Not many industries are immune to sexism. Our wonderful hobby of board and tabletop games has been dominated by males for a long time. You can walk in to most local game shops and see that tables are filled with men. Scan the boxes of your board game shelf and try to find female game designers and developers.
This discrepancy has been noted and talked about for years. The dialogue that goes on in forums and on social media has been downright hostile at times. This issue matters to me because I have two daughters and they need to know they have a place at the game table.
Changing Our Hobby
Our hobby is in the midst of change and it’s a good thing. I can remember hanging out at my local comic/game shop as a teenager. The place was filled with guys and every once in a while you would see a girl enter the shop. The atmosphere was incredibly intimidating. In some places around the country, this is still the case. In fact, we visited one of these shops while traveling recently.
As the board game hobby has grown, females have brought diversity and added so much to the culture. It’s awesome to see game companies that understand players want to see diversity. We’ve come a long way from seeing every game character depicted as a white male.
I want my kids to see more games like Pandemic that have female characters that are just as skilled as the male characters in the game. I love that my daughters have options in games like Colt Express that have strong female characters. It may seem like a little thing, but it’s important that my kids see female engineers and architects in games like Quadropolis.
While the examples above are fantastic, we still have a long way to go. Games like Conan include an underpowered, extremely dependent female character that is missing most of her clothes. This is a game that we’ll never own for a ton of reasons. It’s still a big problem that designers are writing game instructions that reference every player as “he”. You would be amazed at how many do this.
It’s awesome to see game companies that understand players want to see diversity.
People love plastic miniatures with their games and Kickstarter is full of games that have intricately designed minis. There is a real issue when these miniatures continue to include female characters that have so few clothes. We have sexualized women characters in games for so long that it’s become part of the landscape of the hobby and it’s absolutely not OK.
Let My Daughter Teach
This Christmas my oldest daughter received a couple games from us and her grandparents. She is the one in our family that is the least passionate about the hobby. She’ll usually play games but if she has art on the brain, she’ll usually pass on the game to go draw.
Since getting these games, she has taken so much pride in teaching other people how to play. These are her games. Games that she read the rules for. Games that she connects with because of the content. When new people sit down to play, she looks at Erin and I and says “I’ll teach them how to play”. I absolutely love this!
We have sexualized women characters in games for so long that it’s become part of the landscape of the hobby and it’s absolutely not OK.
She is gaining confidence because she’s passionate about teaching these games. Each time she teaches the games, she gets better at explaining the rules. Instead of taking 10 minutes to explain how to play, she’s knocking it out in 3.
I want my daughters to teach YOU how to play a game. I see the connection and the buildup of confidence when they do this. It’s exciting to see that my daughters know that they have a place at the game table. I pray that they never feel the intimidation that so many have experienced as they walk into a game shop or game convention and see that they are the minority.
Our hobby should be much more diverse than it is currently and it doesn’t stop with gender. We’re seeing a shift and it’s very encouraging to me as a Dad.
I want my girls to see that this hobby is for them. When looking at our game shelf, I want them to see more female designers and characters they can connect with. My daughters have a place at the table and they are ready to play.