games because games are generally targeted towards them?

      Or, alternatively, doesn’t it seem like the white, male market is somewhat saturated if people are all targeting it? I think Elizabeth Hargrave is a great example of a designer who went with an unconventional theme and enjoyed tremendous success. People bought lots of zombie themed games but not a lot of games about birds, but that doesn’t mean you should make another zombie game. As Wingspan’s success shows, sometimes when designers and publishers just follow trends they miss out on huge parts of the market.

      1. This this this! It’s like the thread from folks who used to work at Ubisoft that went around twitter the other day, about how marketing and upper management continually forced male main characters as the ‘one true way’ in their mainline games. Lots of good points raised about how it’s a good thing characters like Aloy and FemShep weren’t popular, or otherwise they’d have to consider other points of view.

      2. Hey Alex.

        It’s not circular, it is just the way it is for business operators.

        I have a friend who runs a recreational fishing supplies business here in Australia. Most of his business comes from males aged 30-44.

        That demographic is his bread and butter; it is the bulk of his sales. Therefore that demographic must be his priority target for products and for advertising creative.

        As an example, there is absolutely no sense, business wise, for him to be trying to advertise to teenage women. He would literally be throwing the equivalent of $100 in advertising for maybe $10 in sales. Keep doing that and he would be out of business very quickly.

        Sentiment and ideology has very little to do with this.

        To emphasize what I have said above, for the most part businesses do not create a target market … they merely find a crowd of ‘hungry’ consumers and provide the products / services to cater to that crowd.

        Of course there are exceptions to this standard rule … but they are definitely the exceptions.

        The fact that Elizabeth Hargrave’s Wing Span has deservedly been so successful does in no way violate what I am saying. In data science, statistical outliers or ‘mutations’ from the main course are accepted as a frequent enough occurrences … we even deliberately create such mutations at random intervals to see if there is a better trajectory than the main course.

        Are there fringe demographics around the core white male boardgamers? Of course there are but if you were to ‘aim’ for them as your primary target then you are risking losing out big time on your return on investment.

        Its all about ‘risk management’ … sometimes it can be profitable to take the risk into an unproven market area. Most times though these statistical mutations fizzle and die along the side of the road.

        What would be interesting is to get the demographic data on who actually bought Wing Span and who is playing. Is there any significant changes in the data? Is there any measurable increase in the purchases from women for example? Or is it just the same herd of white male boardgamers who have bought into a quality divergence from the core pool of boardgames?

        Perhaps the herd was simply ‘ready’ for something fresh and new and Wing Span just happened to be the right thing at the right time(?)

        I know I probably sound quite cold, I am a data analyst and data can be terribly confronting and brutal most of the time.

        Cheers :)

        1. So, what you’re saying is that a set of data from 2017 is enough to tell you that nothing will change, nothing has changed, nothing should change, anything that has demonstrably changed despite the above must be disregarded as an outlier and basically everyone knows girls just don’t like games. And it must be so because ‘data is brutal”?
          I remember looking at the BGG data when it came out. It didn’t strike me as particularly brutal. Disappointing, maybe. It was just a snapshot of gaming demographics at the time. Any conclusions you might reach about how designers or publishers have to carry on making games to please white men are your own, not the data’s.

          1. Hi Louise.

            Thanks for your response. If I can ask politely, please try and represent my words correctly. I would really appreciate that.

            Nowhere did I say: “nothing will change, nothing has changed, nothing should change, anything that has demonstrably changed despite the above must be disregarded as an outlier and basically everyone knows girls just don’t like games.”

            The accumulated data of social and cultural shifts proves that market demographics / psychographics very much do change … which is why data science is a full time continuous process to keep abreast of those changes.

            Jamie’s own demographic study in 2017 was a snapshot of how things were at that time. I was unable to find if he had conducted a more recent analysis.

            Could the demographics have changed in the last 3 years? Of course. Within an acceptable standard deviation I would have high certainty that they probably would have. But I don’t have that data so I can only use the most recent credible data source.

            In data science progressive data points over a period of time will ‘give weight’ to the probability of future trends. Meaning that if a demographic has the same data characteristics over successive studies then a researcher can create a bandwidth of probability for the future of those characteristics.

            Google “Gompertz distribution” to get a good idea of what I am saying.

            Every credible study I have seen over the last 10 years in boardgaming have all shown the same characteristic:

            • Boardgames are predominantly played by white men aged 21-39.

            Therefore, supported by the weight of this data, there is high certainty that this demographic will have stayed relatively the same over the last 3 years. Enough to give me confidence in referencing it as I have.

            The is a pivotal difference between these two questions:

            • Will the demographic data of boardgamers change?

            and

            • Should the demographic data of boardgamers change?

            To the first question I would confidently say: “Yes, within a certain range of deviation there is high certainty that it will change.” With enough data I could even model out to you the probabilities of what that change might look like within a set time frame.

            The second question though well and truly sits within the sphere of personal ideology; and I make no disparaging inference in saying this. I personally have many views about what ‘should’ be done differently in the world. I also have to embrace that, regardless of my ideological desires, data is just data and it is a quantification of how things are.

            Sure, based on my ideology I may apply appropriate efforts to affect a group of people so that that data changes in the future. If it does change (regardless of whether it should) then that becomes the new statistical reality in which game designers and marketers must operate in.

        2. Saying it’s just the way it is, is not a defense to it being circular. From what I can tell it is the way it is and it’s circular. What needs to be discussed is not the way it is, but the way it ought to be.

    2. “This leads to a central question: should businesses operate with social justice considerations when in doing so it would produce a net loss in sales revenue?”

      Unequivocally yes. Otherwise businesses will perpetuate the exclusionary policies that people experience.

      You describe an economic case for perpetuating the problem. Our world is about more than economics.

      1. Heya acotgreave.

        To this question: should businesses operate with social justice considerations when in doing so it would produce a net loss in sales revenue?

        You said: “Unequivocally yes.”

        I am trying to understand so please correct me if I am wrong. This means that you believe a business should knowingly and willingly lose money for the purpose of social justice considerations. Correct?

        If this is the case then you would literally not have a business. Perhaps charities and formal non-profit organisations can operate like that, but not a business. They can, to a degree, have a ’cause’ at the core their operation and be a good cooperate citizen by supporting social justice issues … but not if it’s going to leave their accounts in the red.

        As I have indicated previously here, for the most part businesses are reactive not proactive. Most simply follow the needs and wants of their core target market. If the target market doesn’t ‘demand’ social justice then there is no need for the business to likewise invest heavily in that area.

        Enough boardgamers seem to very much care about inclusiveness and diversity; enough of them for there to be significant social protests if a game/advertiser is blatantly violating these social ideologies. Therefore a boardgame business must respond to their target market in appropriate measures.

        We are though barely scratching the surface of this issue and the thinness of this discussion will, as already seen, lead to misinterpretations.

        1. I heartily support Elizabeth’s article (and the original Twitter thread that started it), and believe more than anything there needs to be a will to change the conventional boardgaming demographic, and talking and writing about it, and sharing those conversations, is a good thing and well worry supporting. Having the will to change things is by far the toughest hurdle, especially for those that fall into the stereotypical male portrayals suggested, most of whom could well be completely unaware of how their actions are being perceived by the only woman in the room, so to speak. Not all, but most. Companies taking chances on female designers and those from the LGBT community (if and when they can afford to) is of course an ideal alternative way of influencing and changing this demographic. That said, I wanted to let you know, Stuart, that your cold and calculating head, focused as it is on data and stats, and your willingness to respond to some difficult questions, is admirable and also informative. Thank you.

        2. Stuart, I sell games for a living, and while it’s easy for you or me to distrust statistics from “the other side” on the internet, I know that my own sales numbers don’t lie to me.

          So I know that women buy my games. BIPOC people buy my games. LGBTQIA+ people buy my games.

          I also know that a lot of straight, white, male, Christian, conservative people buy my games.

          And I know that representing all of these people in my games, and providing them a place they feel welcome to game in, increase those sales. I’ve seen it happen.

          The threat that some people throw around, that droves of straight white males will cancel me for doing these things doesn’t even *begin* to frighten me. My real life experience just doesn’t back it up.

          Maybe things are different at your FLGS?

          For me, potentially losing a handful of opinionated customers in exchange for having much larger sections of the market love me more… well I don’t care what your morals or politics are, that’s kind of a no-brainer. Any *other* business move would be foolish.

