…and then we held hands

So. This is a completely abstract, non-verbal 2-player collaborative game about feelings.

Image of the '...and then we held hands' game box.

I’ll let anyone who knows me well guess how I feel about it overall and refrain from rambling too much about my opinions of it as a game (subjecting you only to my opinions of it on the representation front, which are strong enough), because I know people who are not me who are better at feelings and shit in general who quite enjoy it.

For those of you unfamiliar, the theme of the game is that you’re in a relationship dealing with a difficult situation (it’s not specified what the situation is); you have to work smoothly with your partner to move through the situation by coordinating your efforts, predicting their behaviour, and acting in consideration of both them and yourself–all without talking or communicating in any way other than through your game place.

As mentioned, the actual game play is an abstract puzzle, matching emotion-themed coloured cards to coloured dots on a board to progress around and into the middle of several concentric circles, all while staying in ’emotional balance’ and not harming/blocking your partner. It has a few interesting mechanics–the way the cards swap orientation, being able to play with your own or your partner’s cards, etc.–but that’s about it. 1

This was one of the games named explicitly in early discussions by some of my friends as an example of why representation issues are basically a non-issue in many tabletop games, due to their completely abstract nature. And as you’ll see in the article, this game is actually a good example of why that thinking is a fallacy in many cases. We can see this specifically with…

Race/Nationality

Exhibit A. At a first glance, it may seem this game is too abstract for race to play a role at all.  The player tokens are just red & blue circles. There isn’t anything indicating what your player looks like or where they’re from or what their background is. There’s no explicit setting (although I would argue it’s implied modern times and probably also implied western developed world). You essentially play yourself, against your co-player who plays themselves-as-your-partner.

These are the circumstances where we might rate a N/A, where a game might truly be too abstract to look at issues of race/nationality.

EXCEPT–the emotion cards feature a lot of different artwork. 16 of which feature depictions of people (mostly children). Who are all white. 2

Sigh.

The only way issues of representation and diversity are a non-issue in this game is if you don’t actually think games frequently and consistently showcasing only people who are white is a problem.

I’m giving it:

0 stars

Gender

Here we do a bit better. Of the 16 cards featuring people, 9 depict female-presenting people and 7 present male-presenting people. This might be the first game I’ve written about where women/girls outnumber the men/boys, and the rulebook is written in gender-neutral language (more on that below). However, there are no indications of gender-diverse, trans, or non-gender-conforming characters.

Still,  a solid:

2 stars

Sexuality

This is the one area where this game does well, specifically in its presentation of game dynamics to be queer-inclusive. As noted, the entire premise of this game is based around a relationship dynamic. The rules and all game text uses clear gender-neutral language, making no assumptions about the gender of the players or the gender of the people they choose to partner with.

This is appreciated and well-deserving of full marks according to our scale.

3 stars

Body

All the human art features slender, nearly identical able-bodied children. If this game is abstract and the features of the people in the art don’t matter, don’t have any historical or game-play relevance… why can’t we get a diversity of bodies up in here?

0 stars

Overall

Sometimes people argue that all the characters HAVE to be white or HAVE to be men or HAVE to be able-bodied because Setting or History or Theme. So in an ‘abstract’ game absent a setting, absent a historical time period, and very light on theme… why do we still not see any diversity in representation of the people who are depicted in the game art? It’s extremely disappointing. (But explicitly allowing queer relationship dynamics is appreciated!)

Race ☆☆☆
Gender ★★☆
Sexuality ★★★
Body ☆☆☆
Overall Average 1.25

Notes:

  1. I personally found the ’emotional balance’ mechanism so thematically fucked that it broke the entire game for me. But footnoting this because I said I’d spare you my grumping.
  2. I guess brown kids are too abstract to even make it into this game?

Cold War: CIA vs KGB

This was a game that pleasantly surprised me.

For those of you unfamiliar, Cold War: CIA vs KGB is a two-player ‘Secret Unit Deployment’ card game, where one player plays the CIA and one plays the KGB. Players send ‘undercover agents’ to influence the outcomes of events in different regions of the world via the manipulation of various groups (represented by ‘group cards’). It’s quite light and a little more luck-based than I like, but I enjoy it on occasion.

I guess because so much…everything, really… surrounding the Cold War seems to forget that the conflict involved or impacted anyone other than (white, male) politicians, I opened this game up expecting it to fare poorly on my initial “Do non-white men exist?” test. But lo and behold, the creators seem to have made a deliberate effort to include depictions of historical people of different races and genders, including 3 of the 12 playable characters. High-fives.

