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.
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.