Marrying Mr Darcy

Ima be frank. As a queer poly feminist fairly critical of the legacy of the institution of marriage and its role is the historical oppression of women–who on top of this pretty much can’t stand Jane Austen–this game is, uh, not my favorite in theme. But it’s kind of cute in game play and a lot of folks like it, so I thought we’d take a look. It performs about exactly as I would have guessed on the representation front.

For those of you unfamiliar, Marrying Mr Darcy is a card-based role game, where you try to increase your character’s stats (Wit, Beauty, Reputation, Friendliness, and Cunning) to try to snag the best husband possible. Sigh. 

Two cards from the game, one showing a Character and the other a Suitor

Race/Nationality

This is an example of a game that does not showcase any racially diverse characters, but where it arguably makes sense within the theme. All the characters in the game are the same as the characters in the source material; all of those characters are white. Now, if we could just get an equivalent number of games published in the industry based on works featuring people of all sorts of races, ethnicities, and cultures, this individual game wouldn’t be an issue at all.

But still:

0 stars

Gender

A rarity in the games world, every single playable character is female! 1

In addition to the 8 playable female characters, there are 5 male Suitors (essentially victory cards sought by players).

The backs of the Character cards feature a silhouette of a woman & and the Event cards show a silhouette of a man and woman together. When people are pictured on the fronts of the even cards, overwhelming the pictures are of women. Of the 31 Event cards with people on them, less than 10% showed only men. About 42% showed only women and 48% showed men and women together.

This is awesome! No depictions of gender-diverse folks; however. Still, a stand-out and impressive:

2 stars

Sexuality

This game is pretty much Heteronormativity(TM), The Board Game. Really not much else to say here.

The entire game is about seeking relationships, but only socially-sanctioned straight ones (regardless of your character’s actual wishes). The only option to not be forced into a straight marriage is to become an Old Maid, whereupon your chance of winning becomes pretty much luck-based:

A card showing the outcomes for the dice roll for being the Old Maid.
LIFE GOALS

0 stars

Body

There’s some mix of different body shapes-curvy/not curvy, slight height differences, etc. but not huge. No folks with visible impairments.

1 star

Overall

Overall, a lot of the lack of diversity in this game can be blamed on the source material. This might be why it doesn’t make me feel quite as gross as some other games. (Or maybe it’s that the whole theme already makes me feel gross, so a bit more isn’t very noticeable.) But it is cool to see a game showcasing so many women! More of this!

Race ☆☆☆
Gender ★★☆
Sexuality ☆☆☆
Body ★☆☆
Overall Average 0.75

 

Notes:

  1. It would be infinitely nicer to see this in game without such a loaded “female” theme of trying to snag a husband, however.

Entropy

I’m still riding the wave of feeling accomplished and pleasant after a week of serious acrobatics, so let’s focus on a gorgeous little game today that makes me quite happy: Entropy!

For those of you unfamiliar, Entropy is a secret action game themed around the collision of 5 parallel worlds. You have to navigate actions around other characters to find fragments of your reality to rebuild your little corner of existence. It’s fairly fast, easy to pick up, but with a fair amount of subtle strategic complexity. I like it quite a lot.

Plus the artwork is just GORGEOUS.  It makes me happy to just look at it. Plus it’s made by Australian designers, and I always enjoy supporting the local gaming community. 

Here’s a picture of the six playable characters (including The Ronin, which I think is technically an expansion, but I believe they came with all of the original Kickstarter releases?) At a glance, we can already see it does pretty great on the representation front. Winning all around!

Entropy Playable Characters

But let’s unpack it a little more.

Race/Nationality

Of the six playable characters, two are white and one is a robot/cyborg/machine-bodied. The other three are coded as people of colour. This is awesome!

But the action cards lose this casual and delightful mix of different kinds of people–of the 5 action cards in each player’s set that depict people, all 5 of the people pictured are white. Not sure what happened there.

But we weight playable characters higher in general and either way, this is a solid:

2 stars

Gender

Two of the characters are pretty clearly male-coded. One is fairly clearly female-coded. The cyborg has a traditionally female name (Mary) but no visual gender coders. Only The Ronin’s eyes are visible–their gender like most of their identity is concealed. 1 Advaranau is coded quite genderqueer to me.

It’s worth noting that within the theme, these characters are all from parallel worlds, and I enjoy the idea the art invokes that the gender and gender-presentation of characters may be different because the societal lenses of their home world could be different.

I’d say ‘I’m unable to sort characters into a strict societally-induced gender binary’ to be a pretty solid top score for diverse gender representation.