Race

This is the category I was most impressed about. In the group cards (all which showed images of people), 36% depicted people of colour. There’s also a playable black character (on the US side) which I was not expecting but definitely appreciate in a game about Cold War era spies. (More of this!) The group cards depict events/groups of people throughout the world & 12 of the 21 objective (country or event) cards depict African, Asian, Latin American, or Middle Eastern countries, which is a good nod to how the Cold War affected places that were not just the US and USSR–it also depicts people of various countries and ethnicities in a variety of different roles, not just negative or stereotypical ones.

If you add the total number of cards-depicting-people together (group cards and all characters), we come in just under 30%. But 57% of geography card depict non-European or North American countries. All told, I feel positively about the creators’ efforts to depict a wide range of people and cultures in a game about history’s most famous decades-long White Dudes’ Dick Measuring Contest.

I’m giving it:

2 stars

Gender

There are two playable female characters, one for the CIA and one for the KGB. And in the group cards, 25% depict women.

Image of the USSR Assassin card, who is a woman.

This is better than I expected, but short of the two-star threshold. Given the subject matter and time period being depicted, I was tempted to round up for effort not usually seen around the topic BUT… there were absolutely zero depictions of women of colour. Yup–every one of the 10 group cards depicting people of colour depicted men only. AND the rulebook uses male pronouns, which is generally the loss of a full star. So I’m ditching the possible rounding for that and calling it:

1 star

Sexuality

There are no queer-coded characters or references to queer people that I could find in group or character cards. There are no mechanisms that could indicate a character’s sexuality, queer or otherwise.

Given how suspected homosexuals were persecuted as supposed ‘communists’ in the United States during the Cold War (not that the situation was any better in the USSR), it’s not like LGBT history is completely irrelevant to the Cold War. But it is to my casual observation, queer people are completely missing from Cold War: CIA v KGB. (I’d love to be proven wrong, though, if someone recognises a queer-related historical scene in the group cards I missed, let me know.)

0 stars

Body

The group cards all use actual historical photographs and show a diversity of real people and real bodies, sans photoshop and strict adherence to modern beauty standards. There are no depictions of people with disabilities I could find, which is disappointing, but there are muscular, fit soldiers and fat politicians and scrawny bankers and old wrinkled women and thin people and average-sized people and more.

2 stars

Overall

Overall, outperformed expectations given the theme, although obviously a few areas where representations of diversity could be improved.

Race ★★☆
Gender ★☆☆
Sexuality ☆☆☆
Body ★★☆
Overall Average 1.25

 

Tzolk’in

So I first played Tzolk’in on a date. They’d warned me they were recently out of a relationship and were even more recently realising they weren’t quite ready to date, but that my message what the best thing they had ever received on OKC (noting specifically the lack of sexism, racism, and homophobia in it and my profile–man, the bar is low for being awesome some days) and they’d like to meet up any way.

We went out a few times and sparks did not fly, but fuck did they introduce me to some cool games. I bought a copy of every game we’d played together after we both kind stopped replying to each other’s texts, and that was pretty much the best outcome of any date I’ve ever been on.

For those of you unfamiliar, Tzolk’in is an amazing worker placement game. It has one of the most interesting play mechanism I’ve ever seen. I don’t know any other games that are quite like it. And the board is wicked cool. AND it takes place entirely in an indigenous society in a way that seems deeply researched and minimally problematic.

Image of the laid-out board of Tzolk'in, featuring the unique gear-based game design.

Game play is based on a conceptualisation of Tzolk’in, the Mayan 1 calendar that controlled the daily life and rituals within traditional Maya culture. The board consists of one large main gear (divided into 26 sections, representing the 260 days of the original calendar), interlocking with 5 smaller gears. Each round, you advance the large gear one space, which rotates all of the smaller gears. These smaller gears have worker places, associated with different bonuses and actions that change as the gears rotate. The primary method of game play involves adding or removing workers from the smaller gears in a way that lets you maximise the bonuses and actions you want to take advantage of.

As I said, wicked cool. And better on the representation front than anything else we’ve looked at so far.

Race

I am not an indigenous scholar by any means, and while I did do a bit of further research while writing this article to confirm my initial impressions,  it’s possible I’ve missed some problematic elements in my ignorance. (Please let me know if this is the case!)