          (Also, the kind of person I risk losing looks to me like they are often the kind of person whose toxic behavior and words make them undesirable as a customer in the first place.)

          TL;DR: I think you’re the one losing money here.

          1. I don’t know where your FLGS is, my good dude, but if it’s anywhere in the greater LA area, let me know, because you just gained a customer.

          2. Hi Some Dude,

            I am really glad to hear you are so inclusive in your gaming venture. With board games I personally agree that inclusiveness is very important.

            To clarify what I have said, it’s not about excluding any market from your business but instead prioritizing your investment of time and resources towards where you statistically have the highest chance of a profitable return on investment.

            Let me provide another example. I have a friend, Glenn, who is an absolute fanatic about craft beers; he has turned his garage into a home brewery and bar for this very purpose. He wanted to run regular workshops offering to teach people to make their own beer but he only has a limited budget to promote these workshops.

            Market research shows that 80% of people who are into craft beer are men with the highest proportion of them being aged 30-40. Research also shows that were more than likely to have a higher education.

            So Glenn created a demographic profile for his prime target market:

            • 30-40 year old men.
            • College education or above.

            Furthermore, he reasoned that people would only travel up to 50km to attend a 1-day workshop.

            Glenn was able to construct a promotional campaign with color brochures using photos of his mates drinking beer in his garage-come-bar and got these brochures into local barber shops, sports bars, and a few selected professional type workplaces.

            The result was that he was inundated with calls and was sold out his first workshop and also ran another the following weekend with the overflow.

            Did Glenn do anything ethically wrong by only focusing on his target market?

            No, not at all. He certainly wasn’t saying his workshop was ‘only’ available to 30-40 year old educated men living locally. Anyone could have attended and would have been equally welcomed.

            Was he being discriminatory and unfair, for example, to people living 5 hours away?

            I hope you can recognize that there was a far less chance of getting these people travelling to his workshop than local people; there would have been a high probability that the effort and money Glenn would have spent getting brochures out to a town 5hrs away would have been a complete waste.

            I am also hoping that this clarifies things.

            Warm Regards

            Stuart.

          3. I had the same reaction, Li0ness! Though I think “Some Dude” works for a game publisher (one I already support, and you may too), which he’s welcome to reveal if he’d like.

      2. @acotgreave, while I agree with your sentiment that our world is about more than economics, how do companies survive if they do not have a customer base? The reality is that those businesses which “perpetuate the exclusionary policies that people experience” will always do so if that is what makes them the most money. Does this make it right or wrong? It depends. Not all forms of exclusion are wrong per se (in this case and in some of those that Elizabeth pointed out it could definitely be wrong) so we might need to take a closer look to determine if it is wrong.

    3. Stuart, part of the point of my conclusion is that I think there is massive room for growth in the board game industry, and that the hobby market has been needlessly limiting itself by focusing so heavily on one target market. Wingspan has sold hundreds of thousands of copies in part because it has found a lot of first-time gamers, many of whom are women.

      1. Hi Elizabeth, thank you for your reply. A very sincere congratulations on your success, your game is on my wishlist as it is very much the sort of game I would love to play with my wife and children.

        I 100% agree that there is much potential for growth in the board game industry. In fact between 2020 -2024 it is predicted to grow will grow by $5.81 billion.(1)

        I mentioned earlier that I would be very interested to see the sales demographic data for Wingspan; I would have high certainty that it would be very different from the norm of board game sales.

        On a personal level I truly hope that your success isn’t just a statistical outlier; I personally hope it does represent a signal that the industry is expanding to include other demographics.

        The inevitable ‘however’ here is that we don’t know just yet what this new data means. If your Wingspan blazes a path allowing other similar games to gain some of the sunshine then that would well and truly represent such a demonstrated change.

        Perhaps it will become the new norm. Again, I personally hope it does.

        On another note, can I perhaps suggest caution about linking the causation of different data sets. Please be patient with me as I explain.

        Your article has this observation:

        • It is hard to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games.

        In support of this you have presented these points:

        1. 93.5% of board game designers are white males.

        2. Anecdotal evidence about experiences at games nights.

        3. 46% of board game covers represent white males.

        4. Men spend more time on leisure / sports than women.

        5. White households have vastly higher incomes than Black households.

        Now at the outset here let me emphasize as best I can that I am not disagreeing with you. Neither am I attempting to prove you wrong … my research below will in fact overall prove you right.

        Please excuse my trained data science head here but in my profession it is drummed into us that, unless there is clear credible proof that a relationship exists between two data sets then, by virtue of null hypothesis, we must assume that there is no relationship.

        For instance, does the fact that 93.5% of board game designers are white males make it hard to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games?

        (For this purpose let me assume ‘hard’ means non-inclusiveness, discrimination, and diminished opportunities)

        Is there evidence that supports the relationship?

        We have no empirical data that verifies that “Publishers are turning down women and POC out of outright discrimination.”

        So the null hypothesis dictates we have to disregard that suggestion entirely.

        Is there another angle to view this from?

        What we do know though is that people may make economic and trust decisions based on unconscious or unintentional racial biases.(2) We also know that unconscious gender biases exist as well.(3) (I am sure I could find equivalent studies for unconscious sexuality biases).

        A way of interpreting this: it is proven that people trust other people more if they are just like us … race, gender, sexuality, attitudes etc.. This is neither good or bad, right or wrong … it’s just how people’s brains are wired.

        White males aged 21-39 are the central target market for board games.

        Therefore, this market will predictably trust and buy games from other white males. The fact that 93.5% of board game designers are white males reflects this.

        Does this make it ‘hard’ to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games?

        On that basis … I would confidently say: “Yes.”

        In regards to anecdotal evidence of discrimination at board games night I have to point out that whilst anecdotal evidence can lead to the justification of further studies, in and of itself it isn’t credible empirical evidence.

        However, there are studies that could quantify these stories of gender discrimination and harassment. Albeit this is the digital gaming industry, so we have to be cautious in assuming the numbers cross over exactly.

        According to Bryter’s Female Gamers report 2019: “Last year, we revealed that one in three female gamers has experienced abuse from their male counterparts, and unfortunately, this statistic has not improved one year on. Not surprisingly, the majority of this is happening online. Of the female gamers who had experienced abuse or discrimination, 31% had received verbal abuse from other male gamers while playing online multiplayer games, 33% had been sent inappropriate content or messages, and 14% had received threats of rape.”(4)

        I am unsure if there have been proper studies done for the board game industry (I thought I remember seeing one around but I couldn’t find it again).

        I do however have moderate to high certainty that there is enough correlation for it to regarded as supportive evidence.

        Does this make it ‘hard’ to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games?

        With sufficient confidence I would say, “Yes.”

        You have pointed out that 46% of board game covers represent white males.

        This is one where I would be very skeptical to conclude that it makes it ‘hard’ to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games.

        At most I would say it is another symptom of unconscious racial/gender biases that every advertiser in the world will exploit in their creative. i.e. if you want to target white males then use images that appeal to white males.

        Does the statistic in and of itself make it ‘hard’? At the moment I don’t see credible evidence for the direct link, so the null hypothesis makes me have to disregard this relationship.

        Men spend more time on leisure / sports than women. This one would require much more extrapolation then we have space for here. The very fact that this is a proven statistic lends weight to the reality that board games are a predominate male leisure hobby … which of course cascades through to the above mentioned biases.

        However, this is far from the whole picture.

        The graphic you shared showed that women have 4.86 hours per day of leisure time whilst men have 5.53 hours. That is a ratio of 1 : 1.14. Yet according to Jamie’s previously mentioned study the ratio of female to male board gamers is actually 1 : 9.

        With such a significant difference there can be no relationship drawn between ‘available leisure time’ based on gender and the observation that it ‘hard’ to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games.

        White households have vastly higher incomes than Black households. There is so much data to support this that I am not even going to remotely dispute it.

        Would this make it ‘hard’ to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games? Yes, with high certainty.

        Overall, what I have presented here in fact supports the points you have made Elizabeth.
        So much so that I would agree with you that it is ‘hard’ to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games.

        My point of caution lies with you linking things like images on covers and available leisure time as support statistics to your observation when no evidence based relationship actually exists.

        Love what you have done Elizabeth. All due credit to you!

        With warm regards,

        Stuart.

