Women and the Board Game Community

Today is International Women’s Day and I thought that for my first post in quite some time, I would discuss my thoughts on the board game community and the inclusion (or lack thereof sometimes) of women.

Like many other “geeky” hobbies, board gaming has a long history of being made by men for men. Many of you have probably seen the now infamous cover of one of the original versions of Battleship. It features a man and presumably his son playing a game of Battleship while the two women in the family are washing dishes.

While this is a dated example, sexism within the board gaming community still exists. Just this past week, there’s been a huge debate on Board Game Geek (within the Women & Gaming forum, I may add) where a designer asked for the opinions of women for art for his upcoming game as he felt it was oversexualized. Many women agreed but there were also many men who chimed in saying that men were oversexualized as well. Thankfully, this seemed to be the minority, but the point remains the same: that women in gaming are often overshadowed by the men who dominate the hobby.

It’s not just representation in games that matters however. Representation in the industry is also important, and is another area that is lacking. Of the top 100 games on Board Game Geek, only one was solely designed by a woman (Mansions of Madness Second Edition, in case you’re wondering). In my own collection, I have only a handful of games with female designers and none are solely by a female designer. There are more female board game artists I’ve seen (Beth Sobel is the big one that comes to mind), but the lack of representation is telling of how insular and male-dominated this hobby is.

Still, things have been changing. One of the hottest games right now is Wingspan. This game, which I regretfully have not played yet, is designed by a woman and all three credited artists are women. One Deck Dungeon, while designed by a male, features an all female cast. Roll Player features a male or female choice for each race represented in the game. Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower has talked a lot about trying to have a diverse group of contributors. Two of the main contributors to their podcast, Mandi and Suzanne, are women of colour with very different tastes in games. Suzanne in particular is very much a champion for diversity in the board game industry, and I think as a community, we need more of that.

One of Suzanne’s many tweets about women in the board game industry

In my personal experience as a board gamer, I have felt some of these issues. I remember fighting with my sisters when I was younger because the game had only one or two female characters and there were three of us. I’ve noticed most times I’m at a board game meetup or convention, there are not very many women around playing games. While I’ve never personally felt like I was excluded from a game because I’m female, I know there are women out there who have.

The industry has come a long way, but there is a lot that can still be done to bring diversity to games, both on the board and around the table.

8 thoughts on “Women and the Board Game Community

  1. I’ve seen more and more women at various conventions I’ve been at, but you’re right that it’s still not at the level it could be.

    It’s interesting. I did a post about Mandi & Suzanne joining the Dice Tower in response to some of the uproar in the Dice Tower guild on BGG, and it started hitting 20-30 views a month starting in December. I’m not sure why, but even before that it was 10-15 hits a month.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for writing this up. I guess I never really notice women being treated differently before. A few years ago, I did self evaluate that I offered advice to women during games I was teaching more than I did for men. I certainly wasn’t doing it consciously but now I try to pay more attention to that. No one ever said anything so I hope I didn’t offend anyone unintentionally.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a father of 2 daughters, I’ve made myself be more aware of sexism in general, yet I never really considered the lack of women game designers or artists. I’m glad you wrote this. Now getting a hold of Wingspan takes slightly more importance than it had when it was just a game I wanted 😁.

    My groups have always had women, although it’s been mostly spouses of guys in the group, not always, but the ratio of men to women is still not great.

    I’ll be happy when I don’t have to read about women being treated badly at Cons and other things. And knowing that my daughters both will have to deal with that kind of garbage eats me up inside. The 16 yr old likely has to deal with it already in school, I hope the 5 yr old won’t need to, but I know better…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My friend Cathy saw this and has a podcast called Our Turn! It was initially a podcast by women about gaming but she has since broadened it to include all types of people. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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