But overall, while certainly a bit reductionist by the nature of turning centuries of culture into an hour-long tabletop game, the game play and theme are deeply steeped in knowledge about Maya culture and land. Game play involves a rich and varied society–there are tracks & strategies for agriculture, production, technology, building, and religion. 2

The different gears are all named for major Maya cities and the resources & actions of those gears vaaaaguely correspond to things those cities were known for. There is an element where you can leave crystal skulls in Chichen Itza, which I thought was a classy way of handling the Tzompantli (skull platform) by modern standards.

The religious tracks honors 3 gods. This is the one area that’s a little dodgy, historically speaking. The gods are Chaac (Maya!), Kukulkan (Maya!), & Quetzalcoatl (definitely not Maya!). Quetzalcoatl is an Aztec god–in fact, the Aztec ‘equivalent’ of Kukulkan. So not sure what’s up with that, except creator ignorance?  Particularly since there are dozens and dozens of other Maya gods (and even a handful of goddesses) to chose from. Maybe Google was down that day? But I don’t think this minor mistake is problematic enough to dock points for.

Hands down:

3 stars.

Gender

In the next reprint, I can recommend Ixchel, Maya goddess of midwifery and medicine, to replace Quetzalcoatl? We could stand to get some ladies up in here. Also she’s a badass old woman/jaguar. Just sayin’.

The woman situation is a bit grim. Well, to be fair, there’s very little depictions of human/humanoid characters in the art at all. But of what there is: The cover on the box is dudely dude. All three gods are dudes. The generic ‘worker’ symbols are a little gender-ambiguous (all identical though), but from the limited information available about traditional Maya dress, overall body shape, etc., they lean more masculine in my perception. But they are carrying baskets of fruit on their head, a task that is usually heavily considered a female one in most depictions of ‘traditional’ cultures. So, not sure.

The rulebook does a lovely job of being gender-inclusive of players themselves, though. It alternates between using second-person (‘you’)  and using ‘he or she’, depending on context. Usually “uses gender neutral language” is my base standard and is not worthy of extra points, but I really appreciate in the specific examples it gave of game play, it alternated between giving examples with female players and male players in equal numbers.

So between that and the gender-ambiguity of the workers, I’m just barely giving it:

1 star.

Sexuality

For a game about calendar that is thought by many scholars to reflect the human gestational cycle that may have been originally crafted by Maya midwives to predict the birth dates of babies (which makes it even weirder there are zero women in art or female goddesses), this game has absolutely no references to sex, reproduction or sexuality. So I guess I’ll file this under “no mechanism for a player to make choices that implicitly identify a queer sexuality”. 3

Which is to say:

0 stars.

Body

Dude on the cover of the box is conventionally smokin’. But gender-ambiguous workers are solid and squat. Two of other gods have fairly generic bodies (one with a bit of a belly), and one is just a feathered head with no body. A limited number of bodies overall but each one is different and there’s no dominant body type. I think I’m going to go with:

2 stars.

Overall

Given the limited humanoid art and theme, I can forgive the lack of sexuality diversity. But not the complete lack of women, particularly given that one of the gods chosen wasn’t even  a Maya one. But the depiction of an indigenous society in a mainstream game was excellent! More like this!

Race ★★★
Gender ★☆☆
Sexuality ☆☆☆
Body ★★☆
Overall Average 1.5

 

Notes:

  1. Technically, this should be ‘Maya’ here as well–’Mayan’ refers only to language. But it’s what’s printed on the box, so we’ll go with it and not be overly pedantic.
  2. I note this because while games about European societies often have many or all of these elements (although not all), the handful of other games I can think of with substantial indigenous presence focus on a very limited or stereotypical reduction of indigenous life–like, ‘attack people with arrows’ or ‘hunt and migrate’. I know many games have to reduce entire societies to 1-2 elements by the nature of game development, but it’s nice to see one that recognises the diverse complexity of life in a non-European setting.
  3. There are so few human characters at all and the gender-ambiguous-meeple-art makes me want to lean towards an n/a a bit, though. Feedback welcome.

Puerto Rico

Oh, Puerto Rico. Such a great game, so deeply problematic.

DIGITAL CAMERA

I know I’m picking off some low-hanging fruit here, but I thought it was a good follow up to Catan, as discussed more below.

It’s long been rated one of the top games on Board Game Geek. A pure strategy game with zero luck-based components, the gameplay is unique, challenging, and very well-designed–if you can get over the fact that you literally get little brown slaves off of boats and force them to work on your plantations for free. 1

Yeah.

That’s a thing.

I mean, it calls them ‘colonists’ not slaves, but not sure that euphemism makes it better or worse.

So yeah.