        (1) https://www.technavio.com/report/board-games-market-industry-analysis
        (2) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110425153551.htm
        (3) https://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474
        (4) https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/3957071/Bryter%202019%20Folder/Bryter%20-%20Female%20Gamers%20Survey%202019.pdf

        1. Bro, if you disagree with her, just own your opinion. Don’t write a comment that’s almost the same length as her original post where you pretend to be on her side but really just spend the whole time being condescending. It’ll save us all time.

          1. Hi Drew. I am sorry that you view it that way. Text forums are tough because you don’t get full dimension of communication. Just trying to be helpful in the best way I know how.

            Warm regards,

            Stuart.

          2. I love when commenters like this guy and Ron use their wifes as herrings, “im not part of the problem, i love my wife so I love women” to validate themselves rather than acknowledge any potential bias and just completely ignore the content of the actual article.

          3. Hi Jacob,

            It is really important to me professionally that I communicate with as little bias as I can.

            Can you please point out for me where demonstrated bias and where I ignored the content of the article?

            Thank you, I would value your feedback.

            Warm Regards,

            Stuart

        2. Stuart, a lot of your number crunching comes down to the 1:9 ratio and target demographic, but part of the fallacy in your statistics suffers from the fact that as gaming spaces are often harder for women to navigate, we often form groups that are separate from our male counterparts where we feel welcomed and safe. This does not detract from our gaming, but does sometimes make us harder to count . . . (I know I personally have been a gamer for over 20 years, own over 1k games, and only recently started reading Jamey’s blog so I am not represented in his numbers—nor are any of the women I play with.)

          Now, the issue with accuracy in statistics is always an issue, and I would not claim the number of women rivals that of men in gaming, but I would guess that we are a lot more numerous than we appear because fewer of us are frequenting conventions and game shops.

          1. Hi Kay, thank you very much for your response.

            I prefer the term ‘margin of error’ to ‘fallacy,’ however I do very much catch your meaning. I believe you are very accurate in what you say.

            It would be like walking into a bar full of men and asking: “How many people here like beer?” … and then using that response to claim “95% of people like beer.”

            Sample size and distribution are very important; so to is how you gather the data (i.e. what incentives you use to get people answering your survey etc.).

            How big is the population of yet-to-be-accounted-for women? We can only guess at this stage until a more thorough study is done.

            Let’s put all good efforts into changing the culture so that the barriers to participation are removed. Data analysts like myself would certainly be happier with more accurate statistics to work with ;)

            Thanks again Kay,

            Stuart.

            PS 1k games ??! Color me impressed !!

          2. Stuart, I appreciate your willingness to engage in detail in this forum, but it’s become its own conversation at this point. Do you have a blog where people can continue the conversation you’re looking to have? Please post a link below, and the rest of your conversation can happen there. Thanks!

    4. There is a fallacy in the above conclusion that white men in the majority demographic would not buy a game that was more inclusive in its marketing. A great percentage of us want more diversity in our game groups and gaming culture.

      If you’re only targeting me, you’re not giving me what I want. I look for games that also are welcoming and encouraging to all of my friends and family.

      1. Hi Wil, thanks for your response.

        It is very important to me that I develop the ability to communicate data effective. It would seem I have failed to do so with you and I apologize if I have.

        To help me improve, could you please highlight exactly what in my commentary made you think that my conclusion was that “white men in the majority demographic would not buy a game that was more inclusive in its marketing.”

        What I did say was: “if you want to get the attention of a target market, then one of the best statistically proven ways of doing so is to use images/creative that directly reflect the demographics/psychographics of that target market.”

        I am not sure how that communicates that “white men in the majority demographic would not buy a game that was more inclusive in its marketing.”

        Further on I said:

        “The exception is this: inclusiveness and diversity could be part of the psychographics of your target market.

        Meaning, enough of your target market could be ‘woke’ to these these ideologies, therefore this measurable data will, once again, drive your design and creative. If your target market ‘cares’ about inclusiveness and diversity then you would be foolish not to follow suit.”

        You said: “A great percentage of us want more diversity in our game groups and gaming culture.”

        Are you able to quantify what that “great percentage” is by any chance? Are their studies that have managed to specify this?

        There is enough anecdotal evidence around (like the comments on this page for example) to give sufficient certainty that this percentage is great enough to dictate that game designers and advertisers must keep social justice issues central to their considerations for design and creative.

        So be it.

        Again, please accept my apologies if my communication wasn’t precise enough.

    5. A couple of points. First, that’s not how the null hypothesis works. It is a device to test against to measure if there is a statistically significant effect achieved by changing a variable. It is not the “default” assumption you fall back on if you cannot find a reason for an effect. Second, your logic of “we target the audience that by so targeting will give us money.” If market research supports the efficacy of current targeting that doesn’t imply potential losses by shifting your targeting. If anything it seems to imply the opposite.
      And, of course, there’s the point that the white male power structure has been using “scientific” and “economic” tools and arguments to avoid making changes for the benefit of the excluded for centuries. These forces and methods don’t work the way you say they do, and by applying them this way, you are denying the relevance and humanity of everyone who doesn’t fit into your narrow view of “normal” gamer. It’s a hackneyed trick. Please stop.

      1. Hi Jim, thank you very much for your comment. I must apologize for taking casual shortcuts in my presentation and not explaining properly; I can see how my choice of words were not specific enough. Thank you for keeping me accountable.

        A null hypothesis, H0 is the status quo hypothesis that there’s nothing significantly different happening, and is one which is presumed to be true until proven otherwise.(1)(2)

        In other words, the null hypothesis is the commonly accepted fact; it is the opposite of the alternate hypothesis. Researchers work to reject, nullify or disprove the null hypothesis. Researchers come up with an alternate hypothesis, one that they think explains a phenomenon, and then work to reject the null hypothesis.(3)

        I regard any hypothesis with extreme skepticism, asking: “Is there credible proof to establish sufficient certainty and confidence?”

        If there is not enough credible proof currently at hand then the hypothesis must be initially rejected as false (i.e. disbelief).

        In this case Elizabeth has made this hypothesis:

        “It is hard to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games.”

        Because I did not have enough evidence my skepticism defaulted to initial disbelief. Elizabeth’s hypothesis, to the best of my knowledge, is not a “commonly accepted fact”.

        Therefore, in my mind, Elizabeth’s statement becomes an alternative hypothesis with the null hypothesis something along the lines of:

        “There are no known barriers or difficulties for a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games.”

        I must then be equally skeptical and query it the same: “Is there credible proof to establish sufficient certainty and confidence?”

        Now that I have that null hypothesis and an alternative hypothesis I am ready to approach each point of evidence that Elizabeth’s has presented — and each point must be handled with the same level of skepticism and processing.

        As a brief example, Elizabeth presented the statistic that 93% of board game designers are white men in support of her hypothesis; she is declaring that there is a direct causational relationship between the statistical fact and her hypothesis.

        i.e. “Because 93% of board game designers are white men it is hard to be a woman/person of color (POC)/LGBT+ person in board games.”

        Once again I have to ask: “Is there credible proof to establish sufficient certainty and confidence?”

        The statistic was found to be verified, but in and of itself this statistic does not necessarily create a causational relationship to the hypothesis … there is no evidence and it is not a commonly accepted fact. Therefore the affirmative relationship once again must become the alternative hypothesis in contrast to a null hypothesis in the negative … which in itself must be tested and attempted to be disproven.

        And around and around we go until confidence one way or another is achieved.

        So Jim, whilst my usage of null hypothesis was correct my communication was clumsy. I apologize and thank you again for presenting me with an opportunity to improve.

        To your second point:

        “Your logic of “we target the audience that by so targeting will give us money.” If market research supports the efficacy of current targeting that doesn’t imply potential losses by shifting your targeting. If anything it seems to imply the opposite.”

        Actually yes it does. My profession is in the insurance industry. Supported by verified statistics, the most likely purchase of life insurance are retired people (14% above average) … the least likely are renters (13% below average).

        Therefore, when advertising life insurance, you get your greatest return on investment if you target your product design and advertising creative toward older retired people.

        If you shifted your targeting towards renters then the statistical probability is that you would achieve a far less ROI — you would probably end up losing money.

        There are of course statistical exceptions to this general rule. For example: you might be able to find an non-saturated niche market that you could service. This is why most large companies will have their ‘bread and butter’ products/services with their marketing/R&D teams hunting through yet-to-be-discovered or emerging market sectors.