3 stars

Also, you’ll never convince me that the Anchor isn’t a Georgia O’Keefe-esque definitely-not-vaginal-art-what-are-you-talking-about wonder: 

A picture of The Anchor. Which definitely doesn't look like a shiny vagina. (I lie. It totally does.)

Sexuality

There aren’t any mechanics that allow choices that imply sexuality, but both Advaranau and Jessup read queer to me. As they’re both playable characters, this also earns top marks:

3 stars

Body

We actually don’t have heaps to go on here. Of the humans pictured on the action cards, most are only partial views of bodies, swathed in clothes, etc., but the art is very evocative of actual humans with realistic proportions and a few different fairly average body shapes.

The playable characters are only heads and tops of the chests. They too all have a very ‘actual human proportions’ feel to them, with a bit of variety in face shapes and such.

Also, one of the only games we’ve seen featuring people with physical impairments! It’s unclear to me whether this is a subtle part of the world-building I am not aware of, but many of the characters have something going on with their left eye. The Ronin, who has been in the Nexus (place where the fractured realities intersect) the longest, appears to be completely blind in this eye. Advaranau has a clear biomechanical implant in place of their eye. Jessup possibly does as well. Cenec appears to have his biological eye intact, but injured. Only Kintriel appears to have both eyes healthy and unimpaired, but she has a facial tattoo around this eye. (Mary–the cyborg–has no visible eyes at all.)

I am very curious about the reasons behind this, but also pleased to see people with a physical impairment featured so heavily in the playable characters (particularly in a way that seems subtle, interesting, and intriguing–a double bah to the bullshit crowd that says any depiction of people with disabilities or impairments in game art is always ‘forced’ or anachronistic).

3 stars

Overall

Our highest scoring game to date! (If you recall, Villainy got close but was docked points for grossness. No grossness here.) 

I love a lot about this game, but the subtle and natural weaving in of a whole variety of people is definitely a wonderful part of it.

And seriously, the artwork, whoa. Just go look at it.

Overall,

Race ★★☆
Gender ★★★
Sexuality ★★★
Body ★★★
Overall Average 2.75

Notes:

  1. I realised just as I was about to publish that the rulebook explicitly refers to The Ronin with male pronouns, but this doesn’t really change any of my overall thoughts here.

Updates: On radio silence, PAXAus, GXAustralia, & more

Hello, all!

A few updates about life at A Place at the Tabletop:

  • First up, apologies for the radio silence! The major work project I have been working on went live recently and consumed my brain/life/soul in the process. Then I immediately jumped a plane to Byron Bay to go do acrobatics in the bush with no connectivity for a week to recover from that nonsense. I am back on the grid now and you can expect a return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.
  • Second, happy to announce A Place at the Tabletop will be hosting a panel at PAXAus!
    Geekological Diversity: Tabletop Edition – Saturday, 5 November at 2:00pm in Kookaburra Theatre
    We hear a lot about issues of diversity & representation in video gaming. But what about the tabletop side of geekdom? Don’t those nerds deserve to see themselves represented in their games too? So who’s doing this well? Who’s doing it badly? What does that even mean? Can you have good games that handle representation issues poorly? How do we engage with problematic games as conscientious gamers? Join a gamer, creator, blogger, & academic to explore these critical questions.

I’ll also be on another panel on the more general issue of how to create kickass nerd spaces that aren’t full of assholes:
Cultivating Safe & Inclusive Nerd Spaces –  Friday, 4 November  at 6:30pm in Kookaburra Theatre
So you’ve recognized our community has a problem with inclusivity & hasn’t always prioritized the safety/needs of people from different backgrounds. But enough about the problem–what are you going to do about it? It’s one thing to want safe, inclusive spaces. It’s another to make them happen. This panel is targeted at everyone who wants to take an active role in creating more diverse & inclusive nerd spaces. Come along to learn specific, practical, tested strategies for building such spaces.

Come say hi!

  • Also, remember when I said to watch this space to see what happened with getting drunk with one of the organisers of GXAustralia and offering to help grow the tabletop side of next year’s con? Well, it’s official!

    Be on lookout in the Kickstarter updates for a post from yours truly about all the awesome tabletop stuff we have planned for our second year. (Also, if you’re planning to attend and want to get involved volunteering, running games, or speaking on panels about tabletop issues, hit me up on Twitter!)

    And while we’re on the subject, if you care about queer representation and general inclusivity at cons (which I assume you do if you’re here!), you should definitely be throwing money at the GXAustralia Kickstarter. Back now for early-bird rates for a pass for yourself or someone else, or just throw in a few bucks in solidarity if you’re not going to be able to make it out. 9 days left!

Hope to see some of you at one of these cons!

-Brit