For those of you unfamiliar, Puerto Rico is a phase game where you play as a colonial governors settling Puerto Rico. Similar to Race for the Galaxy, only the phases selected by players at the beginning of the round happen that round. You grow plantations, build buildings, get slaves from the mayor to work on both of those (without the slightest acknowledgement from the game that this is or was problematic), and ship the goods you grow back to Europe for victory points.

It’s a game whose theme I don’t really know how to feel about, except kind of gross. Although since reading Greg Loring-Albright’s excellent First Nations of Catan alternative rule set I referenced in the last post, which modifies the Settlers of Catan game to acknowledge and accommodate the fact that First Nations people nearly certainly existed in Catan before white settlers got there, my feelings have evolved slightly. Or at least have gotten more confused.

Here’s the question I’ve been pondering for months: Is it better for a game with a historical or pseudo-historical theme that touches on problematic historical realities to just completely ignore the existence of that reality or to engage with that reality in a completely non-critical way? 2

I’ve been calling it the The Catan v Puerto Rico Problem. And fuck if I have any idea what the answer is. Please discuss.

Anyway. On to the ratings.

Race

This game is not set in Europe. So that’s worth some credit, usually.

But the entire game play is about colonising said non-European place for Europe. 3 So that’s less credit.

Plus the only human-depicting art of the game depicts a European man.

Native people appear to not exist at all in any capacity?

….and as discussed above, there is a slave trade. But it’s not engaged with in any sort of substantial way. Just casually there.

Yeah, I can’t quite bring myself to give this any stars for Race/Nationality. Any that I could pooooooossbily be convinced to give for the setting, I want to immediately take away for the implementation.

I’m giving it:

0 stars only because I can’t give negative stars.

Gender

Psssssssh. Don’t you know that women didn’t exist in the colonial era? Native women *definitely* didn’t exist. Nor do gender-diverse people, obvs.

Also, the first two pages of the rule book use gender-neutral language, but then inexplicably switch to exclusively using the generic he on page 3, which offends me both as a non-dudely gamer and as a former copy editor.

-1 star except I’m too lazy to figure out how to represent that pictorially so 0 stars.

Sexuality

Ha. Hahahahahahahaha. Oh, you’re funny. (Although I guess in a world where only men exist, some of them have to be banging each other, surely?)

0 stars.

Body

In Puerto Rico’s limited defense, there’s not much human art depicting any sort of bodies, only the one strapping young man we discussed earlier. But this was still a deliberate design choice, so:

0 stars.

Overall

Overall, things are grim for poor Puerto Rico.

Race ☆☆☆
Gender ☆☆☆
Sexuality ☆☆☆
Body ☆☆☆
Overall Average 0 (-0.5?)

 

Notes:

  1. THAT’S A REALLY BIG THING TO HAVE TO GET OVER.
  2. I mean, obviously, it would be better for the game to engage with the issue in a critical or informed way, but that’s apparently not the world we live in, so if you can only pick one, which would it be?
  3. “Hilarious” side anecdote. The first time I went into the grossest board game store I know in Sydney, it was to buy this game. I walked in and it was PACKED with nearly 100 dudes gaming (zero ladies or visibly gender-diverse people. RED FLAG ALERT.). Dude at the counter leered at me and asked if I was looking for something. “Puerto Rico,” I said. “Heh. Heh,” he said, still leering. “It’s in Europe.” I just stared and started shaking my head slowly while he continued laughing and looking at me like I was some dumb thing who didn’t get his SUPER CLEVER JOKE. “Get it? Get it? Because Puerto Rico? It’s in Europe…?” until I finally snapped, “It’s definitely not. Look at a goddamn map after you tell me whether or not you have the game and where it is.” and then he dutifully showed me the game on the shelf and rang up my purchase without making eye contact or saying another word.

Settlers of Catan

It seems appropriate that the game that first introduced me to modern tabletop gaming should be the game to kick off this series: Settlers of Catan.

Image of part of a board of Settlers of Catan.I imagine most of you are familiar with it, but for those of you who are not: Settlers of Catan is a resource management game with a heavy negotiation component. Widely considered one of the seminal games (if not the game) that kicked off the current resurgence of tabletop gaming, it was one of the first Euro-style games to gain much popularity outside of the region. Every game features a random board and tile-value configuration, and players must expand their settlements to gain resources and victory points in their effort to most successfully settle the island of Catan.