        Elizabeth’s Wingspan is a perfect example of how this can be successful.

        I am very intrigued by your comment: “If anything it seems to imply the opposite.” How does this possibly imply the opposite?

        Thank you Jim.

        Warm regards,

        Stuart

        (1) https://mathvault.ca/math-glossary/#null
        (2) https://archive.org/details/cambridgediction00ever_0/page/234/mode/2up?q=null+hypothesis
        (3) https://www.statisticshowto.com/probability-and-statistics/null-hypothesis/

  14. I think there are two things missing from this analysis, and they are big things, but admittedly actual data on them is lacking.

    First, if we drew a Venn diagram of “people who play games”, “hobby gamers” would be a circle inside that circle and “people who go to cons” would be a smaller circle that would be mostly contained inside the “hobby gamers” circle. How big are those three circles relative to each other? In other words, how many people are playing games without any engagement whatsoever with “the hobby”? And what is the demography of those people? I don’t think we know this but I personally suspect (but cannot prove) that the first circle is way bigger than we might think relative to the other two. Target is still selling hobby games after several years; they wouldn’t be doing that if those games didn’t sell. Who is buying them? And who among those buyers become hobby gamers?

    Second, if we assume that the best way to “convert” new gamers is to invite them to play a game, it’s a reasonable assumption that most gaming enthusiasts have invited their romantic partners, family members, friends, kids, and anyone else they know to play games with them. People like to play games with people whose company they enjoy, and they enjoy the company of their partner and family members, so most have probably at least /tried/. But I’d also guess (but cannot prove) that in many/most cases, the spouse/parent/friend didn’t themselves become a “gamer”. Why not? I suspect (but cannot prove) that in many cases it’s as mundane as “the person just wasn’t interested”; games didn’t knock that person’s socks off in the way they did the game enthusiast’s.

    1. Re: your point of converting partners:

      All I can give you is anecdotal evidence here, but Elizabeth’s point about the disparity in the amount of time allowed in a day for recreation by gender is spot on in my life.

      My credentials:

      White, 30-something, middle-ish class female, married for 3 years. Before entering the relationship, I was a heavy strategy board gamer, as was my husband. When we combined collections, there was a 4 game overlap in a total of around 200 games. Not bad, all things considered.

      The disparity:

      My husband and I both have careers outside the home, we’re both at work or doing work related things 45-50 hours a week on average (pre-quarantimes, naturally.)

      However, for the most part, I’m the primary caretaker of the home. Yes we’ve discussed splitting chores and things more evenly, and yes occasionally conversations make an impact, but let’s just assume for right now that the situation is going to stay, on average, the same. Please note that the following breakdown is not from a place of resentment, it’s just how life is.

      When I arrive home from work in the evening, around 6:30, I cook dinner. This takes half an hour on a short night, or closer to an hour and a half if there are more complicated dishes on the menu. Average it to an hour for purposes of this experiment. After that is cleanup, we’ll say 10-15 minutes. We do both take care of the dogs fairly evenly, so that’s a net-zero. Let’s assume one other random housekeeping chore per day (cleaning bathrooms, laundry, general home upkeep, what have you,) that eats another half an hour out of my day. So on a weeknight, I might get home at 6:30, and not be done with chores and everything else I need to take care of til 9, while my husband has up to two hours free in his day that I don’t have in mine.

      What’s the point of that exhausting paragraph that I’m sure you’re tired of reading? My point is, I’m tired too. All these little bits of time get eaten out of my days, and makes it a barrier for me to get games in on a regular basis, and that’s as someone who enthusiastically played board games before I even met my partner, and we don’t even have kids yet.

      If people want to “convert” their partners, and I hate that word, by the way, they need to reduce their partner’s barriers to entry, and time is the easiest weight to lift that no one ever seems to take seriously. A lot of partners would be a lot more interested in doing something that might feel frivolous to them if they’re not keeping a huge mental list of all of the tasks that need to be done before the next day lest someone not have clean clothes for work.

      1. Sure, different marriages are constructed differently. My own anecdote is that my marriage is egalitarian, we have played many games over the last 20 years, there are a few that my wife really likes, but she’s never had the slightest interest in going to any kind of gaming event, buying games, suggesting games herself, etc. She just doesn’t have any interest in games as a pastime, and wouldn’t play if it wasn’t to indulge me. Family members are a similar story: they’ll play something if pressed into it but mostly think of games as “Jeff’s thing” (and a slightly weird thing, at that).

        Some people just aren’t interested in playing games; they have other things they prefer to do with their leisure time. That’s not true of everyone; my point is to say that it’s also not the case that everyone is a prospective gamer but for an inconsiderate partner. That of course doesn’t negate your point (and Elizabeth’s) that in a good marriage consideration is extended in both directions. But one person not showing interest in gaming is not necessarily indicative that consideration is not being shown.

        1. No, there are lots of different factors that often all align in one direction, in different combinations for different people, which was the point I was trying to make in my post.

          For example, I am FASCINATED by the fact that LiOness says she and her husband only overlapped on 4 games out of 200 in their combined collection. I have gotten so many notes from people saying “OMG! Wingspan is the first game my wife will play!” and I have to wonder, what were you trying to get her to play before? Wingspan can’t be the single game in the world that she’d like — how hard were they really trying to bring her in? And is there something about certain games that is more appealing to some demographic groups than others?

          It is FINE if lots of people don’t want to go to conventions — but if we want more games designed by a diverse set of people, to bring in a more diverse set of gamers, it will surely help if we make sure serious fandom is appealing to people from all walks of life.

          1. Hey Elizabeth- because it’s an interesting data point, our four games of overlap:

            Castles of Mad King Ludwig
            Scythe
            Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
            Splendor

            More frequently in my collection but not necessarily his: longer (90+ minute) strategy titles, tableau builders, narrative games:

            Tzolk’in
            Alchemists
            Abyss
            Above and Below
            Tragedy Looper

            Typically in his collection, but not mine: area control, games with more ‘random’ elements, games based in history or real world locations, party games, IP tie-ins, campaign games:

            Lords of Vegas
            Opera
            Shadow Hunters
            One Night Ultimate Werewolf
            Imperial Assault

            As far as the popular ‘standards’ or gateway games of the time went, I owned 7 Wonders and Machi Koro, he owned Catan. I don’t know who had Carcassonne, but it never gets played. Neither of us owned Dominion or Small World.

            Timeframe, etc, in case it’s interesting for anyone to have an idea of what we were playing in relation to when it was released we met in May 2016.

          2. I think this is the bigger issue that the hobby game market doesn’t want to address. The market and appetite for hobby boardgames is *vast*. Fog of Love and Codenames have outsold every single game in the BGG top [insert number here] because they have broad appeal. To throw your hands up in the air and say “Welp, only Men aged 21-39 like games, must be a gender difference” is silly. Not liking games about war, or trading in the Mediterranean, or games that are excel spreadsheets, is not the same as not liking games. [Quick note: like with most distributions, the difference within group is surely wider than the difference between groups. The number of women who do like these particular things > the number of women currently playing these games. i.e., representation matters].

            As a quick small anecdote, I am currently advertising on FB for a series of Postcard games I am KSing soon. The general wisdom for FB ads in the hobby space is “advertise to men ages 25-50, its the best ROI”. However, I suspect that is because the advertising targets look like: “KS+BGG+War Movies”. If you make a product targeted at men, and then advertise to those men, of course that is who will be interested. For my project, my targeting was more gender neutral (post office, usps, mailing, letter writing). Here are my best performing demographics.

            1. Women aged 45-54
            2. Women aged 55-64
            3. Women aged 35-44
            4. Women aged 25-34

            This is true for clicks AND conversions. Not only that, my costs per click and conversion (sorry, marketing nerd stuff!) is HALF of what is generally expected. This tells me there is a vastly under-served market that WANTS to play games and participate in the hobby, but they are being largely ignored at every level.

          3. @Travis – I find it very interesting that your “best performing demographic” is women, and moreso that they have the best conversion rates. It might be more helpful if there were approx. numbers attached to these stats (one woman in each category converting = 100% conversion of course), but as a content creator myself, one of the hardest aspects of this hobby is getting feedback and engagement from readers / viewers. I’d be very interested to learn if women and those identifying as LGBT are better at this then the conventional 21-39 white male audience (in terms of any comment/feedback = engaging/’conversion’), or if the predominant demographic is the very reason these same people do not ‘put themselves out there’ by commenting, engaging, etc. for fear of being trolled, etc. and characterised as outliers…?

          4. Well, but if for a significant fraction of the people who don’t opt in to gaming, the explanation is simply that they weren’t interested, and if you don’t consider this in your analysis, it’s possible to draw incorrect/incomplete conclusions, or worse, to impute bad behavior. You say above (and elsewhere) that maybe the husbands who express appreciation for Wingspan as “the first game my wife likes” simply didn’t try hard enough or ask the right way or take turns with the kids, etc. That’s kind of presumptuous and accusatory. As LiOness’s very nice blog post of yesterday states:

            “So, if your partner doesn’t enjoy your hobby, what are you supposed to do? First, stop badgering them about playing games. If they’ve said no, accept it and move on. Some people just won’t ever know how cool our hobby is, and that’s okay!”

            In our zeal to grow gaming, we have to accept that some people just don’t want to opt in, and take people at their word when they say “I extended the invitation to my [spouse/family/friends/etc] but it was declined.”

  15. Good post. It’s helpful to expand on things that often get distilled down to a catchy slogan, that is easily dismissed.

    One of my modern touchstones for how one needs to behave to help to be inclusive is what happened when Trevor Noah took over as host of the Daily Show:

    A (by the USA’s standards) black man had taken the reins, and they had put out a general call for new correspondents. They got a vanishingly small number of applications/interest from black entertainers/comedians, even though one might think that the indication was there that, if not before, definitely now they would be welcome. They had to actively and explicitly invite people in minorities before that changed.

    The perceived implicit ‘but not you’ when people say ‘everyone is welcome’ needs to be counteracted with an explicit ‘and this includes you’ for a good long while before it will disappear.

    On the other side:
    The stat about average time on household chores need to be paired with the stat on time spent on work outside the home, to give a true picture. (The leisure time one stands on its own)

    And more broadly:
    Racism and bigotry have become so demonised as inhuman, that people (especially in the US) cannot admit to any amount of it within themselves without being labelled as irredeemably evil.

    Having grown up in (perhaps) the poster child of racist countries in the 80s and 90s, the very real truth is that EVERYONE has some amount of prejudice in them. And not internalized white supremacy, misogyny, etc but their own straight-up prejudice that has nothing to do with that. The narrative that oppressed people can’t be racist, sexist, etc undermines real conversations to address this.

    When it is brought back into being a human problem that everyone deals with, to some extent, people in power, or in the majority can more easily admit it to themselves and work on improving their own behaviour.

  16. Hi Elizabeth,
    Sorry for the lengthy reply but I am hoping that you can help me further understand how this is an issue (I am not saying there is no issue, more trying to understand the true severity of it if one does exist). Also, I want you to know with each point I bring up I am not speaking to you as though you do not know these things, I am not trying to educate you, I am merely talking through my thoughts and there are things that I assume you know but are relevant to my viewpoint, hopefully that makes sense :).

    Here is where I am coming from for context, when I read the headline “Inclusion, Diversity, and Representation in Board Games and Beyond” my first though goes to what is this trying to solve, thus it makes me think of the opposites: Exclusion, Homogeneous and Suppression (for lack of a better word).

    As I read further into the article I expected to see explicit problems however I felt more like what I was reading about was either what I perceived to be natural consequences or results of supply and demand, although I do think you make some valid points that I agree with. Let me give some examples to illustrate:
    1. Gamenight
    When you said “The board game hobby is diversifying, but it’s got a long way to go. If you’ve been to a lot of public gaming events that are NOT mostly straight, cis white guys with lots of money to burn, you’re an outlier. I mean, look at this picture of Gen Con.”

    In and of itself, the fact that there are mostly “straight, cis white guys” isn’t a sign of exclusion, it can be, but it is not inherent. For example, different races/genders/cultures tend to have preferences for different types of activities. Data has been collected on how people of different races enjoy using certain areas, parks for example. If you were to go to a park for example you would be more likely to find white people on a hike and more likely to find black people playing a recreational sport vs doing the other activity (based on the studies that I saw, they may have been limited to specific areas). It is not always true obviously, but that was the statistical average.

    In my view the problem comes if black people are actively discouraged from hiking, or if white people are actively discouraged from playing recreational sports. This gets to your next comment: “People stare at us, or ignore us, because they don’t know what to do with us.” This type of active discouragement I agree is an issue. If people are not participating in an activity because people are actively discouraging them (either intentionally or unintentionally) by their words and actions, that is a problem. However, if merely the makeup of a group’s members is a turn off to someone then I don’t think I can get on board with that sentiment. I realize it is a hurdle and makes it harder for people, but there is no way to overcome that without people pushing through until the group is more diverse.

    So if your issue is more with people’s actions/words than it is with the makeup of the group then I can get behind your message here. People should always be kind and welcoming to others, regardless of who they are. So for you, which of these two is the issue that you are pointing out, or do you feel like both are a legitimate problem?

    2. Games
    “If there are women or POC included at all in a game, how often are they portrayed with respect and agency?
    If there are romantic relationships in a game, how often are they NOT male-female?
    In the rules, how often are all players referred to as something more inclusive than “he”?”

    This may be more of a supply and demand thing. If something appeals to a vast majority of your customer base rather than something else, then companies who want to make money will use that thing. It’s the reason why products targeted towards men and women have different features, there are whole teams of people which determine how to get people to buy the things that they sell! When I bought Wingspan (which I love by the way, amazing job!) I bought it for one main reason: my wife isn’t into board games in the same way that I am, but she will play them, and she loves birds so I knew that the theme would allow her to buy into the game enough to fall in love with it. Was I right? Yes! The game itself was great, I knew that, but if the theme were any different, if it was literally the same game mechanically but was about whales instead she wouldn’t have wanted to play it. I am sure that you have experienced this as well, where the theme matters very heavily to some people.

    Now, to that point, I think in some ways this bolsters your point! There are people out there who will think “I want to play a game where my character is [a woman/black/transgender/gay]” but the question for board game publishers is: is this enough of a selling point to pull those people in and make money? For me, I care way more about mechanics than I do about theme (theme is the icing on top), but others are very different. From my own personal collection (I will need to go back and look), I think there is a fair amount of diversity among the characters in the games (I don’t play a lot of games with romance in them so I can’t speak to that aspect).

    After reflecting on this, I think that I can probably agree that more work can be done in this regard and I think publishers will do it assuming that it doesn’t cause their games to tank (let’s hope not). However, as others have pointed out, people vote with their wallets ultimately so if the games with more inclusion sell then more and more games will be made that are more inclusive. FWIW, because I wanted to mention it, I have played a number of games where the player is referred to as “she”, maybe it is just a publisher dependent thing.

    3. Role Models
    “For every commenter on posts like this who says, “I don’t see the gender/race of board game designers,” I’ve probably heard from 10 women or parents who want to tell me how important Wingspan is to them, just for the names on the front of the box.”

    I struggle with this one a lot to be honest. I myself have two daughters and I always encourage them to do everything they can to the best of their ability and have never told them that there is something they cannot do that a man can. At the same time, I think it is important not to conflate the lack of women in design (as compared to men) with the word exclusion unless there is active discrimination going on. If publishers, or even gamers, or actively rejecting a game because it was designed by a woman then that is wrong and if that is the reason there are less women in game design then men then we have a huge problem.

    Some questions come to mind however, is it possible that there are other reasons why there are less women than men in game design? Are those reasons explainable and justifiable? If so then it isn’t “exclusionary”, it just is what it is. I would like to understand more about why there being less women designers is an issue if it isn’t because of active discrimination so maybe you could help clarify that for me.

    I want to raise a question but often times this doesn’t work well in conversations over the internet, however I am hoping that from my tone thus far that it is clear that I am trying to raise real questions and be respectful. A quick google search showed me that speech language pathologist is field dominated by women. I don’t think people are going around saying that it is “exclusionary towards men” and that if there were more men in the field that boys would have more role models to look up to. I don’t say this flippantly or rudely, but more so to illustrate a possibility: do more men just want to be board game designers than women? I don’t know if this is true or not, you should have more insight than me, but I cannot exclude it as a possibility.

    As a side note, and this is something that I feel echoes what others have said but perhaps in a different way, when I buy Mariposas I will be doing so because Elizabeth Hargrave is a good designer and therefore I have faith in the quality of the game, not because Elizabeth Hargrave is a woman. If you feel that there are a lot of great game designers out there that are women and they are not able to get their ideas out there because they are being discriminated against then I am on your side because I want more good games :).