Settles of Catan holds a special place in my heart, and it was one of my favourites for a long time. In addition to being my first modern tabletop game, for years, my greatest-of-all-time housemate Marek and I hosted a monthly games night called Settlers and Pie, wherein 10-20 people invaded our house with multiple copies of the game and their own pie creations, and all we did was play Settlers and eat heaps of homemade pie. I’ve taught it to probably around 70 people over the years. And my longest relationship to date was approximately ⅓ playing Catan our favourite grocery-with-a-salad-bar-and-nice-tables. 1

But I burned out on it hard after playing in the Australian National Boardgame Championships in 2014. Apparently, I do have a hard-limit of Catan, and it is 10 straight hours, made all the more brutal by the fact that no one made a single wood-for-sheep joke (or laughed or acknowledged mine) until I was in the semi-finals. I actually hadn’t taken it out of the box since then, until the day I rummaged through my entire collection to see how grim diverse representation was in amongst the games I owned. I think it may have lost some of its magic as my gaming tastes have grown, but I do think it might be time to play again.

But first, let’s take a look at how it does on the representation front.

Race/Nationality

So. Yeah. You might imagine a game with a heavy colonial-settlers theme does not do great on racial representation. You would imagine right.

The first and most obvious question is: Why is Catan not already settled? Is there really a lush, resource-rich island easily reachable by white settlers at this period in history 2 that no other humans had ever found? Or is this part of the overwhelming (and overwhelmingly false) European narrative of Terra Nullius, that erases the existence of native people from their own lands? That likewise, erases the horrible violence, deception, and genocide perpetrated by Europeans against native people in lands they forcibly settled?

Yeah, it’s definitely the latter. As The Skeptical Gamer says:

Settlers of Catan represents a colonial ideology about an uninhabited land ripe for economic development. Players pretend to live their big fat white dreams – a command over nature, a life of fair and equal competition. Except it never really was fair, and it never really was uninhabited, was it?

For that reason alone, I’d give Catan an automatic fail in this category. But even if I didn’t, it would be zero stars anyway, as there’s not a single non-white person on any of the cards or in any of the box or rulebook art.

I’m giving it:

0 stars.

(However, I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention Greg Loring-Albright’s (@Gregisonthego) excellent article and alternative Catan ruleset, The First Nations of Catan: Practices in Critical Modification. Go read it. Then go play it.)

Gender

This is the only category where Catan does even marginally well. And by marginally, I mean “women exist”. Just barely, but they exist. (Gender diverse people do not.)

There aren’t playable characters in Catan, so we’re left just looking at the game art. Even by the generous (and somewhat lazy) standard of counting ‘cards with at least one woman on them”’ against ‘cards that had no women at all’, only 14% of cards that depicted people had any women on them at all. 3 The cover art had one woman and two men.

But at least the rulebook uses gender-neutral language–it’s written in second-person and examples rotate male and female names (slightly more male names, but not significantly). So no points lost on that front.

‘Women exist, but not in significant numbers’ gets Catan:

1 star.

Sexuality

The cover art on the current release of the main Catan set is a perfect little hetero nuclear 4 family. Definitely no queer-coded characters. Sorry, queer folk. No colonial settling for us.

0 stars.

Body

Nothing less than perfect, conventionally attractive bodies for our perfect white settlers! I’ll buy that people with disabilities probably didn’t make the initial settler ships 5 and that being fat was a sign of wealth and opulence frontier settlers probably didn’t have… but then where my super thin bodies at? Or my super short or extra tall peeps? Or my broad, stocky hard-working labourer peeps? All the art depicts pretty much one male body type and one female body type, sticking pretty much exactly to modern standards of of an average, conventionally attractive body looks like.

Or post-pregnancy bodies? You can’t go forth and multiply and expect all your women will keep their perfect maiden figures.

0 stars.

Overall

Overall, solid game, objectively awful representation of any people that aren’t fit, white, and straight. At least women exist in some limited capacity, though. So that’s something.

Race ☆☆☆
Gender ★☆☆
Sexuality ☆☆☆
Body ☆☆☆
Overall Average 0.25

Notes:

  1. Some people are opposed to two-player Catan? Those people are wrong. I sincerely don’t get it. Two-player Catan requires different strategies than larger games, but it’s a great two-player game.
  2. There’s not an exact time period Catan is set in, but based on the clothing, technology, and theme ‘colonial area’ is a pretty good bet.
  3. If I were to count actual humans depicted instead of cards, that number would have been much worse, as some cards had 20 men and no women, some had 3 men and 1 woman, etc. but none had all women and no men.
  4. Spell-check keeps trying to change this to heteronuclear, which I do not believe is the same thing at all.
  5. Although frontier life is rough, accidents certainly happened, and amputations were about the height of medical knowledge of the time. I’m not saying it has to be a major component of game play or anything, but slipping in someone missing a limb into some card art would be a perfectly fine and historically appropriate way to include representation of someone with a disabled body in this context.