    Since I am writing a novel here, I might as well drop one more side note to illustrate this point. My son is currently finishing up a 4H project in wood working and I was having a conversation with my wife the other night about it and she said to me “I really want him to get 1st place because I feel like it will give him motivation to work hard on his project next year”. I then said to her something that I don’t think she expected but after I explained it more she understood where I was coming from and agreed with me. I said “I don’t want him to get 1st place, if he does that is ok I guess, but do you really feel that the amount of effort that he put into this project DESERVES 1st place? If he gets 1st place after putting in minimal effort then he will be under the assumption that he doesn’t have to work hard to achieve his goals and I don’t want him to believe that”. For context, he is an amazing kid, but he barely worked on this project at all and the lesson I want him to learn is that: I get out of something what I put into it. If he has the skills then they should be acknowledged and encouraged, if he doesn’t yet then he should be encouraged to grow in them until he is at the point where the acknowledgement makes sense to be included among the winners. This is how I feel about this topic of designers: we want great designers regardless of their race/gender/age/religion/etc.. If we have diversity in those things then I think that is a huge plus and if we are actively discouraging people (as in #1 above) then that is a problem, but if we aren’t then I am not sure what the solution is.

    4. Life
    This is one I find as an oddity of sorts because it has nothing to do with board gaming specifically. If the stats are true (not denying they are) then they would be the contributing factor to ALL leisure activities for women, not just gaming. I think it is still relevant to the conversation to explain why there are less women, but it is not specific to gaming which is why I felt it a little odd. Are there any leisure activities that are dominated by women? If so, why are there more women than men? Just curious questions.

    Anecdotally, I don’t live in a household where I feel like these charts are true (although people will often say the husband just doesn’t realize how little he is doing :P). I have a fulltime job and my wife stays at home so she takes care of most of the house hold + care-giving when I am gone (so actually our charts would be more extreme than that). However, if you charted those things on the time we are actually both at home and I am not working I think it would be a lot closer. When my wife does get free time though she does not naturally gravitate towards board games so I don’t believe this to be a barrier for her. All of this is anecdotal though, and there may be lots and lots of wives out there that simply want to game but can’t because their husbands don’t help out, I don’t actually know if that is true but in my experience most women that I know simply just aren’t that interested in gaming. They will participate if they are around and people ask them to but I could never fathom them saying “lets get together to play games!”.

    I do think that things are changing though in regards to this. I run a gaming group at my work and pre-covid we played EVERY day at lunch. The ratio of men to women was probably 80/20 (maybe 70/30 on a good day) but that could also be because of the nature of my work place (there are way more men than women, which could be a problem or not, depending on how you view the 4 points you pointed out).

    If I haven’t bored you by that giant wall of text (and yes, I talk a lot in person too :)) I want to say that I think your article was a good starting point to this conversation, it certainly caused me to raise some questions in my own mind, but I don’t think that I am fully convinced which is why I was hoping for some more clarity. Depending on a person’s worldview they can come at this totally differently, some people have responded to your article with sentiments of “it is basically proven fact because the charts don’t lie” all the way to “this thing and that thing doesn’t matter”. I think we need to take a measured approach and try to understand why we disagree, I am willing to bet that I agree with you more on this topic than we disagree, we just need to find where the discrepancies are and work through them.

    Thanks for your insight and being willing to talk through something that can sometimes be sensitive to various types of people.

      1. Jamey, no problem and thanks for clarifying! I don’t think it was wrong, bad or even unfitting for the message, I think that it is important to clarify terms though (especially today since word meanings change almost every day it seems). Exclusion in our society today has a very negative connotation, but it really shouldn’t in all cases. The type and form of exclusion matters and I think that was where I leading with (although I don’t know that I fully illustrated that point).

    1. Firstly, if you want responses, perhaps you should try to express fewer points — your reply is about twice as long as the article you are replying to!

      I’ll give you two samples, from two board gaming groups me and my wife have attended (my wife being a bigger boardgamer than me).

      Group 1, a public group in Oxford UK. The group was all men. We played Risk. My wife won. One of the other players started shouted “fuck this”, threw their chair on the group and stormed out. We were told “Oh, that’s X, he’s doesn’t like losing to girls. You’ll get used to him”. We didn’t go back.

      Group 2, Another group. The group was < 10% women, it was our first time. They were playing Shadows Over Camalot and wanted another player. They asked if I wanted to join. I said "No, I think my wife would prefer this". They said "Are you sure, it might be too complicated for her". We'd never met these people before, why would they think it would be too complicated for her, but not for me?

      1. Your point about getting replies with fewer points is valid, however it is my experience that conversations over the internet do not go very well because a lot of assumptions are made so it has caused me to be more verbose in an attempt to provide a clearer context.

        The two examples you gave are useful, but not necessarily things that have a root cause of the demographic being primarily white men. I have played games with disrespectful men and disrespectful women, in my experience both genders are equal opportunity offenders (someone who loves statistics might actually say that for me women are much higher offenders by % since the sample of them is so much smaller :P).

        The point is, people need to be decent to each other, hopefully we can all agree on that! :)

    2. Hi there, I’m so glad this post was thought-provoking for you. It has generated a lot of comments here and in many other places and replying to them is taking up a lot of my time. Your question is six pages long. Could you perhaps spend some more time reading and reflecting, then clarify what questions you actually want me to answer in a few bullet points?

      1. Condensed version (it looks like, but they are bullet points below):
        1. Gamenight
        Is your issue more with people’s actions/words or the fact that the group is mostly white men?

        2. Games
        If a company knows they will make more money by creating a game with a mostly white male cast of characters, in your view is the company doing something wrong?

        3. Role Models
        You may have answered this elsewhere, but is it possible that there are other reasons why there are less women than men in game design? Are those reasons explainable and more importantly justifiable? Do you feel like this is important in all fields of work? Example: Do boys need more male pre-school and kindergarten school teachers?

        4. Life
        Is this correlation or causation?
        I say this because I feel like your chart is very misleading because it is taken out of context. If you look at all of the categories cited by the website you pulled your data from (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t01.htm#tus_tu_nr1.f.2) it also shows:
        Women
        – Spend 25 min per day more than men sleeping
        – Work 1.45 hours less than men per day

        Let’s assume that the following categories are “non-work time”:
        Personal Care (aka sleep)
        Eating and Drinking
        Organizational, civic, and religious activities
        Leisure and sports
        Telephone calls, mail, and e-mail
        Other activities, not elsewhere classified

        And the following are “work time” activities:
        Household activities
        Purchasing goods and services
        Caring for and helping household members
        Caring for and helping nonhousehold members
        Working and work-related activities
        Educational activities

        Then that would mean equate to the following:
        Men – Working Time: 7.27
        Men – Non-Working Time: 16.73
        Women – Working Time: 7.29
        Women – Non-Working Time: 16.71

        If you think I miscategorized the data above then let me know how you would have arranged them to determine what is “work time” and “non-work time”. This seems to indicate a very small amount of disparity (if any).

        Looking forward to your thoughts.

        1. 1.Is your issue more with people’s actions/words or the fact that the group is mostly white men?

          Both. Walking into a room of only white men can be offputting, as I said, because it’s a red flag that the behavior in the room may have scared off other women. Many groups then go on to confirm this with their behavior, and some don’t. I will also point out again, that you may never have noticed the behaviors that cause women not to come back even if they happened right in front of you, because they were not directed at you.

          2. If a company knows they will make more money by creating a game with a mostly white male cast of characters, in your view is the company doing something wrong?

          In my view they are being shortsighted business-wise. No one KNOWS what will sell well, but why would you assume that an all-white-male cast of characters will sell best, when white males only make up, for example, 36% of the US population (and far less than that worldwide)? Why would you not want to appeal to a wider group of people? It is both a nice thing to do and, I would argue, good business.

          3. You may have answered this elsewhere, but is it possible that there are other reasons why there are less women than men in game design? Are those reasons explainable and more importantly justifiable? Do you feel like this is important in all fields of work? Example: Do boys need more male pre-school and kindergarten school teachers?

          yes, I think a lot of boys would benefit from having more male teachers. There are lots of reasons people do the things they do, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be aware of things in our own behavior that might be unintentionally pushing people out of a hobby we enjoy. If I have control over some things but not others, I work on the things I have control over.