Welcome to A Place at the Tabletop

Like all worthwhile pursuits, this project started out as a rant on Twitter.

I’d recently attended the amaaaaazing GXAustralia con, where I spent several days surrounded by badass queers insisting on taking up space and feminist theorists deconstructing sexism in video games and trans activists urging designers to examine how limiting the gender binary is in our nerd media (and, may I say again, SO MUCH AWESOME HAIR). I was on a panel with a group of kickass queer women talking about how to build safe and inclusive nerdy spaces. I had the creators of Crucible (a morality tabletop RPG with heavy themes of diversity & inclusivity I’d backed on Kickstarter a while back) over to my house for dinner where I traded cocktail-making for a chance to playtest. “I should put together a casual dinner for people to hang out as the con winds down” turned into my accidentally throwing the somewhat-official impromptu after-party that garnered about 5x the number of people I booked space for. Plus All the Feelings about being in a space where I just felt 100% comfortable and accepted and like I belonged, with no need to ‘defend’ my right to be there. It was an incredible time.

There was only one problem I had with the entire weekend: Pretty much all the talk was about diversity and representation in video games. Where was the discussion on diversity and representation in the tabletop side of nerdery? 1

Now, I want to be clear this isn’t a slight on the organisers of GX–it was a little bit where their networks were and a little bit tabletop-side sponsors not coming through at the last minute and a little bit that there was only so much that could be fit into the inaugural event with the resources available. But the major issue underlying all of this is: People just aren’t talking about it much.

A few people are–Analog Game Studies is an excellent centre of scholarship in the area, for example. Brenda Romero has an interesting TED Talk on some related issues. And I’ve seen the conversation crop up occasionally among the same crowd working so fervently for increased diversity and representation in video games. But there hasn’t been much attention to the issue.

So my first thought was to determine whether or not it is an issue at all. I started discussions on social media, where responses ranged from “huh, interesting, hadn’t thought about it” to “YES, THIS IS A PROBLEM” to “I don’t really think the situation is that bad?”

So like any self-respecting analyst, the first step for me was to gather more data.

The next morning I dug through every one of my board games for a preliminary survey of “Do people who are not straight white men exist in games I own?” The answer was… sometimes.

A majority of games at least had some depiction of women (although not necessarily playable characters)–only three had zero women depicted in any way. About half had zero acknowledgement that people of colour even exist. Only two or three included any acknowledgement that queer or gender-diverse people exist.

And this was just looking at the standard of ‘exists’. Not a standard of ‘exist in numbers roughly equivalent to their population numbers’ or ‘form an integral part of game play’.

So, yes, tabletop gamers, we have a problem. Maybe not as severe a one as exists on the video game side, but we definitely are not immune to the lack of diversity and representation plaguing the broader nerd community.

It’s time to look at this issue more closely. It’s time to stop pretending that because many games are abstract, there aren’t representation issues. It’s time to talk about the issue of diversity in tabletop games similarly to how we talk about the issue in video games.

I’ll start by evaluating my own game collection and see where we go from there. (I’m also taking recommendations of games to review, so if you’re local, invite me over for a game or come to one of my game nights. And if you’re a designer who wants me to evaluate your own game, you’re more than welcome to send me a copy!)

I’m starting at looking at representation across four broad categories: Race/Nationality, Gender, Sexuality, and Body. Go read The Scale for an in-depth look at the metrics for evaluation, then be on the lookout for the first post tomorrow morning (roughly weekly after that).

Because there is a place at the tabletop for everyone. And our games themselves should reflect that.

A massive thank you to the beta readers who provided feedback and helped me hone The Scale into its current form: @lizduckchong, @surprise_bees, @pinkwink, @CosmGames, @JimmyGeekPA, and Gareth G. In addition to saying all the lovely and supportive things that encouraged me to actually do this, your critical feedback was invaluable. The most important part of being an ally is having people who challenge you and hold you accountable, and thank you for this kind of support as well. Y’all rock and I owe you all cookies.

Notes:

  1. Um, I may have gotten drunk with one of the organisers afterward at said impromptu-afterparty and volunteered to grow the tabletop side of the next GX? Cough. Watch this space.