          4. Life
          I’d still like to see more couples with kids figure out a way for both parents to game if they want to. It was so striking to go to Essen last year and see so many families enjoying the con together — that has not been my experience at any US con that I’ve been to, although I haven’t been to all of them and I know some are trying hard to figure this out.

  17. Great article Elizabeth. As a hispanic designer myself, I’m grateful that I have never experienced any sort of prejudice towards myself or others around me, although I know it exists in our hobby. It is a shame that some people brush it off if they haven’t experienced it themselves. Hopefully articles like this bring these issues to the forefront so that we can all be conscious of the problem and be able to stand for inclusiveness when we see it being threatened at game nights and conventions where we should all be able to sit down together and have a great time.

  18. I absolutely agree with your conclusion and love all the points you make. One thing that stuff out as odd though is the fact that males leave their partners with the kids while they go game. It’s seems somewhat unfair To describe as “dumping the kids in them” as their partner may not be interested in gaming anyway and maybe they have their own hobby during which the father may watch the kids. However I totally understand that it definitely happens and it’s unfortunately not uncommon for a woman to take the lions share of children’s care. I’m a straight white male so I’m sure my perspective is littered with bias. Sadly I must say that some of my interactions in gaming and the industry have undoubtedly clouded by sexist actions of my own and assumptions made around the gaming table. I hope to do better and want my game table to be as welcoming as possible.

  19. I find myself at a mixture of “These stats don’t mean anything.” And “Yeah that makes a lot of sense.” On one hand, I’ve never bought a game based on sex, sexual orientation, or race. I buy all my games because they look fun…and, even though I’m a white male, I don’t identify with the pictures on the cards…if its a dungeon crawler, and I wanna be a fighter, I’ll pick the fighter no matter what they look like. However, that graph about men and women and leisure activities, really made me examine my own relationship with my wife abd the jobs we do around the house. She doesn’t love games like I do, but she still like to play them. So if I help her out more, and we even up those graphs, she can either play a game with me, or do more of whatever she wants to do.

    I think, as a gamer, the only way to add more diversity to the hobby is to introduce more people to gaming. That makes it our responsibility to seek out diverse friends…this can be tricky, because you don’t want to just go make black or female friends to just check a diversity box…but maybe stepping outside of your comfort zone and inviting a random person or two to play with you at a convention…or having game nights with co-workers…it’s tough with Covid, but have a party game night. Tell your friends to bring one friend. Have a good time. Get the new friend’s contact info and start assimilating them into the slippery slope of board gaming. Once more people start to love it, we will see more diverse interest in the development side…i mean, if the majority of the people who play board games are white males, then the majority of the creators are going to be white males.

    Id love to see a survey of people who like to play games, and have them be asked:

    Have you ever considered going to a gaming convention? Why or Why not?

    I’m thinking the majority would probably say “Time/Money” or “I like games, but not THAT much.”

    I’m kind of all over the place…thanks for reading if you made it this far…

    I whole heartedly agree about women getting hit on at these conventions…or just in general…don’t be a creep, dudes. Don’t ask for a date at the game table.

    Anyway…those are my thoughts.

    1. I love games, and I have the time and money to attend cons, but frankly I’m intimidated by going to something like GenCon. I’m a cis white female in a male dominated career, so being the odd one out is my professional life. Confronting that in my social life feels extra exhausting for a lot of the inclusion reasons Elizabeth pointed out above (being hit on, being talked down to, having people speak poorly about your gender while you are present). That being said, I would like to go to GenCon at some point to try it.

      Regarding your point about picking characters, how often is the fighter not a white male? For me, I rarely have the experience of picking a character that already aligns with my self image. Just recently have I really even noticed this since it’s such a common experience, and it was because I got excited about a game that had all female characters and I surprised myself by picking a class I usually wouldn’t. Now I find myself looking and noticing that I do preferentially pick female characters in games. It does matter!

  20. Lots of interesting comments, but there is one thing that bothers me when Americans talk about race relations. They do not seem to always understand that race relations are different in different countries. This post uses statistics from the article by Pobuda, which uses the American definition of white to assess designers from other countries. This definition excludes people with Spanish names, but includes people from North Africa and the Middle East. This definition makes perfect sense in the US, since most people in the US with Spanish names are from Latin America and where African-American is used for black people of African descent. But how well does this work when applied globally? The article by Pobuda classifies for instance all Spanish designers are non-white. As for cover art, how do you classify games like Istanbul and Targi? Using US definition, they must be classified as white people on the cover, while I believe most Europeans would not think of them like that. I of course agree that these issues probably do not significantly change the figures, but to me it is important that we use terms in a consistent manner, and it is important to understand that diversity is a local concept and not global.

    Let me give you an interesting example from the movie industry. My impression is that many Asian-Americans were excited about the movie Crazy Rich Asians, since all the roles were filled Asians. However, having lived most of my life in Singapore, I was shocked by the way the movie did not show any non-Chinese people in Singapore, except for some Indian security guards. So a movie that is seen as a beacon of diversity in one location, might be seen as problematic in another location.

    1. “Hispanic” status in the US is actually stacked on top of the race categories–it’s why on US TV or in US print media you get the phrase “non-hispanic white” all the time. Hispanic folks can be whatever combination of races seems appropriate to them/whoever’s doing the counting.

      (As someone that’s lived all over the place, the categories everywhere are not quite the same as anywhere else. The classification scheme in Singapore trips over black africans, I believe–the CIMO model is very Singapore-centric.)

      1. I agree with what you’re saying here. I could go on and on about race classification in Singapore, too. My point is just that this is difficult, and that Pobuda did not seem to make any attempt at addressing the issues. Actually, I think she did make one attempt. She compared the US classifications with the Canadians. So, yes, she is not US-centric, she is North American-Centric. :-)

    2. I haven’t looked back at the Pobuda article in a while — but to the extent that this methodology resulted in white people with Hispanic surnames being coded as POC, it would just means that the situation is even whiter what the chart shows.

      1. That is true, but that was not my point. My point is that if you are trying to discuss a global hobby, you should show some respect for global diversity and avoid American-centric terminology and viewpoints. If I am reviewing a paper and discover serious flaws, I don’t say “that’s OK, her conclusions agrees with my view, so it is OK” or “this time the error went in the right direction, so I will just ignore it”.

        1. Helmer: The core of this particular article is about women, not race. I appreciate your perspective, but let’s stay focused on the core of the article for this particular discussion. I’m happy to consider an article about the impact of American-centric views in the future.

    3. Kevin Kwan’s book, Crazy Rich Asians, on which the movie was based, is the story of wealthy Chinese and Taiwanese families who live in Singapore. Thus, the casting of Chinese actors in the movie.

      1. True, but that only applies to the main characters. What I’m talking about are the scenes from the food courts, the parties and so on. I don’t recall seeing any non-Chinese other that two security guards. That is not representative of Singapore.

  21. Thank you so much for posting this. This is definitely an interesting subject, and some great points were brought up. Unfortunately this is something I feel isn’t strictly limited to the board game community. I feel like most industries or people who could be classified into any sort of a group definitely have a stereotypical demographic that dominates them and that those sort of people are naturally drawn to each other based on their similarities and that this unintentionally forms biases within those groups and can make anyone who doesn’t fit that ideal mold feel like an outsider and like they don’t quite belong.

    I feel like the first step to being able to break past the biases is recognizing that they are there. So thank you so much for helping to spur on this conversation!

  22. Every time that I have written about this feeling, people have said, “Can’t you just push through? People mean well!” — From the article.

    Women and minorities should not have to “push through”. How about creating an environment where these people do not have to “push through”? It is people’s inaction as well as actions that created this difficult environment in the first place. Those who are in the majority do not have this added challenge in the gaming community and it is they who bear the responsibility to create a better environment.

  23. Thank you Elizabeth! Very insightful.

    I appreciate that although you start with the outcome data (way more white male designers and board game cover representation), to examine that further you look at the opportunities, and where we can create more equal opportunities. I appreciate that focus because changing outcomes is a long game, and it may never be totally equal because of other factors. But moving toward equal opportunities is something we can impact – it’s just a lot more difficult to measure so sometimes it gets lost in the conversation.

    I see this similarly in my work in mathematics education. Sure, we would love an outcome to be that more women and POC pursue STEM careers. But more importantly, we want them to have the opportunity to choose STEM as their career path, and confidence in their math abilities (and related skills, that help in any career).

  24. A very thought provoking article. I have a few things I have taken from it.
    The use of gender specific pronouns in rule books/games has grated on me for several years there is just no reason to continue it. The box art/game art being skewed was not something I have noticed but no doubt will going forwards.
    In this vein something that has annoys me in this diversity respect is the utter lack of diversity in the miniatures industry, how often are minis (non historical) only depicted as white males, if you do get females how often are they sexualised. In a fantasy or sci-fi setting there can be no justification for this lack of diversity. This follows through to miniatures as gaming peices in board games, there might be a token female character but anything more radical than that is a no go. This may be balancing, my recent KS backings being more evenly split but that might just be what I have been exposed to recently.

  25. Jamey and/or Elizabeth: Would it be possible to do a chart of the breakdown of the Top 200 BGG designers by race and gender from 2010 to 2019 (or, even to this point in 2020)? I think that would be a lot more informative than just the breakdown from one year, as we could see which way things are trending, or if this ratio has always existed. Thanks.

      1. I have no idea how to do it accurately. I can look at the game designer’s name and make assumptions. I can go search for a photo of them and again make assumptions based on their photo. How would you go about doing this accurately?

  26. This is such a valuable write up, connecting the dots and ends of so many discussions that can lead to so much frustration and misunderstanding. The common goal here, which all gamers can unite behind, is that more diversity = more, and more awesome games. Period. And everything you’ve gathered and pointed out here helps support that common goal.

    Thank you!

  27. Fantastic insight, Elizabeth! The graphs perfectly illustrate the current state of the industry and the opportunities for more inclusion. Speaking of which, Mr. Jamey Stegmaier, if you ever wanted to do a mini expansion for Viticulture with some papa with papa and mama with mama pairings, I will be one of your first customers! :)

  28. Thank you so much for mentioning income disparities and second shift issues! Every time people talk about diversifying the hobby I’m yelling at my audio/video device about just this. As someone who is childfree by choice and in a long-term partnership with a feminist man, it’s not been a big barrier for me, but it has been for many I know.

    1. Mindy, I’m in exactly the same category. Having watched so many of my female friends drop out of gaming while they had small kids, I sincerely doubt whether Wingspan would exist if I had had children.

  29. I was raised in a progressive household to never “see” gender, orientation, ethnicity, race, religion, disability or social economic status. Since then I have learned how dismissive and the epitome of privilege that mindset. Every day members of each marginalized group are forced to see it, sometimes on a micro level, sometimes on a macro one, live it and push through to the next day. Thank you for continuing to call attention. As more of us practice “seeing” every day, inclusion and eventually equality will grow. It does take practice daily.

  30. Thank you so much Elizabeth for this insightful article! It’s an uphill battle for all minorities in gaming I think… just as it is in life. We have to change expectations and attitudes.

  31. I never consider the sex, gender, race, economic status, or religious persuasion of a game’s designer when considering the purchase of a new game. And neither does any casual gamer who happens into a game store. I don’t know anybody who does, and I suspect nobody does. It’s irrelevant. I won’t buy a game just because the designer is not a white male, nor will I buy one just because he is a white male. That’s not reasonable nor mature.

    The demographics of designers and the gaming community is not the problem. This is like complaining about the demographics of professional basketball teams. Either the NBA is prejudiced against short white men, or short white men have chosen not to compete (whether they can or not is inconsequential). You find a lack of diversity in many fields, but it’s not considered a problem.

    I suspect the overwhelming majority of people in the gaming community are kind, inviting, and considerate. Sure, there is a tiny minority of, let’s just say, “socially immature,” individuals. But that’s true of any population group. (You should see all the sinners at church!) As mature adults, we can choose to avoid those people and maybe facilitate their growth as well. (Not that we have any responsibility to train someone like that, so it is totally legitimate to ignore that kind of person.)

    If the problem is too much white male representation in the gaming community, the solution is a partnership between those not-white-males outside of the community with white males in the community to make the community feel more inviting to all not-white-males.

  32. My key takeaway? We need to be aware of how people feel, and deliberately act with the benefit of other people in mind.

    There are two things I know about statistics.
    1. Statistics don’t lie.
    2. Statistics don’t give the WHY.

    One could posit that the reason there is so much representation of white men in the hobby is because it’s population is mostly white men. Which also means that most of the designers will be white men. That’s not a judgment, just an observation of the obvious. However, I’m glad the hobby and the industry are both growing in the right direction.

    I got into the hobby relatively late (about 2015), so by the time I started getting together with gaming groups, I saw the same thing. Mostly white guys, a few women, some people of other races, etc. I’ve never personally seen anyone be treated the way Ms. Hargrave indicates, and I’m not sure why. I’m not sure if it’s my geographical area (I also live in the STL, where we have a vast, thriving gaming community), or if it’s something else. However, I know the stories are many and varied, and I don’t doubt at all that they happen.

    People are, by and large, very self-centered. We look out for our own interests first instead of how we can be of help to others. We don’t consider other’s feelings ahead of our own, and we tend not to put ourselves in other people’s shoes if it might make us feel uncomfortable. To me, this isn’t a social issue so much as it is a heart issue.

    THE BEST THING WE CAN DO is lead by example. Be deliberate about welcoming everyone to the table, regardless of another person’s race, sex, sexual orientation, or religion. Shut down comments that would make others feel marginalized, and kindly correct them. Let it be known that discrimination of any kind at the table should never be tolerated. This should be the standard for every game night, FLGS, game publisher, and convention. If we’re all about inclusion, then let’s be inclusive.

    I’ve gamed with blacks, whites, latinos, hispanics, Asians, Africans, gays, lesbians, transgendereds, non-binaries, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists . . . and you know what the only thing that matters is? That you’re at the table, and that we’re sharing an experience together.

    So if I can help make your experience at the table better, please let me know, and I’ll gladly do that.

    1. I was moved to comment, but you said everything I was going to say.

      I was about to sign the dotted line on a board game cafe as the COVID closures hit. Luckily we waited. Our sole goal was to bring board games to everyone.

      To move forward, everyone has a part to play.
      Gamers need to be more inclusive and welcome all new gamers.
      Publishers need figure out how to market better to a larger gaming community.
      All types of designers need to seize this opportunity to get their games out there.

  33. I’m so glad to see the dramatic shift in demographics of our hobby/ industry over the last 20 years.
    Like any change, there are some that don’t handle it well, and even those who actively resist it. Like any beginning, we still have a long way to go.
    I look forward to that future and will do whatever I can to support it.

  34. The answer to inclusion is to invite people to the table. Literally. Period.

    If you want more racial inclusion in gaming include your black friends in your gaming. That is how you invite and potentially create change.

    And if you don’t really have any black friends? …then think about that for a minute. That’s your first step.

    Talking about it helps, yes, but not as much, because talking about it doesn’t suddenly manifest black gamers. Complaining about it helps drastically less, because complaining pushes everyone away (including black gamers). But inviting people to game with you… yes, that helps. : )

    1. I think this is true to a point. I look at the games I own, and only one has Black characters in the art. While I may be an inclusive and well-meaning host by bringing people to the table, there are these subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) implications that some people don’t belong.

    2. Inviting folks to the table is definitely important, but you also have to maintain a space that is safe for those people you invite to the table. Inviting women to the table, only to have them face condescension and sexism from others at the table, will not over time increase the inclusivity of your table over time, despite the fact that you’ve invited plenty of women to your table.

        1. Sorry, my qestion was to JohnWrot! about inviting black friends to the table.
          I cant relate to most of the thinks in this article becouse :
          i dont attend any conventions.
          i got small group of friends, and we always play togeter in private setting ( sometimes wife of one of them joins us for one game, but usualy she just goes out to meet up with her friends)
          I also dont consider any physical characteristics of an autor when picking up a game.

  35. What can one do to make it more inclusive?
    In terms of publishing and designing a game it seems that one can make it more welcoming by writing the rules so that they will address a general audience and not use verbs such as he or she specifically.
    Also art should be more inclusive and welcoming when possible.
    As for the gamers side, when you see someone at a con or game night it means that someone is a gamer just like you some treat them just as you’ll treat any gamer.

    What more can we do other then hoping it will bring more diverse audience in to the hobby until with time that feeling of unwholesomeness will not be there anymore.

    Did I get it right? Or did I miss something?

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